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2022 launch – Be Brave, Make Change
- Hi everyone, it's National Reconciliation Week and I love this year's theme, 'Be Brave, Make Change'. So I'm going to be brave. And I am going to keep bringing a chair to the table for our Aboriginal staff and students and the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group in the way we think about our work here in the department. We're going have a joint executive meeting with the AECG and I can't wait to sit and listen to what we can continue to learn from them. Personally, I'm going keep on my own education journey. I've been challenged this year already by Connecting to Country, and I'm gonna keep challenging myself and my own expectations and my own perceptions around the issues that really impact our Aboriginal communities. What are you going do to be brave, make change?
- Chloe here from Kuang, a place on Gadigal land. I'd like to thank and acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land who have lived here and cared for Country for many thousands of years before I lived and worked here. I pay my respects to their elders past and present. Reconciliation Week begins with Sorry Day, and for me saying sorry means you don't do it again. I connect with that through the theme of being brave and making change, by committing not to repeat the ways that we have worked with Aboriginal people in the past. We hear from Aboriginal colleagues, learners and communities over and over again that we don't listen to them enough, that we don't involve them in the work that we're doing enough, and that we don't talk to them early enough. So my commitment for Reconciliation Week is to change that. To engage in brave listening and brave action in response and in partnership to what we hear. For me and for education and skills reform.
- I'm joining you today from Darug land in Parramatta, and I'm reflecting on the theme of Reconciliation Week this week, 'Be Brave, Make Change'. And I'm reflecting on all the words and the promises that have been made to our Aboriginal people. And I am impatient for the real change. As I know they are. I am impatient for them. I think that one of the things that I am really keen for us all to do during this week is to reflect, what is the real change we could make in our work that actually hands self-determination over to our Aboriginal colleagues and communities? I'd ask you to reflect on that. For me, it will be a commitment over the next few months to meet with all our AECG groups across School's Performance - North. Listen to their voice and come up with concrete action and commitments to action that we can do together, that actually hands over determination further to our Aboriginal communities. Take the time during Reconciliation Week to reflect on what it is to be brave, to make change.
Lisa Alonso Love:
- Hello, the theme for this year's Reconciliation Week, be brave, make change, is really meaningful for me. The thing that I think about when I consider that theme is asking questions. When I'm thinking about outcomes and really improving them, from our littlest Aboriginal learners, Aboriginal kids and their families who are in our school system, and our Aboriginal learners who have left school and are looking for careers and different pathways, training, VET, is that I don't know what I need to know to make those outcomes improve. I need to ask questions. I need to be ready to say, I think I got that wrong. And in fact, when I do that, when I engage with our partners and I ask them for help, and I ask the questions they are incredibly generous. And then we can work together to really make change.
- Reconciliation doesn't just happen during Reconciliation Week. It's an important process between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and the broader Australian community to begin to work together more closely. We try and enshrine that at school infrastructure in everything that we do, from paying respect to Country as part of meetings, but also as part of making sure that we're embedding that thinking and that culture into all the schools that we deliver. We work with local communities. We build bridges as part of that process to make sure that our schools are welcoming places for everybody. And in particular, for those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island descents, who might not have had the best experience themselves at school. They feel welcome, their kids feel welcome, and we can begin to progress and work together. I would encourage everybody, this week is a focus week for us, but let's be clear, it's every week. We all have an opportunity to play our part in this. We have an opportunity to make sure that communities feel valued. They feel integrated in what we're doing and we are very respectful of the relationships we have with them and the value that they can bring to us. And that's why Reconciliation Week isn't just one week. It's every week. And we do what we can to make sure we're building those bridges.
- Hi everyone, it's Ruth Owen here. I'm on the lands of the Gadigal people of Eora Nation. And I pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging. I'm delighted to be with you today to talk about National Reconciliation Week and the opportunity for us to be brave and make change. As somebody who's applying to be a new Australian, I have been humbled by learning more about the history of this nation, and the 60,000 years of the Aboriginal people, community, connection to this land and water and how they've looked after this country. I'm also saddened by our inability as a people and as a nation to reach that reconciliation. And for us still, collectively, not to hear the voice of our Aboriginal friends, colleagues, and community, including the really strong and powerful Uluru Statement from the Heart. So I think it's beholden on all of us to grab hold of this opportunity of National Reconciliation Week to really think about being brave and making change, because when we all do that together, that's how nations move forward. So for me, I'm continuing on my personal journey of understanding, reflection and really active listening about the history, about Aboriginal people and these lands, these beautiful lands that we sit on. And particularly, to really understand what it is that we need to do to address their voice. And from a learning improvement point of view I am wholly committed to making sure we work in partnership, in full and authentic partnership with AECG, working together and walking together with our partners, to engage them and the voice of our Aboriginal students, families and communities in every policy program and initiative we have in learning improvement. And making sure their voice shapes everything that we do right from the start, to make that partnership and consultation genuine and authentic. And only through that partnership can we really take on those difficult and challenging conversations to be brave, to make change, forever. I hope you'll take the opportunity to do the same.
