From the Awabakal lands to Tasmania, this is how Life Without Barriers acknowledged NRW across the nation.
Image: Life Without Barriers staff at the National Sorry Day event in Queensland.
Life Without Barriers showed their support for National Reconciliation Week 2023 (NRW) by hosting, supporting and attending events held across the country. Here are some of the highlights.
New South Wales
National Reconciliation Week event in Orange
We supported partners Orange Aboriginal Medical Service at their NRW event. Orange turned on glorious weather for the day, which featured great talks and activities - most notably a community art piece where people placed handprints to represent the ongoing Reconciliation in Orange.
One of the highlights was a dance performance by another of Life Without Barriers' partners, Dinawan's Connection and students from Canobolas High School.
Image: Dancers from Dinanwans Connection at the Reconciliation Week event in Orange.
Reconciliation Week celebrations with partners at Tuggerah
Our partners Walkabout Coffee and Culture held an NRW event drawing guests from the care sector, construction, education, hospitality, corrections and retail sectors.
Billy and Lauren Duroux gave an emotional and personal presentation about their personal and family connections to NRW. Through their stories, audiences were shown how past government policies and injustices that were committed against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had an impact then, and how these acts continue to carry on impacting people today.
This was then followed by a yarning circle where attendees spoke about what Reconciliation Week meant for them.
Luke Barnes, Life Without Barriers Cultural State Lead, said,
“I had a great afternoon with our partners at Walkabout Coffee and Culture at their yarn up and presentation for Reconciliation Week."
"People from different backgrounds truly come together in Reconciliation. I was also lucky enough to receive a painted Coolamon from Billy as a recognition of Life Without Barriers and Walkabouts' ongoing partnership now and into the future.”
Image: An older Aboriginal gentleman wearing a hat speaking to a young women wearing grey.
Rising from the Embers Festival in Newcastle
Rob Russell, National Director - Reconciliation, participated in the University of Newcastle’s National Reconciliation Week events, ‘RAPS In The Region’, and he joined other staff for the Rising From The Embers Festival.
Held on the lands of the Awabakal people, the festival brings together like-minded individuals and local organisations who share a passion for environmental sustainability and innovation.
Attendees heard from Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Strategy and Leadership, Mr Nathan Towney and Reconciliation Partner, Loren Collyer, on the role business and organisations have to play in the upcoming referendum on the Voice to Parliament.
Image: A crowd watching dancers perform at the Rising from the Embers Festival.
Randwick Council and the La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Council held the annual Koojay Corroboree on Coogee Beach, a stunning backdrop to electric performances by Aboriginal Dancers, including the Jannawi Dance Clan, and the Gamay Dancers from the Gujaga Foundation.
Image: The crowd at the Koojay Corroboree on Coogee Beach.
Saltwater Dancers - students from Chifley Public School - performed three dances: ochre dance, pipi dance and Lyrebird dance. Warada Dance Group, meaning waratah, are students from Matraville Soldiers’ Settlement Public School who are practising culture. They raise awareness in the wider community and share stories through song and dance.
Image: Aboriginal Dancers performing at the Koojay Corroboree on Coogee Beach.
A highlight was the Doonooch Dancers, who invited all the children to come to the sandy ‘stage’ to learn and take part in traditional dances. This was met with a burst of enthusiasm as the many schoolchildren in attendance rushed down to the sands.
“The atmosphere was joyful and enchanting. I felt very lucky to experience the performances and learn more about what they meant."
"It touched all of us – I could see what I was feeling reflected in the faces around me, and it brought us all together,” said Michelle Tan, Senior External Communications Advisor.
Blak Talk’ at Garrmalang Festival
We listened to a panel talk on ‘The Voice – Let’s Talk about the Questions’. Moderator, Ursula Raymond was joined by panellists, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, Dr Wendy Ludwig and Tony McVoy SC to discuss the referendum that will decide whether to give First National Australians a Voice to the Australian Parliament and the Government.
When asked about what can non-Aboriginal and Torres Islander people do to support the voice, Dr Wendy Ludwig said, “Given we are only 3 per cent of the population, we are not going to win the vote on our own."
"Take responsibility for spending time educating other people in your families, in your social groups, and in your workplaces about what the real question is."
"What is the question? Do we need to have a set of principles and a group of people that are taking responsibility for putting our views on the table at a national level? That’s all we are asking for. That’s it.”
Kerrin Schallmeiner, Senior Marketing Advisor, said, “The future of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is in the hands of all Australians. It is our responsibility to build support for The Voice to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait people to be able to have a say in shaping their destiny.”
Image: Blak Talk panel session at this year’s annual Garrmalang Festival.
