Students give voice to the importance of listening

As Reconciliation Week begins, Freyja Hazelton and Abigail Goodacre, from Cheltenham Girls High School, share what the celebration means to them.

Image: Education is key: Cheltenham Girls High School Year 10 students Freyja Hazelton and Abigail Goodacre.

As young people living in Sydney, we have been naive to the ongoing struggles of First Nations peoples in Australia from the occupation of their land and the intergenerational trauma of the Stolen Generations.

We have also been ignorant in relation to the depth and complexity of Aboriginal cultures, customs and connection to Country.

But through our Aboriginal Studies course, we have developed an understanding about what reconciliation means. To us, reconciliation means apologising and coming together. Reconciliation means listening to First Nations’ voices to create change. Reconciliation means education. And Reconciliation is not just a one-week event, it is something our nation should be working towards every day.

Reconciliation is apologising, acknowledging, and reflecting on what change has been made, and acknowledging that change remains necessary in order for us to move into the future harmoniously. Reconciliation is about unity: how we, non-Indigenous Australians, come together to acknowledge and apologise for acts throughout Australian history that affected Aboriginal people.

Growing up we have wondered at times why as our generation should feel responsible or apologetic for actions of the past. However we have come to realise that being aware of how history informs present day is vital in understanding how our nation can come together as one. To us, reconciliation is acknowledging that injustices took place in the past, and that they should not be forgotten.

Reconciliation is about communicating and listening to Indigenous voices and bringing them into a place that can be heard, such as Parliament. A Wiradjuri woman, Linda Burney, is expected to be named the federal Indigenous Affairs Minister, and as part of a record 10 Indigenous representatives, will bring a First Nations’ perspective to our national politics.

But reconciliation to us means more than just listening; it is also about creating change driven and implemented by Indigenous communities. The Uluru Statement from the Heart should not just be a government priority, but a nationwide priority in reconciliation, as it involves the recognition of the continuity of Aboriginal law, cultures, language and ownership of the land in the Constitution.

Reconciliation to us involves listening to Aboriginal voices and advocating for communities to be able to make change.

Reconciliation starts with education nationwide about First Nations cultures. We are grateful for the understanding we have gained during our Aboriginal Studies course; however, not every student has this opportunity. To be able to achieve reconciliation, all Australians need to have an in-depth understanding about Aboriginal peoples' cultures, experiences and connection to land.

As individuals in this country we can all be more proactive in listening to First Nations voices, as many resources that have extensive detail about cultures, history and reconciliation, such as books, articles, podcasts and artworks, are available online. Recognition, understanding, and appreciation of First Nations cultures will help create reconciliation in Australia.

To us, reconciliation is being an ally, and being always committed to listening to Aboriginal peoples voices rather than our own. 'Be Brave, Make a Change'.

Freyja Hazelton and Abigail Goodacre are in Year 10 at Cheltenham Girls High School.

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