- I acknowledge the traditional custodians, the Darug people, and pay my respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working across the department. Reconciliation is everybody's business and everyday business and Reconciliation Week is a time to learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements. And this year's theme is 'Be Brave, Make Change'. And it's a challenge to us all. In January I saw the Bangarra Dance Company, 'Wudjang: Not the Past' performance. It was Stephen Page's final work as the artistic director of Bangarra. It was a courageous and confronting story. The pain was palpable, almost unbearable to watch. This is not something that happened 200 years ago. As an Australian, I'm committed to learning about our more than 60,000 years of Aboriginal history and the culture of our longest living peoples. As a leader in the education system I'm committed to listen to the voices of our Aboriginal colleagues, students and families to better understand the impact of our work and how we best support our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to succeed. We must be brave. We must make change.
- Hi everybody. Simone Walker here, Group Deputy Secretary for School Improvement and Educational Reform. And thanks for the opportunity to talk about Reconciliation Week 2022, 'Be Brave, Make Change'. And what this means for me personally is where should I be more curious? In the workplace, I know a huge amount has happened in the Department of Education, but where should I be more curious about what could be done for projects that have stalled that contribute to reconciliation? Conversations that I should have about reconciliation in my own community? What are the conversations I should be having with neighbours, with schools? About things that we could do that really need to be progressed to ensure that reconciliation isn't just something that we know about, but something that we participate in. And I even think about the conversations I should be having with my own family. 'Cause I'm curious about their perceptions as well. About what are they doing differently to recognise and work towards reconciliation? So that's what I'll be doing for Reconciliation Week.
- Hello colleagues, Murat Dizdar, Deputy Secretary for School Performance - South. And I'm delighted to join you for National Reconciliation Week. I'm coming to you from the land of the Darug people, the traditional custodians here in Parramatta. And I wanna pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging. And extend that respect to the traditional custodians on whose homelands that you're on. A very important week where we mark the journey and the ongoing journey for reconciliation as a nation. This year's theme is to 'Be Brave, Make Change'. In my role, I commit to making further change when I work with our Aboriginal people, our staff, our students, our community. I intend to be even sharper and better at listening and picking up on the nuances and differences that they point out to me in my line of work with them. And to make sure that those differences are exactly that. There're opportunities to get it better for our Aboriginal students, staff and community. I also intend to make change. To tackle even with greater resolution and greater ferocity, the need to improve outcomes for our Aboriginal students. We've got a lot of good, meaningful work but I intend to respect community voice and the voice of experts even further, to try and support our schools for greater endeavour for our students. Make sure you're out there being brave and making the change during National Reconciliation Week.
Video: Being Brave - examples of Aboriginal activism
- Thank you for joining us for this Reconciliation Week webinar; Be Brave: Examples of Aboriginal Activism. I'd like to start with Acknowledgement of Country. I would like to acknowledge the Kameygal clan of the Darug nation, who are the ongoing custodians on this beautiful land, on which I live and work today. I thank them for their perspective on Connecting To Country and also to one another. At its heart, reconciliation is about strengthening relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians for the benefit of all. And I thank them for their brave actions that have led to positive change in my community. I pay my respects to elders both past, present and emerging and extend that respect to my Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colleagues within the department, any other Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders online with us today and throughout the communities that we serve. I'd now like to introduce you to our panelists for today's webinar. I have with me Cathy Trindall, President of the New South Wales AECG. Cathy Trindall is a Gomeroi woman with more than 30 years of experience working in public education in New South Wales. She began her work in education in 1985 as the first Aboriginal teaching assistant in Tamworth before becoming a primary trained educator. I also have Warren Bridges from School Performance. He is a proud Ngunnawal man from Yass and Canberra, and he is passionate about linking culture to education and supporting the rights and aspirations of Aboriginal people. I am delighted to have with us, Rachael McPhail. She is a proud Gomeroi social worker who lives on Wiradjuri country in Coolamon. She currently works as a project manager for a not-for-profit disability organisation. She was successful in her campaign to ask Australia Post to include traditional place names in addresses. As well as Rob Waters, a spoken word artist and cultural educator. Rob is also a Gomeroi man with deep cultural connections to north-west of New South Wales. He uses storytelling methodologies to examine the history of Australia through contemporary practices. And finally, I have with me Benjamyn Glachan, head teacher of Aboriginal Education at Gorokan High School on Darkinjung country. He's a proud father, husband, and a passionate advocate for inclusive and Aboriginal education. Over the next 20 minutes, we will be having a chat about this year's theme, 'Be Brave, Make Change', and what it means to the panelists, both professionally and personally. I'll also invite each person to talk about how they've been involved in Aboriginal activism over the years, and what they hope for in our ongoing journey for reconciliation, especially in education. As we discuss with our panelists how they have been brave and made change, I invite you to think about what your actions impact on how we can close the gaps and achieve a sense of fairness and justice. I would now like to welcome Cathy, to share her story in demanding the rights of Aboriginal people to have equitable access to education and creating change that is needed to ensure improved outcomes for Aboriginal students. Cathy.