Reconciliation Week BBQ in Alice Springs
The Alice Springs Day Program hosted a BBQ where there were some ball games, music and dance.
“We had a good time with the Day Program and Supported Independent Living participants,” said Devine Mizha, Disability Support Leader, who shared some pictures from the day.
Image: Four people gathered around the BBQ at the Reconciliation Week BBQ event in Alice Springs.
National Sorry Day event with partners Link-Up QLD and Micah Projects
The event gave attendees a chance to come together to reflect, reconnect, heal and acknowledge the impact of the past policies spanning more than 200 years, including the forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from their Kin and Country to Government owned Missions and Non-Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander families.
“Every year, we hold this event where we hear from many different Elders and young people where they and their families have been affected by these past policies for many generations," said Silvia Jones-Terare, Life Without Barriers Cultural Support Worker.
“This year, we had the honour to listen to Uncle Ken Murphy, Chairperson of Link-Up Queensland, who provided the Acknowledgement to Country. We heard from Uncle some of his story, and from two younger men about their journeys. One of the men is supported by Life Without Barriers, and another supported by Link Up.
“We had the deadly young men from Hymba Yumba Independent School who did some amazing dancing for us. As well as an amazing choir that has been performing every year and telling their stories through songs.
“Last but not least, we had our very own superstar and amazing Life Without Barriers Youth Worker Edgar Conlon performing on the day. We always love Edgar’s performances and are so proud of him!” said Silvia.
Image: Life Without Barriers Youth Worker Edgar Conlon performing at the National Sorry Day event.
“A special mention to Aunty Leoni and her delicious Fried Scones that she made for everyone today! We had many compliments.”
Silvia shared about the multi-talented Leoni Lippitt, Queensland State Lead, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Initiatives. Leoni said;
“Great morning with Uncle’s Acknowledgement to Country, two awesome speakers sharing their stories of connecting to family and Country. Thank you to all who supported the day, much appreciated.”
Image: Life Without Barriers staff at the National Sorry Day event in Queensland.
Southside Mabo Promotion Day 2023 – MABO Day Celebrations
Leoni Lippitt and Darryl Monaghan joined the Torres Strait Islander community and friends at the Southside Mabo Promotion Day on the grounds of the Ngutana - Lui Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Studies Centre in Inala.
The organisers made sure it was a fun day filled with exciting activities for the whole family, including lei making, face painting, tattoos, zaazi making, weaving, hair braiding, dancers and much more.
There was plenty of entertainment on the day and prizes for the best dressed - floral edition!
As one of the speakers said, “It's always awesome to see the Torres Strait Islander community come together, whether you're from the East or the West. Our people need to support one another; we all become stronger together, we have resilience, and we are able to accomplish bigger things for ourselves and our people”.
Darryl enjoyed the music and watching the dances, and the various styles and movements, which included all ages. Leoni was happy to share the culture of her people with her colleague and friend. She explained to Darryl which dance belonged to which island group.
Leoni had the opportunity to catch up with family and friends, hang out with the Torres Strait Islander mob and watch the next generation, through dance, continue telling the stories and embrace their culture.
Mabo Day event at Meanjin
Helen Anderson, Senior Communications Advisor, said, “I had such a great afternoon and spoke to some truly inspiring people."
"Thank you to all those involved for sharing their culture, traditions and art – my heart is fuller for it."
During the afternoon, traditional Torres Strait Islander singers and dancers all performed with such joy and laughter that it was contagious.
“Being of Papua New Guinean (PNG) heritage, it was lovely to see firsthand some of the similarities in our clothes (meri blouses), singing, dancing, language and kaikai (food) with Torres Strait Islanders – it made me feel like I was home."
Helen had a wonderful time discovering local businesses and artists.
“I picked up some Queensland Indigenous Round football merchandise and clothes for my nephews, niece and brother from Bracks Indigenous Clothing stall, ordered some raffia earrings by Torres Strait Island designer Danielle Jackson,” said Helen.
Danielle shared with Helen that her grandmother passed down the gift of weaving to her.
“’Twas in her hands the gift passed down – grandmother to granddaughter. Our matriarch. A weaver. A brilliant businesswoman beyond her time,” said Danielle.
The day also led to Helen’s discovery of an amazing Bundjalung, Kuungkari and South Sea Island contemporary singer Georgia Llewellyn, who was performing a pop-up series thanks to Blak Social and South Bank.
“Her voice is silky smooth, and her lyrics, soulful,” said Helen.
Helen purchased beautiful artwork from Erubian, Manbarra and South Sea Island artist Taliah Saylor “A purple hibiscus, reminding me again of my PNG home,” said Helen.
Image: Two men and singer Georgia Llewellyn at the Mabo Day event at Meanjin.
