National Reconciliation Week Workshop

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Aboriginal artThe WA Branch held its second ever National Reconciliation Week workshop on Wednesday, 30 May 2018 as part of National Reconciliation Week. The workshop was facilitated by Amy Cooke and Aggie Manel from the ICEA Foundation, a non-for-profit organisation with the overarching goal of achieving reconciliation through mutual respect for all. The event was held on Whadjuk Noongar Land at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre and we program partnered with SPOTLESS for the workshop.  

Rachel Evans, Vice President of the WA Branch opened the workshop and we heard from Lucy Cordone, SPOTLESS Contract Manager for Government – Housing WA. Lucy shared the results of SPOTLESS water audits on a selection of their WA government housing properties and how they were able to identify methods to save thousands of litres of water per year by changing faulty taps and replacing broken & leaking pipes as well as their work with the Wirrapanda Foundation. 

The theme of 2018 National Reconciliation Week was “Don’t keep history a mystery: Learn. Share. Grow” which was explored during the workshop.

The workshop included a role playing brainstorm exercise, which highlighted the difficulties that often occur when people value aspects of life differently. Consolidating varying opinions and talking about misinterpretations were key to finding resolutions in this exercise. 

Workshop facilitators, discussed the role of interpreters and it was identified that they can have a positive intermediary role so long as they are willing to equally support both parties. It highlighted the importance of asking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for direction on Indigenous issues rather than relying solely on self-appointed non-Aboriginal spokespeople.

The thought provoking workshop allowed for meaningful and interactive discussion by attendees and highlighted the importance of people being able to own and control their cultural and intellectual property.  

Participants walked away with a renewed respect and understanding for the challenges faced by First Nations people with regard to connection to country and culture. Furthermore, many of the participants remarked that they were moved while working through the exercise and came out with practical concepts and informed ideas they can take back to their workplace. 

The workshop facilitators also discussed how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can be engaged in your organisation’s work. Working with local groups and having quotas around Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment can help to overcome privilege and bias. 

A discussion on Acknowledgement of Country formed the second part of the workshop, where the difference between Acknowledgement of Country and Welcome to Country was discussed. Participants talked about avoiding stereotyping, the importance in honouring the correct Elders and custodians of the land, and acknowledging the high respect Elders hold within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. One participant also highlighted the importance of ensuring that the correct nation and people are identified.

Facilitators explained how people can make Acknowledgement of Country more unique and meaningful. For example, people could talk about their own connection to the land and discuss aspects of the country that are relevant to the event where the acknowledgement is given, or even delivering the Welcome to Country in the relevant Indigenous language. 

The overall take away message was that an Acknowledgment of Country is an opportunity for anyone to show respect for the Traditional Owners and custodians of the land and the continuing connection that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have to Country.

Thank you to Amy and Aggie from the ICEA Foundation, together with our program partner, SPOTLESS, staff at Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre and members of our WA YWP Committee, in particular Renee Blandin and Adam Kaye to who were able to put in many valuable hours to put the event together.