As we prepare for our own celebration of our Indigenous culture through Nations of Origin, it is important to reflect on the importance of Reconciliation week especially as we are proud and privileged to work with many young Indigenous people and communities. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the valuable work and expertise our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colleagues provide to our Organisation.
National Reconciliation Week (NRW) commemorates two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey— the successful 1967 referendum, and the High Court Mabo decision respectively. NRW is a time for all of us to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.
We will launch PCYC’s Reconciliation Plan at the Nations of Origin event but Reconciliation must live in our hearts and our actions will speak to our commitment.
We aspire to a culture of learning and respect. We should not walk past the standard we seek to set. A culture that puts the needs of all youth before self, respect of the individuals worth and an ethos that values true teamwork where everyone contributes the one purpose – empowering young people.
NRW challenges us to learn more about our indigenous history. To that end, I offer something new that I have researched this week.
70 Aboriginal men are believed to have served on Gallipoli, 13 of whom were killed in action. It is estimated that 1,000 to 1,300 Indigenous soldiers served in the Australian Imperial Force during the First World War, of whom around 250 to 300 made the ultimate sacrifice. That’s out of an estimated Indigenous population at the time of 80,000. An amazing statistic especially as this during an era when sadly they weren’t recognised as Australian citizens, so for them enlistment was illegal.
“Once in the service, as an Indigenous soldier, you were treated as an equal; you had the same options for pay. When you are in the trenches, you don’t have the option of disliking the person behind you,” Mr Oakley President of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans and Service Association, said. Sadly, that changed once the Indigenous soldiers returned from the AIF. Out of uniform and back in their communities, they resumed being just the same second-class citizens as before.
We owe a debt of gratitude to these and all servicemen. Lest we forget.
I am proud of our Indigenous commitment to date but we can always do more. I look forward to implementing the objectives of our RAP once launched.
Celebrate and commemorate NRW.
Yours in Empowering Young People