Life Without Barriers NRW BBQ in Cairns
The BBQ brought together the community, staff, and people of all ages who are supported by Life Without Barriers’ for a day of food, fun and community connection.
Nikki, the Clown Children's entertainer and face painter came along to do some face painting. The Miriki Performing Arts children’s dance group performed a contemporary Indigenous dance.
“We had many locals stop by for a yarn and a feed,” said Melinda Webster, Disability Support Leader.
Lucas Carmody, Child and Family Practitioner, said,” It was a good day and even better to see a variety of community members come down to be involved.”
“It was a great day coming together with the local community,” said Tanya Lisiecki, Disability Support Leader.
The Cairns team also hosted a Morning Tea for Sorry Day at the Cairns office.
Aunty Betty Memorial Walk
The event celebrates and acknowledges the work of Aunty Betty within the Sunshine Coast community and her contribution towards Reconciliation.
“What a cracking morning celebrating the Life of Aunty Betty and Reconciliation Week. Sensational Dicky Beach on Gubbi Gubbi land turning it on with the sun shining,” wrote Amy Donnelly, Carer Recruitment and Engagement team.
Toowoomba Reconciliation Week celebrations
Our Toowoomba region came together for several different gatherings around our community. One of these was a Reconciliation Workshop held by Life Without Barriers Toowoomba staff.
“Jarowair (Gamba daru) and Giabal (Budgerie djanahn). Hello from the lands of the Jarowair and Giabal nations,” said Jack Dempsey, Cultural Support Planner.
“It was a great time for reflection as well as positive yarns about the future and the importance of all working together. I would like to thank all our stakeholders, partners and community people for their time and valuable input throughout all the events.”
Reconciliation in the West
This free, annual whole-of-community event has entertainment for all ages, stalls from local services providers and Aboriginal businesses a BBQ and much more. This year's launched the 50th Birthday Celebrations for Tauondi Aboriginal College, complete with a beautiful birthday cake for all to share.
2,000 people attended, including 800 students and teachers from 30 schools. Life Without Barriers ran four interactive activity stalls led by their Living Arts, Child, Youth and Families, Mental Health, and Alcohol and Other Drugs programs.
Some of our staff and the people we support volunteered to cook and serve the BBQ lunch, and coordinated the mainstage entertainment and workshop program. Entertainment included an intergenerational line-up of music, with two children's choirs and established musicians performing alongside South Australia's youngest Aboriginal emerging DJ.
Image: Two staff members at the Life Without Barriers stall at the 2023 Reconciliation in the West event.
Workshops and activities included interactive storytelling in the Nylon Zoo inflatables, a live painted mural and Ngarrindjeri Weaving workshops.
The Living Arts Van was on site with the team providing activities connected to Kaurna Language, teaching attendees phrases and names of animals, and sharing stories through puppetry and podcast interviews.
Kerrie McCann, Regional Director, spoke alongside the senior leaders from partner organisations, reflecting with pride about the recent launch of the Elevate RAP and invited community members to read more about Transformation Project with copies of the Elevate RAP available at the Child, Youth and Families stall.
“We had an amazing day today and were honoured to participate in an annual Reconciliation In The West event. Thank you, Tauondi College, for hosting the annual Reconciliation in the West!' Suyog Singh, Disability Support Regional Operations Manager said.
"What a great day spent celebrating the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community!”
“The people we support in Ceduna and Port Augusta, travelled to Adelaide last week for Reconciliation Week celebrations at Taoundi Aboriginal College. It was a long trip for our people, but they clearly had a great time engaging with the community!” said Annette Wall, Disability Support Leader.
Image: Close up of two Life Without Barriers staff members at the 2023 Reconciliation in the West event.
Reconciliation Week breakfast in Hobart
Our Tassie team attended the NRW breakfast in Hobart and heard from inspiring speakers, including Ray Martin, a renowned journalist, five-time gold Logie award winner, and reconciliation champion. Paul Cairns, Child, Youth and Family Tasmania Director, said, “Reconciliation is everyone's responsibility. We can create a more just and equitable Australia for all by working together.”
After the event, Paul shared some ways everyone can be a voice for reconciliation: by learning about the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, talking to friends and family about the upcoming referendum, getting involved in community’s reconciliation activities and supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses and organisations.
“For the work of generations past, and the benefit of generations future, we all need to act today for a more just, equitable and reconciled country for all."
Image: Attendees listening to a man present on stage at the Reconciliation Week breakfast in Hobart.
National Reconciliation Week Morning Tea at new South Morang offices
The team took the opportunity to celebrate the opening of their brand-new office and hosted a morning tea on the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. Staff from the HIPPY program, Victoria Disability Accommodation Support (VDAS), Support Coordination, Aged Care, and Out-of-Home Care (OOHC) teams came together with some of our business partners to celebrate the occasion.