- and hello, everyone. Yes, Cathy Trindall, very proud Gomeroi Murri Yinaar. I guess I was born into activism simply through who I am and the fact that my Aboriginality and the fact that I'm a very strong, proud Gomeroi Murri Yinaar has context menu from north-western New South Wales. I come from a very long line of activists. And activism, I'm reminded, takes many, many forms. It takes many forms from the spoken word to music, to posters, to silence, to walking the streets, which, as the President of the AECG, we have done for many, many years, for over 40 years. We are a community controlled organisation. And the power is in the strength of our local and our regional community members who are constantly being activists, who are currently and always have been, and always will be advocating for the human rights of our people to access an equitable and mainstream education. Activism is something that is, we are innately doing because of the injustice, which had occurred to us previously from the point of invasion in this country. And it's around reclaiming what is just, what is right, and a way forward that we are acknowledged as the very first people on the whole entire planet and our languages were the very first languages spoken on Country here in Australia, that we know it. But I'm actually not Australian, I'm a Gomeroi Murri Yinaar And it is important that I acknowledge that, I may be born here, but part of the reconciliation process is being brave enough to change the way that people and their mindset is around, and the way they perceive Aboriginal people. Aboriginal education just doesn't encompass going into a mainstream school, whether that's Catholic, independent, or a department school. It's around education across accessing all levels from the early years, right through to lifelong learning when you know, it's from the cradle to the grave. So it's about being brave. And it's about the New South Wales AECG, having the ability to instigate change and to ensure that we are the number one peak advisor when it comes to Aboriginal education on all levels and all platforms. Because it is a human right that has been denied of us for a very, very long time. And I in a position to be the voice to advocate that change and to be brave enough often to be the lone wolf and to be that lone wolf at times, that sometimes has to step on the edge and be the loudest voice until we can hear. But in saying that, government, community, we have always spoken the words and people have heard, but they've never really listened. So it's around us in times to be able to be that person to ensure that our voices are heard, that they are listened to and that they are enacted upon in terms of the way that we, as Aboriginal people, view the world, see the world, hear the world, fear the world in our ways of knowing and our ways of doing, in our ways of being. But yet we can't do that alone. Everything that you do in life should be in partnership with someone. Ensuring that you know what the rules of engagements are, and that you're in a position to be able to facilitate that change, not by being that lone wolf, but being brave enough to be the lone wolf, to have the followers that will come with you, to walk with you beside you in front of you, behind you, and acknowledge those who have gone before me, those who will come in front of me after my time is gone, and my words are gone and blown on the wind. And they have those ones that walk with me spiritually every day to be able to position me here right where I am today as the President of the New South Wales as AECG. And I encourage each and every one of you out there, be brave, ask those hard questions. There's always an answer. There's always someone there that we will work with you. Activism doesn't have to be waving the placard. It can be listening to a song about change. Think about the songs that you can hear. And a number of those songs are songs that talk about change in activism. Think about the spoken word and think about the silences and why have we become complacent in a number of spaces? Is that because we are being forced into position of complacency? But now it's time for us in terms of our Aboriginal communities to ensure that we work together across all forms and all directorates and all levels of communication to be a advocates and to ensure that activism just constantly is evolving, and that it involves from street marches, to now TikToks, to using the technology to enable us and to ensuring that we are getting a widespread, that we are going from our young ones, our young babies to our youth, to our students, and actually moving on in terms of doing that together. Look, I say, Thank you everyone for taking the opportunity and allowing me to speak with you today.
- Thanks so much, Cathy. And so before we wrap up with you, what's the one key change you would ask of the department to be brave and make change?
- It's a bit like I wish I had another wish. So I guess the one thing is probably the hardest thing that anyone can ever do. It's around attitudinal change. 'Cause attitudinal change will be a roller coaster and a platform and a springboard for systematic change and behavioural change.
