A Year for Remembering - Reconciliation Events from 2017

25 October 2017

2017 is a year of particular significance on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander calendar. 3 June this year marked the 25th Anniversary of the Mabo Decision, while 27 May was the 50th Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum.

We are always keen to show our support on the different occasions on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander calendar by participating in community events as well as hosting our own around the country. Such dates include National Sorry Day on 26 May, National Reconciliation Week (27 May – 3 June), Coming of the Light (1 July) and National NAIDOC Week (2 – 9 July).

This year we hosted Sorry Day events at several of our locations. On this day to mourn and acknowledge the Stolen Generations, our staff heard painful stories directly from members of the Stolen Generation. This was not only an educational process, but also presented us with the opportunity to collectively grieve and strengthen our ongoing commitment to reconciliation.

Our office in Newcastle, through our local Stretch RAP Waruparr Committee, hosted a National Sorry Day event that also acknowledged National Reconciliation Week. Guest speakers, sisters Maree and Belinda Simon, spoke about their past and present experiences as members of the Stolen Generations. Practice Lead, Children, Families and Young People Jessica Cocks also shared her personal experience of Aboriginal people in the out of home care system. Our Chair Terry Lawler and Chief Executive Claire Robbs both attended the event.

“We heard emotive, personal stories. The stories shared a common theme of change starting with saying sorry, to be followed by what we do next, our actions, and our drive for reconciliation to make the difference,” said Marketing, Promotions and Brand Lead and Waruparr Co-Chair Elley Goldspring.

Our Brisbane office partnered with the Link-Up Aboriginal Corporation to host a Sorry Day breakfast and programme of events at Cranbrook Place in West End’s Orleigh Park, which was the site of an Aboriginal Girls Home from 1899-1906.

Our State Lead QLD Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Initiatives Leoni Lippitt; Federal Member for Griffith Terri Butler; and Deputy Premier of Queensland Jackie Trad attended the event entitled ‘Still Bringing Them Home’. Attendees sang along with Aunty Bessie Parsons, Dr Valerie Cooms, Chris Tamowoy, the Songlines Choir and Meanjin Voices.

Queensland State Community Engagement Manager Julie McGlone said “I was in tears. Nothing prepared me for the emotion I experienced at this event. I’ve been to Sorry Day events before, and I’ve heard the stories and felt the sadness …but I don’t think I ever really understood the pain until today.”

Our Rockdale office in NSW marked National Sorry Day with a powerful event for which our State Lead NSW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Initiatives Les Ahoy delivered the Welcome to Country in traditional dress, Maree Simon gave a powerful presentation about her own personal story, and State Director NSW/ ACT Roderick Best gave a moving address. Roderick and Les demonstrated that Reconciliation is not just the business of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but everyone’s business.

Our Warwick office in Perth also hosted a National Sorry Day event, led by our State Lead Perth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Initiatives, Pamela Thorley. Staff watched Prime Minister Rudd’s Apology and a short video on the 1967 Referendum to revisit these significant milestones, which led to rich conversation about the impact legislation had and continues to have, on Western Australian Aboriginal people.

The Life Without Barriers Rocherlea Office in Tasmania celebrated National Reconciliation Week and were joined by eleven members from The Elders Council of Tasmania. The Elders enjoyed the opportunity to find out about the range of services we deliver, to visit activities occurring in our Disability program and to chat to staff and participants.

In recognition of 25 years since the Mabo Decision, our staff in Brisbane also participated in a Mabo Day event that began with a procession, then Welcome to Country by the Traditional Owners the Yuggera people. The Yuggera people handed over to the Murray Island (Mer) people to Celebrate on their Country. The Welcome dance by the Traditional Owners, received a response from the Murray Islanders who invited the Yuggera people to visit their Island.

In Victoria, the inaugural Mabo Day Community Picnic and Celebration down on the Birrarung was a heart-warming day of Celebration with live music, performances and children’s activities. Our Dandenong Centre followed this event by facilitating a powerful and thought-provoking screening of ‘Mabo’.

Dandenong Centre Coordinator – South East Katina Nomikoudis said “At the end of the movie, we all sat in silence, humbled by the tenacity of one man’s will to make a difference. It inspires me to imagine what we could achieve, standing united in upholding our Values.”

“Attending these events allows our employees to take a moment to pause, reflect, open their heart and think about how they can incorporate the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including clients, carers, community and staff, into our business,”

Chief Executive Claire Robbs.