Video – What reconciliation means to Tammy Anderson
Duration – 0:56
Aboriginal teachers and department staff aren’t letting COVID-19 get in the way of continuing the vital work of achieving national reconciliation.
26 May 2020
On 28 May 2000, an estimated 250,000 people clasped hands and streamed across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in a special march of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians during Australia’s National Reconciliation Week.
Twenty years later, thanks to the COVID-19 virus, National Reconciliation Week is being held digitally and at a distance.
But social distancing had provided the perfect opportunity for all Australians to think deeply about the nation’s true history, said Kamilaroi Elder and senior leader for community engagement at Walgett Community College, Roslyn McGregor.
“Reconciliation is not marked by one moment in time. It is ongoing, now and into the future,” Ms McGregor said.
This year, the Walgett high school was marking National Reconciliation Week by emphasising the importance of caring for country, she said.
“We will be asking students and communities what caring for country means to them. We will put a series of posters all around town, with words, quotes and images that tell the story of caring for Kamilaroi country.”
This year’s National Reconciliation Week theme – ‘In this together’ – was a powerful one as communities faced the extraordinary challenges of COVID-19 “with a sense of solidarity and shared purpose,” NSW Department of Education Secretary Mark Scott said.
Three films are available of Aboriginal staff talking about what Reconciliation Week means to them, part of a suite of resources compiled by the department for National Sorry Day today, and National Reconciliation Week, which runs from 27 May to 3 June, every year.
The dates commemorate two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey – the successful 1967 referendum in which Australians voted overwhelmingly to amend the Constitution to allow the Commonwealth to make laws for Aboriginal people and include them in the Census, and; the High Court Mabo decision, which recognised that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have rights to the land.
For Tammy Anderson, a proud Biripi woman and principal at Briar Road Public School in south-western Sydney, where about 40 per cent of the students are Aboriginal, Reconciliation Week is one of her happiest times across the school year.
Ms Anderson said it provided all Australians with an opportunity to see, value and acknowledge the place that Aboriginal people have in Australia.
“In 2020, Reconciliation Week will look a little bit different. And for us, we're really looking forward to doing a lot of virtual learning and sharing of knowledge,” Ms Anderson said.
“Our students are busy getting ready for assemblies, where we can share our knowledge and history with all of our wider community and we look forward to having a brilliant Reconciliation Week.”
Ngunnawal/Yuin man, Darren Bell, who leads the Aboriginal employment team for the NSW Department of Education, said the way the department had included reconciliation in policy and in different ways of teaching, had shown “we can work in two worlds and work in these worlds together”.
For Mr Bell, Reconciliation Week is about people coming together to remember the past and about ensuring bad government policy, such as removing Indigenous children from their families, never happens again.
“Because when you say ‘sorry’ you don’t do it again,” Mr Bell said.
Duration – 0:56
My name is Tammy Anderson. I'm a proud Biripi woman and a proud principal at Briar Road Public School in south-western Sydney. Reconciliation Week for me means an opportunity for us to come together as Aboriginal people with all others to share the true history of our people in order for us to build a strong and united nation. It's one of my happiest times across the course of the school year and an opportunity, I believe, for all Australians to see, value and acknowledge the place that Aboriginal people have in Australia. In 2020, Reconciliation Week will look a little bit different. And for us, we're really looking forward to doing a lot of virtual learning and sharing of knowledges. Our students are busy getting ready for assemblies, where we can share our knowledge and history with all of our wider community and we look forward to having a brilliant Reconciliation Week.
End of transcript.
Duration – 1:40
Hi, my name's Darren Bell and I lead the Aboriginal employment team for the NSW Department of Education. I'm currently on Darug land, where I'm working from home. And my mob are the Ngunnawal people from the town Yass which is about half an hour out of Canberra and the Yuin people from the South Coast of NSW.
I'm just here to talk to you about what reconciliation means to me, and what National Reconciliation Week means to me. Reconciliation means people coming together, basically. It's remembering the past and ensuring that bad policy and things like that don't ever happen again because when you say 'sorry' you don't do it again. You mean it and you move forward, and that's what I'm talking about, moving forward together. As Aboriginal people, we have nothing to reconcile about, but this process, I think, is a way of non-Aboriginal people throughout Australia showing respect to the first people of this country. And the department itself, I believe, has really grown in this aspect and area with how it's implementing policy, working in different ways, because it's the department's way of showing that we can work in two worlds and work in these worlds together.
End of transcript.
Duration – 4:45
My name is Roslyn McGregor. My mob are the McGregor, Binge, Peters and Murray families. I'm on the land of the Kamilaroi people. I was born in Collarenebri and I still live there and I work in Walgett, two great communities, which are part of the Kamilaroi nation. My role at the NSW Department of Education is senior leader, community engagement officer currently based at Walgett Community College High School, which is a Connected Community school.
National Reconciliation Week means to me, first and foremost, it's about acknowledging the true history of Australia, coming to terms with the past, to the present. Without this acknowledgement, there is no way forward. And acknowledgement means there is no blame, but acknowledgement has to have truth-telling as its foundation. Reconciliation is only possible when the majority of Australians really accept and understand our shared histories and truly understand the impact of colonisation on Aboriginal people.
The Walk for Reconciliation across the Harbor Bridge was 20 years ago, and this was an incredible moment of realisation for those who chose to walk. It was an act of meaningful reconciliation, where the history of past dispossession and current disadvantage would acknowledge. But what has happened since that realisation, and how many people are still walking with us? Initiatives like Closing the Gap and Bringing them Home are just a few of the mainstream campaigns that everybody knows about.
Reconciliation here on the ground starts with local AECGs fighting for better educational outcomes for our kids. Staff connecting with community, going out on Country with Elders, learning language, cultural awareness programs that empower Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to address the tyranny of history. This year 2020, also marks 250 years since Cook charted the east coast of Australia and on the ground, educators are being encouraged to learn the original place names and landmarks that Cook renamed on behalf of the British Crown.
Reconciliation Week starts with National Sorry Day on the 26 May and then Mabo Day on 3 June. It's a week that starts and ends with days of national reflection and history-making court decisions about forced removal of children from their families and land rights. Reconciliation is about recognising those non-Aboriginal people that worked with us, that walked with us in a genuine partnership.
But most of all, reconciliation is a chance for all of us together to unite rather than divide and to heal rather than wound. Reconciliation is not marked by one moment in time. It is ongoing now and into the future. Here in Walgett as senior leader, community engagement officer, we are marking this year by bringing home the message of caring for country, and teaching our kids that it is important, right here right now, and in our own community.
It builds upon generations of Aboriginal people caring for country wherever their nation may be. We will be asking students and communities what caring for Country means to them. And we'll put a series of posters all around town, with words, quotes and images that tells the story of caring for Kamilaroi country.
Being isolated and locked up inside because of the coronavirus, community has had to come together. It gives us the perfect opportunity to really think about where we are and how we live on Country. 2020 is the time to celebrate our identity that comes from the sense of place and belonging we get when we are all caring for country. In this together, and reconciliation needs you.
End of transcript.