- Thanks Cathy. Yeah, that's a definite move in the right direction. I think that there's been a lot of pieces that have been rolling out lately, and it is that attitudinal change that will lead to behavioural change and we need to start making significant changes in the actions in the classrooms so that we can have a positive relationship. I'd now like to introduce Warren. Warren is going to give us a little bit of Aboriginal history around activism and the people who have had great impact. Over to you, Warren.
- Thank you. So the theme for this year's Reconciliation Week, it's a challenge. So it's a challenge to be brave and make change. And to me, this year's theme is really personified by activists. So for us to sort of understand why there are so many reasons for activism, it's important to understand the events that have shaped in particular Aboriginal activism. So let's look at a bit of a timeline. I'm just gonna put my screen up here, guys, so you can share. Great! So in 1770 , Lieutenant James Cook arrived at Gamay Botany Bay. In 1778, the first fleet landed and colonisation follows. In 1848, the Board of National Education concluded that it was impractical to provide any form of education facilities for the children of 'the blacks'. In 1883, non-Aboriginal parents at Yass Public School took their children out of school and protested the Aboriginal children being there. The school expelled the Aboriginal kids. And at the time, this was backed by the Department of Education. In 1901, the Commonwealth of Australia was formed along with the White Australia Policy. In 1938, the official start of the Day of Mourning, leading to what we now know is NAIDOC Week. In 1962, the Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement proposed a referendum to grant equal citizenship, wages and employment for Aboriginal people. Unfortunately, this wasn't granted, but the Commonwealth Electoral Act was passed and Aboriginal people were given a federal voting right. 1963, in protest to proposed mining leases in Arnhem Land, Aboriginal elders at Yirrkala present the Federal Government with the Bark Petition. 1967, the Aboriginal rights activists succeed in their decade long battle for Aboriginal citizenship. Just over 90% of people that had yes to change the Australian constitution to recognise Aboriginal people as citizens. And then in 1977, the establishment of the New South Wales Aboriginal Education Consultative Group, the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council. Now these are the largest activist networks of people in New South Wales advocating for Aboriginal people. So now let's look have a look at some of the brave Aboriginal activists over time. But first of all, Aboriginal Torres Island people are advised that the following information may contain images and names of people who have died. So first all, Charlie Perkins. He was the first Indigenous man in Australia to graduate at university. And in 1965, one of the key members of the Freedom Rides, which was a bus tour to New South Wales by activists protesting the discrimination against Aboriginal people in small towns of New South Wales. So at the time, if you were born Aboriginal, by law, you couldn't marry, without permission, you couldn't eat in a restaurant, you couldn't enter a pub or a cafe or go to a picture theatre or swim in a public pool, or even vote. So about 30 students, led by Perkins and consisting mostly of non-Aboriginal people, travelled to Walgett, Moree, Kempsey and other towns exposing the discrimination Aboriginal people faced. The students uncovered violent racism, exposed huge welfare disparity and stood in the face of strong and often violent opposition they encountered in many of the towns. He played a key role in advocating for the Yes vote in 1967 referendum, and his effective use of television brought the issue of racial discrimination in country towns to a national attention. My next one is one of my favourite, Essie Coffey. She was born near Goodooga, northern New South Wales. She was affectionately known as Bush Queen and a well-known throughout the state as a country and western singer and songwriter. A Muruwari woman who co-founded the Western Aboriginal Legal Service and served in a number of government bodies and Aboriginal community organisations. She had a particular interest in women's affairs and helped to create the first women's knockout football team in north-west region. Coffey expressed her activism through filmmaking. So 1978 movie, "My Survival As An Aboriginal" showcases Aboriginal culture, the differences between the white man and the black man, the problems with Aboriginal people assimilating into a white man's world. The different standards in housing, wages, food, quality of life, the way history was being taught in schools, and the pain that Aboriginal people experience with that history. Her 1993 movie, "My Life As I Live It" showcases how Essie supported her community, Dodge City, for the better. She supported better housing, more employment, and a purpose in life for her people. Essie says, "we don't need a spear or boomerang to fight anymore, no way in the world. We don't have to fire one shot. All we need is a pen and paper and a strong and powerful voice to fight with." Charles Chicka Dixon. Dr Dixon was a great believer in the importance of gaining a good education, which you could then use to help empower yourself and your community. Chicka campaigned for the Yes vote in the 1967 referendum, and was an active part participant in the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in 1972. He was part of the delegation of Aboriginal Australians invited to visit China, to tell the Chinese people about the Aboriginal struggle for justice while at the same time shaming the Federal Government, Chicka lobbied for major reforms and Indigenous arts fundings and art administration. And he also took an interest in Aboriginal country western musicians, organising festivals and talent guests around Australia, including prisons. A reformed alcoholic himself, he worked with Fred Hollows and others to establish the Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service. Last one, Adam Briggs. He's a proud Yorta Yorta man from Shepparton, Victoria, Briggs is a pioneer of the Australian hip hop scene, a lyricist, rapper, hip hop artist, writer, presenter actor and a CEO. He's made an impression across the spectrum of creative industries. His lyrics are provocative and he wears his culture for all to see. Briggs stands tall amongst his peers, working across multiple mediums, sparking conversations, and creating cultural change. One of Briggs's songs released in 2015, titled "The Children Came Back". It's a social commentary song, which tributes the great musician Archie Roach's song, "Took The Children Away" celebrating Australia's first people. Briggs said, "this is a history lesson, a monologue, a celebration and education in one song. And it encourages the effort towards reconciliation between first peoples and non-Indigenous Australians." Mr Roach said, "I love Briggs' song. It's about Indigenous heroes. I feel proud to be part of what Briggs hopes to achieve, and I really love that he used young children to play the heroes because they are our future heroes." So I'm gonna leave you guys with the question. Or actually I'm gonna say, thanks for listening. And I'll leave you to formulate your own ideas, maybe on how you can be an activist for change in Aboriginal education.
