May 27, 2022

National Reconciliation Week: Be Brave. Make Change

National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is marked each year from 27 May to 3 June. These dates commemorate two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey— the successful 1967 referendum, and the High Court Mabo decision respectively.

At the 1967 referendum, Australians voted overwhelmingly to amend the Constitution to allow the Commonwealth to make laws for Aboriginal people and include them in the census. The High Court Mabo decision, is a landmark case brought by Eddie Mabo against the State of Queensland, notable for recognising the pre-colonial land interests of Indigenous Australians within Australia’s common law.

NRW is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.

The theme for 2022 is Be Brave. Make Change. It is a challenge to us all to be brave and tackle the unfinished business of reconciliation so we can make change for all.

So what does reconciliation mean to us? Here’s what our staff and consumers, have to say.

Karen Bryant, Senior Aboriginal Liaison Officer (ALO) says, “Reconciliation is a journey where we acknowledge and celebrate each other’s differences. It’s about understanding and acknowledging what has happened in the past, our true history, and working together to achieve equality while building relationships, respect and trust.”

To Jo Quinn, Aboriginal Health Worker, Reconciliation means, “Recognising, acknowledging and learning from the injustices to Indigenous Australians so we can work together to create a better future for our children.”

To Tya Fry, Acute Occupational Therapist, “Reconciliation is about building a positive relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. It’s about creating equal opportunities for all.”

Andrew Morrison, Aboriginal Consumer and a member of the Northern Health Aboriginal Advisory Committee (NHAAC), says, “Reconciliation means acknowledging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of this land and recognising that these peoples were dispossessed, persecuted and oppressed as a result of colonisation in Australia.”

Salina Bernard, yet another Aboriginal Consumer and patient, sees it as an opportunity for “Indigenous and non-Indigenous working in genuine collaboration to acknowledge Australia’s true history and engaging in efforts to create greater awareness resulting in systemic change, institutional, individual attitudes and services delivered to Indigenous peoples.”

“This will support improved outcome for Indigenous people’s across the country,” says Salina.

“History is a mirror of the past and a lesson for the present,” says Yue Hu, Director Transcultural & Language Services (TALS) and Narrun Wilip-giin Aboriginal Support Unit (ASU).

She says, “Reconciliation starts from acknowledging the history but lands on the actions of today. I am privileged to work alongside Aboriginal people to learn the details about this world’s oldest civilisation and take actions to make changes that will shape our future.”

To Maree Glynn, Director of Clinical Practice Improvement, Reconciliation means “taking responsibility to make something right. In our context at Northern Health, it is acknowledging that the past has contributed to mistrust and fear of hospitals and healthcare, contributing to poor health outcomes and knowing that we must make a difference.”

“We are in the position to close the health gap, by building relationships through respect and through better understanding of the past, creating a culturally inclusive environment and providing healthcare in a way that is sensitive to and meets the needs of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers,” she adds.

Briana Baass, Senior Advisor Partnerships says, “I think it’s something we have a responsibility to be curious about. We need to have an open mind to explore the truth about our past and our present, in order to enable meaningful reconciliation.”

Birat Sharma, Senior Social Worker says, “As a migrant myself, it means playing my part in educating my friends and family about Australia’s First Peoples histories, cultures and heritage. It means, helping them to understand reconciliation as an ongoing journey, to close the gap.”

“To me, reconciliation is a process of reflection and change. An opportunity to learn, understand and grow together,” says David Le, Manager TALS.

“Reconciliation for me is about all Australians coming together with a shared vision for understanding our First Nations rich culture, and helping forge a future where we can all prosper,” says Jason Cirone, Director Workforce Sustainability, People and Culture.

Cheryl Murray, Breast Care Nurse Consultant (BCN) believes, “Reconciliation is an important ongoing commitment, to have a mutually respectful relationship and equality between Aboriginals, Torres Strait Islander’s and non-Aboriginal people in Australia. It is important to acknowledge the past and learn from this going forward.”

Sherrilyn Ballard, Consumer Participation  Coordinator, says, “Aboriginal people share their stories through voice, music, art and more.”  She suggests we “listen deeply to learn and support healing for future generations.”

As Reconciliation Australia, the lead body for reconciliation in Australia, state ‘Change begins with brave actions in your daily life – where you live, work, play and socialise.’

They say, “Reconciliation must live in the hearts, minds and actions of all Australians as we move forward, creating a nation strengthened by respectful relationships between the wider Australian community, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

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Pictured above: Toni Gabelish , ALO, Karen Bryant ,Senior ALO, Cheryl Murray , Breast Care Nurse Specialist, Tya Fry ,Occupational Therapist, Stephanie Thompson ALO, Jesse Odgers, Access and Support Worker, Birat Sharma,  Senior Social Worker.