At the recent unveiling of a plaque acknowledging that the Greater Shepparton City Council offices were built on an historical burial site belonging to the Yorta Yorta people and their descendants, Elder Uncle Lance James talked about reconciliation. He talked about the importance of reconciliation not just being for a few hours on one day — not for the odd day, here and there, but for it to be part of every day.
Reconciliation Australia believes “reconciliation is an ongoing journey that reminds us that while generations of Australians have fought hard for meaningful change, future gains are likely to take as much, if not more, effort”. Reconciliation means a just and equitable Australia where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have the same life chances and choices as non-indigenous children, and the length and quality of a person’s life was not determined by racial background.
It also means truth- telling, whereby all Australians understand our country’s history and the impacts of the dispossession, murder, massacres, internment, enslavement and genocide – actions supported by government policies and practices of the time — on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities.
It is this understanding and acceptance of our history that leads to improved race relations which, in turn, leads to greater equality and equity. So how do we put this into action? Ask if your workplace has a Reconciliation Action Plan — or RAP. Greater Shepparton City Council recently adopted its first RAP. As chief executive Officer Peter Harriott noted, the RAP “outlines council’s commitment to reconciliation and to ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures are respected, acknowledged and celebrated”.
It also gives clear, measurable goals in areas such as employment, relationships with the Aboriginal community and understanding of local Aboriginal history. You can visit council’s website to read the RAP. It contains an historical timeline of this area. You can download the Shepparton Council Reconciliation Action Plan here.
Other local organisations such as the UnitingCare/Kildonan have also implemented a RAP. Contacting Reconciliation Australia is a good place to start. Its RAP program provides a framework for organisations to support the national reconciliation movement. Visit Reconciliation Australia.
Visit The Flats, read the stories on the panels. Reflect on this local history and how it has shaped our community. Stop by the murals on the wall of Goulburn Valley Water and read the stories, then go home and Google those past leaders and marvel at their achievements.
Talk to your children about our history. Read, read, read — educate yourself and your children. Goulburn Valley Library has a growing collection of titles on Aboriginal history, including Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe — a good place to start. There is even an edition of Dark Emu for younger readers – Young Dark Emu.
Find out about Rumbalara Football Netball Club, why it was established and the positive impact it has on the local Aboriginal community. If you are interested in playing footy, go along and find out about their teams. Anyone can become a member and support the work of the Club. Visit https://rfnc.com.au
Visit Kaiela Arts, our local Aboriginal art space, talk to the artists and find out how they connect to culture through the arts. You can also join Yanha “Walking with” Kaiela Arts Friends’ group. So visit https://kaielaarts.org.au/ or drop in to 137-139 High St.
As Pastor Sir Doug Nicholls said: “We want to walk with you, we d0n’t want to walk alone.” So here is an opportunity to walk together.
Take up Uncle Lance’s challenge: to make reconciliation part of your everyday.
It is these everyday actions that will make our nation a just and more equitable country – a country in which we understand our past, and celebrate the culture and the resilience of our First Nations.
Source: Words in Action, Shepparton Region Reconciliation Group, published in Shepparton News, 14 October 2019.
Image: National Archives of Australia, Cabinet Papers Header Image, obtained online 20 October 2019