- Thanks so much, Warren. That was really interesting. And it really, I liked the key pieces that you've pulled from history and then how the Aboriginal outcomes and partnership directorate have also been showing those stories throughout their NAIDOC Week pieces. Last year, the song that, well, two years ago now, the song that they showcased with schools throughout New South Wales was Archie Roach's "Took The Children Away." And then the mashup of "The Children Came Home" which was beautiful to hear. And I know that for this year's NAIDOC Week, they're also going to be doing a piece on "The Freedom Rides." And taking that journey and working with schools who are part of that journey and how that happened, how that's impacted them. And then how we're going to make the education system a better place for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. So thank you very much for sharing that with us today. And now I'd like to introduce Rachael McPhail. Now this is close to my heart. Rachael has a strong story about advocating for change at Australia Post and having traditional place names placed on our mail. And for those of you who don't know, we've just recently updated all of the department's letterhead to also have the space to include traditional place names. And we are working with schools who are also putting traditional place names on their letterheads and also on their websites. So I invite Rachael to come on and tell her story.
- Yaama everyone, and for having me. As a Gomeroi Yinaar, I'd like to start by acknowledging and showing my respect for the Wiradjuri people as custodians of the place that I call home, and I'm dialling in from today. So as you just heard, I'm campaigning around the use of First Nations place names. And this started off with asking Australia Post to include place names and addresses, which they've now done. So I take photos of my mail and my parcels and I post them on social media. And lots of people have jumped on board with this campaign and they tag me in posts where they're using traditional place names as well, so I can re-share them. So along the way, I've also shared other ways of acknowledging country, such as on driver's licenses, most recently. On my assignment cover pages, on business cards, like at Perth Airport, and along major highways and on tour posters and things like that. However, when I first started this campaign, it quickly became apparent that there is a knowledge gap in Australia regarding First Nations place names, because almost every day I was receiving messages from people asking for help to find the traditional place name of where they live. So the best resource that we have available at the moment is the AIATSIS map. However, there are actually some elders who don't agree with the information on the map, and some countries are actually missing. So the issue is the map was created using like Trindall's map and colonisers' records and not enough consultation with community, which means that our best source of this data is actually inaccurate. It needs to be updated with comprehensive, inclusive, and trauma-informed consultation with elders and community leaders to ensure that all countries and nations are correctly represented. Otherwise, we're just contributing to ongoing oppression. So my campaign has now evolved into petitioning for the creation of a database of place names verified by elders and community leaders, as well as ensuring that we have a true record of this information for data preservation and educational purposes. This will also allow everyone to be able to use First Nations place names every day as a norm, and know that they're using the right name. So what prompted me to do this, the actual act of adding Wiradjuri country to my address when I placed an online order, it was just the spur of the moment thing. I literally was just filling in an online checkout and just thought I'd give it a go and add Wiradjuri country to my address. But I think that the lead up to me having that thought was partly due to my social work degree that I just completed or completed last year, and have my graduation next week, which is exciting. So as we moved through the subjects, we were taught to look at things from a macro perspective and the way that systems or social constructs impact on minority groups. And I really enjoy looking at things through a systemic lens, and so I like to find small ways that I can decolonise the way that I live my life and the way that I look at the world. So I think that that's what led me to think of adding Wiradjuri country to my address that day. Where to from here? So the next six months is gonna be quite busy. I'm still working full time, and I'm also doing a leadership program through Indigenous Allied Health Australia, but I'll be really focussing on getting our First Nations place name database project up and running. I've been working with a group of First Nations people, a small working group, for the past 12 months. And we've made a lot of grounds in terms of establishing the group, the objectives, the ethics, and now we're ready to form like an entity and then look at procuring philanthropic corporate and possibly government funding to be able to get things cracking.
