Some of the participants of the ‘Deadly Health’ sexual health and respectful relationships half-day education session with Aboriginal young people in Melton. Photo by Amanda Wimetal
Adapted from a speech by Robyn Gregory
On 26 May every year, ceremonies, marches, speeches and presentations are held around the country to commemorate Sorry Day, the day on which Australians express regret for the oppression of Aboriginal people, including the systematic removal of children from their families.
The first National Sorry Day was held on 26 May 1998, one year after the tabling of the report Bring them Home, which outlined the extent and impact of the stolen generation. Following Kevin Rudd’s apology in 2008, Sorry Day gained a more formal strength that was missing with John Howard’s refusal to issue a formal apology.
Since the first Sorry Day the focus has been on the healing needed throughout Australian society if we are to achieve reconciliation. It is an opportunity for organisations such as ours to report back on what we are doing to work towards reconciliation.
Here at Women’s Health West (WHW), we have developed a Foundational Reconciliation Plan (January-June 2015), designed to lay the foundations for a comprehensive Reconciliation Action Plan. That work will be consultative and shaped by the recommendations of our local Aboriginal communities, Elders and community controlled organisations, as well as staff, clients and community women.
However, WHW recognises that before seeking to develop respectful and reciprocal relationships with local Elders and communities, we must publicly recognise the past and ongoing injustices perpetrated against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
We must also begin building our organisation’s capacity for understanding and engaging in the work of reconciliation. We see this action as the foundation on which respectful and meaningful partnerships and relationships can be built to ‘close the gap’ in health outcomes for first nations communities.
Here are some examples of ways we are working to build our capacity as an organisation towards reconciliation with first nation peoples:
- Our health promotion and family violence managers conducted a ‘Making two worlds work’ cultural audit of Women’s Health West in April. The results will be used to inform the four-year Reconciliation Plan.
- WHW was approached by DHS in late November 2014 to auspice funding for the Indigenous Family Violence Regional Action Group. The funds, which must be held and distributed by an incorporated body, support the business of the IFVRAG in educating, preventing, reducing and responding to family violence in Indigenous communities. We were pleased to be approached and to be able to assist.
- WHW, in partnership with the Wulumperi Sexual Health Unit, the Department of Education’s Koori Engagement Unit and the Secondary School Nursing Program, delivered a sexual health and respectful relationships half-day education session with 13 Aboriginal young people in Melton. This ‘Deadly Health’ event will be held in Wyndham in early June and is a bi-annual activity for our health promotion team.
- WHW hosted a meeting in April between the Preventing Violence Together Partnership and members of the West Metro Indigenous Family Violence Regional Action Group. The meeting was held to develop a series of recommendations about the primary prevention of family violence within Aboriginal communities, for inclusion in the PVT Partnership’s submission to the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
- Cross-cultural training will be provided for staff and board at the end of June on developing culturally-appropriate solutions to the difficulties confronting Indigenous people in a way that empowers individuals and communities to look to the future.
- Our new policy development worker, who has extensive experience in working with Indigenous communities, will support the completion of the Foundational Plan before beginning the process of developing a four-year Reconciliation Plan. This plan will be developed in close consultation with staff, the board, and Elders and community members.
For personal inspiration on reconciliation you might like to watch BabaKiueria – a satirical film from 1986 that is unfortunately still relevant 30 years later. You might also watch Paul Keating’s Redfern speech, which he made as Prime Minister on 10 December 1992 to mark the Year of Indigenous People.