Department of Premier and Cabinet, Department Treasury & Finance, Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Department of Transport, Department of Education and Victorian Public Sector Commission hosted a series of lively discussions to mark National Reconciliation Week 2019. The theme was: grounded in truth, walk together in courage.

National reconciliation week is a time for Australians to:

  • learn about our shared histories
  • recognise the contributions that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders make to our country and society
  • explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia

Staff gathered to talk about the shared history between the broader Victorian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, how to move forward together and the importance of culture and community. Everyone agreed this relationship grows in strength and positivity when grounded in a foundation of truth.

The audience of 120 people listened keenly to three panel discussions. The youngest panellist was Mathilda, a nine-year-old student. Mathilda spoke about how proud she was to be a Yorta Yorta person and explained what reconciliation means to her.

It means coming together for a better tomorrow.

Long-term Aboriginal employees noted the growing commitment to reconciliation they have seen during their years working in government.

Mason, Manager of Aboriginal Employment Unit at the Victorian Public Sector Commission and Dja Dja Wurrung and Yorta Yorta man gave examples of positive change:

  • more education and training to lift cultural capability
  • opening Koori Court in language
  • growth in the number of Aboriginal executives
  • incorporating protocols, approaches and practice into everyday business
  • defining the self-determination agenda

Tammy, Aboriginal Inclusion Coordinator and Wathaurong woman, offered some practical advice for public servants facilitating engagement.

Don’t have discussions about the Aboriginal community without them. Consult with the community right from the beginning of your project. Forward planning is critical when you need to talk to Elders. They want to work with you but remember there are a lot of demands on their time. Things won’t necessarily move at the speed you want.

Deb, Aboriginal Community Development Broker and Gunditjmara woman, encouraged her Aboriginal colleagues to move around the public service.

You don’t have to work in an Aboriginal designated role or section or region. You can work anywhere. Integrate… spread your truth. Share your experiences be they good or bad. Share your history and stories. People will learn from you. Reconciliation isn’t just a week, it should be every day. Live it.

Steve, Aboriginal Liaison Officer and Taungurung Elder, urged employers to take care of their Aboriginal staff, to prevent burnout.

I’m walking in two worlds. I’m Aboriginal and that’s not a nine-to-five thing.  I’m Aboriginal twenty-four-seven. When I’m at work, the government wants to know what’s on the community’s mind. When I’m in the community, the community wants to know what’s on the government’s mind. That’s a good thing, but it can be tiring too.

Elly Patira, Director of Aboriginal Affairs Policy Branchat Department of Premier and Cabinet and Gunnai and Ngāpuhi woman, delivered closing remarks.

Without treaty there is no reconciliation. It’s where two parties come to the table to build a new relationship, a unified future. Let’s have that conversation.

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