Hosted by the HIPPY coordinator and proud Bpangerang woman, Jodie Reid, the event had Aboriginal Elder Aunty Shez as their special guest. Aunty Shez is the founder and CEO of Cooee Bunji.
Cooee Bunji has supported families in the HIPPY and OOHC space with food hampers, toys and resources over the past 18 months, and the team looks forward to an ongoing relationship working together with Cooee Bunji to support our community.
Aunty Shez was joined by her son Ray and grandchildren, who all shared their experiences of growing up in care as part of the stolen generation, the intergenerational trauma they have and the racism they all still face today, both within society and government systems.
Enriched by this moving truth-telling, everyone participated in an activity of writing down and then making a public statement on how all, as individuals, will make changes to support reconciliation.
Image: Reconciliation display created at the South Morang Office National Reconciliation Week Morning Tea.
“These statements were very genuine and heartfelt and sparked some very deep conversations amongst the group, with people sharing things they didn’t understand, things they wished they had known before and reflecting on practices they once did but now don’t or won’t do again," said Jodie.
"The afternoon was so engaging that people cancelled meetings to stay later, and conversations went well into the afternoon with plans on having more regular yarn sessions, rather than waiting for special weeks or days.”
Attendees explored the resources shared by Riley Callie Resources, including books, yarn cards, teaching tools and games. Many people admired the beautiful artworks of Aboriginal artist Gary Purchase that are exhibited all over the new office and talked about how important it is to have indigenous culture represented throughout our environment.
Image: Resources displayed on a table at the South Morang Office National Reconciliation Week Morning Tea
“We are very thankful to Aunty Shez, Ray and family as their raw honesty about their lived experiences was emotional, eye-opening and left many people reflecting on how we can all do better and use our privileges and voice to speak up and help the journey of reconciliation,” said Jodie.
National Reconciliation Week breakfast with Reconciliation Victoria
We had a moving morning at the Reconciliation Victoria Breakfast at Banyule on the lands of the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung people.
The breakfast celebrated and recognised Victorian local governments as well as supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ voices and partnerships, alongside the presentation of Reconciliation Victoria’s Maggolee Awards.
Special guest speaker, Aunty Jill Gallagher AO, delivered a moving speech, sharing her personal stories and discussing the history of the trauma and struggle of Aboriginal people to be recognised and to be respected.
“It was a privilege to listen to Aunty Jill Gallagher, who received a standing ovation and a few tears from the sold-out room,” said Jacintha Roberts, Digital Content Lead, who attended with colleague Trelawney Holt.
Image: Trelawney and Jacintha holding 'Yes 23' frames at the National Reconciliation Week breakfast with Reconciliation Victoria.
Reconciliation WA Virtual Breakfast
Attendees at Reconciliation WA’s Virtual breakfast heard from key speakers, Noongar, Yamatji and Wongi man Ken Wyatt AM, reconciliation ally Craig Foster AM, and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Hon. Tony Buti MLA.
They saw a special education segment with a performance from Ngalak Nidja and a special feature from Community Arts Network WA's Now Sounds project, bringing together young people from First Nations and multicultural communities in the City of Stirling, City of Canning and Kununurra, featuring award-winning Nyoongar rapper, Flewnt.
They also heard about the remarkable resilience of WA's regions as Marra Worra Worra Aboriginal Corporation and Kimberley Land Council yarned about rebuilding after the devastating record flooding in January this year.
Therapeutic Specialist in Kalgoorlie, Aple, attended the event and said, “This was such a meaningful event and was such a lovely session to kick start National Reconciliation Week 2023.”
Image: Life Without Barriers staff joining the Reconciliation WA Virtual Breakfast.
Walk for Reconciliation
Staff, carers, as well as children and people we support, joined the community to walk in solidarity with Aboriginal people at Reconciliation WA’s Walk for Reconciliation. Some staff also assisted as volunteers at the event.
The Walk for Reconciliation took place in beautiful Kaarta Koomba (Kings Park), which saw thousands of people across the day connect to Boodja and celebrate the living Noongar culture.
Starting with a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony, people journeyed through Kaarta Koomba and engaged in a range of cultural immersion activities, including truth-telling, dancing, and art workshops and learnt more about The Voice.
Tom, a young person in care said;
“I can't believe this is the longest-living culture in the world. How cool is that?’
He was impressed with the performances, “I like this!” he said.
Image: Dancers performing at the Walk for Reconciliation event.
We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of this country and acknowledges their connection to land, water and community. We pay our respect to them, their cultures and customs and to their Elders past, present and emerging.
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