- Thanks so much, Rachael. That is so important and amazing, the work that you've done. And I think that that's really something that we need to be looking at. That true sense of community consultation, that these maps aren't like our traditional suburb maps. And I guess that that's something that we called out when we invited people within the department to look at placing traditional place names on that. You know, sometimes you're in a suburb, but just because white man has deemed that as the suburb doesn't mean that there might be two Aboriginal lands and you need to have that community consultation. And whether it be your local AECG or your local land council, form a relationship there, have an understanding, and start having those conversations. Because without conversations, we are just left unaware and stuck.
- So just before you leave us, I'd like to ask you, what's the one key change that you would ask of the department to be brave and make change?
- So thank you for this question because I really love it. The thing that I would love to see the department do is to actively encourage students to be mini-activists. So if they see an injustice in the world and they think of a way that they can help, then I would love them to have been taught the tools and knowledge to be able to know what they can do. I really hope that if there's one thing that my campaign shows kids, it's that we don't have to be someone important or in a position of power to make change in the world. And they can just be a normal everyday person just like me and start off with a small action. But if lots of people jump on board with that and take on that change as well, then people power might create big change. So, please, I really encourage you to encourage your students to be activists and teach them how to do this.
- Awesome! Thank you so much for your time today, Rachael. I'm now going to introduce Rob Waters and invite him to share his story and how he sees himself as an advocate and as an activist.
- Yaama, guys. I'm a Gomeroi man from Tamworth, up north-west New South Wales. And I just want to acknowledge, yeah, acknowledge my country and just all the countries where we're coming to and coming from. I want to acknowledge our old people, our ancestors who have been been fighting, I suppose, for the last 250 years. They've been the activists for 250 years. You know, despite all attempts to get rid of us, we're still here. And I just wanna acknowledge that that's because of our ancestors and our old people. So I'm a spoken word artist and I am a bit of a storyteller and poets and a few other things. And what I really love about poetry and spoken word is that it can engage people in ways that, I don't know, that people don't usually see. I had a performance last night, and somebody said it was the first time they'd ever seen spoken word done and they loved it and they wanna go and see some more. And a lot of my stuff is, yeah, about protests. And it's about trying to change people's attitudes. That's a big thing. It started with, I've got uncles and stuff that my grandfather's brother was a published poet. I've got an uncle, John, who's passed away that was a, he was a singer, songwriter. He never wrote any of his stuff down, kept it all in his head. He was an amazing man. But yeah, growing up listening and reading their stuff and also listening to people like Kev Carmody. He's like songwriter, Kev Carmody. One of his songs, you know, it's called, "Cannot Buy My Soul." And there's a part in there that says, "they may take my life and liberty, friends, but they cannot buy my soul." And it was like, when I was growing up, I was like, wow, what a staunch way of looking at it. And I think, you know, for us to be able to use words, to start to change people's minds is, that's what we've been doing. We're storytellers. We've been telling story on this country since the first time the sun came up. That's how we've been for generations and generations and generations. And that's what's got us through. We talk about 250 years of intergenerational trauma, but we never talk about 100,000 years of intergenerational love and intergenerational strength and tenacity that has informed what we do. And we're starting to do that now and starting to speak up. You know, there's a big talk at the moment about truth telling and, yeah, I get where that comes from. But, you know, we saw Warren's presentation about a lot of the stuff that's been happening in the past. And we've been telling the truth for years, how about some truth listening? How about people actually acknowledging what we say and then taking on board what we say and putting it into action. I'll just share a quick one with you, a poem that I wrote. It's called "I Will Speak Now." And says, "I will speak now. I will speak now, and you, well, you will listen. I will speak your words. I'll speak in your language. Are you listening? You see the blood of my mother and all those mothers before her still run strong inside of me. And the tears that fell from my father's eyes and all those fathers before him still fall from my eyes, for I am a poem, and I am a story. I am my grandmothers raising children in a country that did not even see them as human. I am my grandfathers' callus hands and bent backs working for men that did not even see them as human. I am my uncles' voices raised. I am my aunties' fists raised. I'm the story that seeps up through the soul of my feet, bursting up through the tongue when they swim on the raise of the sun. I am raised I am a story still yet to be told from the tongues of my children and all those to follow. From the first sunrise to the first sunrise again, I am raised. If you see, I am Gomeroi. I am I am I am I am 600 nations strong. And from this time on, I will define me and I will tell my story Just as you have told yours. Over and over, I've heard it. And I've heard it from school teachers and university lecturers, from policemen, and television sets. I've heard it from newspapers and history books or his story books. But I will speak now. I will speak now on you while you listen." Thank you.
- Thanks so much, Rob. And I think that that's a really important takeaway, that words are powerful, and they can have a huge impact. But the key to having that impact is that people are listening, and I'd like to draw on something that one of my colleagues says time and time again, we have one mouth and two ears. Two ears means we need to be listening more than we speak. So I think that that's a really powerful takeaway, that if there is one action you take to be brave and make the change, let that be listening. Listening to the stories that are in community. And let that listening sink in and then drive you to make change.
- [Rob] Yep.
- Thank you so much for your time, Rob. That was really powerful. And I'm appreciative that you were here. I'd now like to introduce Ben, and he's going to be having a chat with us today about the work that he does, and how the work that he does with Aboriginal students, families and the community is making change.
- Yaama, everyone. Yeah, so I'm Ben Glachan. I'm the head teacher, or the proud head teacher of Aboriginal Education at Gorokan High School. And I would like to, first of all, just acknowledge that I'm on beautiful Darkinjung Country and pay my respects to elders past, present, and emerging. And also pay my respects to the country that everybody comes from today or is residing today. Thanks for the question. Thanks to the opportunity to be on here. As I said, I am extremely proud of the position I'm in and that's to make sure that all students, not just our Aboriginal students, understand the importance of Aboriginal history and culture, which is actually Australian history and culture. And yeah, I feel like sometimes we concentrate on the past 250 years, which has been a really terrible history, but we've got 60,000 plus years of history that we need to learn about and we can learn from and understand to be able to move forward. I also have the opportunity to work with our Aboriginal students and support them with, you know, I guess, attaining and learning to the best of their ability to help them flourish in a space that doesn't necessarily support them culturally. You know, we work in white institutions within schools and we have the Premier's priorities, which is really about trying to ensure students learn and attain the level to help them into the future, but also taking the opportunity for students to have cultural connection and identity, and not just maintaining, but flourishing with that. It's something that's been taken away. And we need to make sure that we as a school and as a place that young people come to, can learn about that, can learn about the importance of cultural connection to be able to have that happening in the future. We can't have that leadership in the future if we don't work on it now, and we don't support it now. As I said, it's been taken away, we need to reinforce that. I also get to work with our families and community. I get to sit in our Aboriginal Education Room every single day at Gorokan High School, and listen to the perspective of community and how they feel within the school. And I ensure that I'm able to connect with families and hopefully break down some of that intergenerational trauma that Uncle Rob just spoke about. You know, schools haven't been a nice place. They haven't been a great place for Aboriginal people in the past. And for us to move forward, we need to make that place as comfortable and as reassuring and supportive as possible. And I'm super passionate about making sure that can happen, to break down those barriers and to make sure that, in my position, I'm the magnifier of the voice to ensure the community, AECG, for example, and the Department of Education school can work in that partnership and honour that partnership. So I really am, you know, I hold it dear that I am able to have that voice within an executive, within a school, but that voice purely comes from community, not from me. It's not my perspective, although I definitely agree and support wholeheartedly that our community needs to be one of the strongest pillars in our schools. And having that within a school is only going to help us move forward. Then I have the role of being able to ensure staff have the opportunity to connect. We run Connecting To Country through the New South Wales AECG, which allows staff to sit and listen to our community members and our elders within the space that we work. And it's not just about pedagogy, it's not just about perspective within the classroom. It's understanding the past and understanding that intergenerational trauma still affects us or our community today, and how we can move forward. We can only move forward by understanding what's happened, and then being able to take that information and make sure that we have the support networks and the voice from community to be able to move forward. So I'm extremely lucky to work in a space like that within a school. And as a non-Aboriginal person, I completely believe that, you know, Aboriginal history and culture is Australian history and culture. So it's extremely important for us all to be a part of. A few more things that I'd like to say about being, I guess, supportive from a non-Aboriginal person. And that's about being brave. We do need to search for the truth. We do need to have that lifelong learning and the ability for us to connect within schools. We've had a certain style of learning within schools for a long time. And I guess now I'm in a position to be able to work with community and continue that learning. I take that home. And my bio says I'm a proud husband and a proud father, and I can't wait to take this information and the things that I've learned within my role back to my family, and that sort of water droplet effect. And you said it just before Shari, and Rob says it all the time, two eyes, two ears, and one mouth. Use it in that proportion. And I believe looking, you know, using your eyes and being able to see the perspective out on country, and being present and being mindful, that's culturally appropriate. And that's showing that we connect with what's around us because what's around us is beautiful, and we need to have the time to be able to take that all in.
- Thanks so much, Ben. And before we wrap, I'd like to ask you, what's the one key change that you will make this year in your personal or professional life to be brave and make change?
- Yeah, so for me, what will I do personally and professionally? It's about being fully self-expressed. It's about being able to have agency over what I do and ensuring that I'm true to myself and my moral compass. As I said before, I believe that First Nations history and culture is Australian history and culture, and I need to share that with the staff around me, within a school setting. And not just staff within a school, within the community. And ensuring that our community is proud and staunch of our history for 65,000 years, not 250 years. I'm also extremely passionate about being in service to others and ensuring that people who haven't been able to have that voice within the community can now have that voice. And I will just be magnified that voice and ensure that I take that into my job to support community, to support Aboriginal people, to support non-Aboriginal people, to lead a fulfilling life. And my suggestion for staff and community members out there from my own perspective and learnings over the last years, is to continue your learning and take a step every day. Find an area of your space on how you can improve yourself and learn a little bit more about Aboriginal history and culture to connect as much as you can, because that water droplet effect can really have a powerful impact on people around us. If you are just that water droplet in the middle, then hopefully everybody around you can start taking a little bit of what you've learned and we can move forward.
- Beautiful! I've had the wonderful experience of being able to be part of one of the New South Wales AECG Connecting To Country pieces. And I was out at Murrook and learning all about culture and connection and history. And it definitely has a great impact on your perspective. And yeah, I just hope that we can start to put a bit of that understanding into action as we move forward. So today, we've discussed with our panelists, how they've been brave and made change, which is the theme for this year's National Reconciliation Week. And now I invite you to think about the actions you can take to help Close The Gap and achieve that sense of fairness and justice. I actually want you to find a piece of paper or a Post-it note and commit that action to a physical presence that you can see and use as something to fall back on and to trigger you every day to take action. I also invite you to join us in the Reconciliation Action Group on Yammer. Put your voice out there, share how you'll be making being brave and making change this year and commit to a presence of reconciliation within the department. So thank you to all of our panel members, and happy National Reconciliation Week.
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We would like to highlight that talking about lived experience for people who have experienced discrimination, particularly intersectionality, can generate unwanted thoughts and feelings. If this happens to you, please make sure you prioritise your wellbeing. Talk to a colleague, friend, family member or someone who makes you feel safe. Alternatively, the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can be accessed by calling 1800 060 650. You can also call Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 and Lifeline on 13 11 14. Or 13 YARN, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specific national crisis line: 13 92 76 or https://www.13yarn.org.au/
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Video – Acknowledgement of Country and Welcome to Country: confidence with the basics
In this recorded session, we didn’t get to all of the thought-provoking questions asked in the chat – so we’ve provided some responses below:
Without asking, because as a non-Indigenous person I wouldn't feel right asking, how do we know when is/isn't it right to use the term Aunty and Uncle for Elders?
Aboriginal people traditionally refer to an Elder as 'Aunty' or 'Uncle'. However, it is recommended that non-Aboriginal people check the appropriateness of their use of these terms – so even though you might feel a bit odd or uncomfortable it is appropriate to ask.
An Aboriginal Elder may also invite people to call the Aunty or Uncle.
Should an Acknowledgement of Country include emerging Elders?
There are differing views on this. Some people (including some Aboriginal members of our RAP team) see it as appropriate, while others have concerns that it undermines the traditional status and authority of Elders.
You can also acknowledge the contributions of all Aboriginal people including young people.
If my organisation wants to have a RAP, what is the best process?
Reconciliation Australia are the lead body for reconciliation in Australia and can help you to develop an official Reconciliation Action Plan.
How often should you do an Acknowledgement of Country for a meeting/gathering. Is it only at the beginning or should it be each speaker?
There are no firm rules but particularly for large or formal meetings it can be appropriate for each speaker to acknowledge Country.
I've heard some people say that doing an Acknowledgement too many times means it can become tokenistic. What can I do so that it’s not?
We will be providing a further webinar that talks more about this. But in essence, it’s important to be genuine in the way you speak – to think about the words you are saying and their meaning and hopefully that sincerity will be heard by your audience.
Once you feel comfortable with the ‘basic’ phrasing it might be time to branch out a little – educate yourself about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories cultures and achievements (our Resources are a good place to start) and you could talk about what you have learned and/or link what you say to the topic of your meeting. Just remember to be diligent in making sure what you say is both correct and appropriate.
Remember as well that an Acknowledgement shouldn’t be used in place of a Welcome for large or significant events.
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