Jan Aitken NAIDOC Address 2022

                       RECONCILIATION WEEK 2022 FLAG RAISING

What an honour to stand here with Uncle Ian Hunter, Wurundjeri Elder!

I am humbled to be together here with Uncle Ian. Today. An honest and true picture for you all of Reconciliation.

Our nation of Australia is having a rocky journey as we travel down the long, slow Reconciliation road.

Today. Here in Nillumbik, we could imagine that we are in a beautiful green valley with great views. All looks peaceful and harmonious. And it is.

But just behind us and certainly ahead of us are more perilous passes to be encountered.

We passed the 1967 Referendum. We passed the Mabo decision. We passed the Tent Embassy in Canberra and Native title legislation. We are travelling along a Treaty path in Victoria.  We are carrying in our backpacks the Uluru Statement from the Heart but have only just been invited by our new Federal government to unpack it.

We stumble along over boulders and through swamps called:  Aboriginal deaths in custody, removal of Aboriginal children from their families and their placement in care, systemic racism which provides few places for Aboriginal people in leadership positions and the incarceration of many others, the discrimination of Aboriginal people in the rental housing field and in employment with resulting poverty and homelessness, and the difficulties Aboriginal people have when experiencing cultural lack of safety in the Health system.

And yet to the east and the west around us there are brightly lit hills. Schools that are teaching reconciliation and children who are leading us in what they can understand and say. Local governments  like Nillumbik, Banyule, Whittlesea are making Reconciliation Action Plans; and the First Peoples’ Assembly in Victoria with the Yoor-rook Justice Commission have begun to take submissions about the effect of colonisation on Aboriginal people before the Treaty making is undertaken.

There is much to be involved in if you are accepting that Reconciliation is your responsibility. I mean that. Reconciliation is our responsibility. We all want to live moral lives. We feel anger at those who break ethical means and ways of dealing with others, with community. Now, more than at any other time, our moral responsibilities must be applied to Reconciliation.

This means that not only are our votes needed when the time comes for a referendum on constitutional changes for a meaningful place for Aboriginal people in our nation. But it will need the votes of a very large proportion of the population.

So what we can do now is speak to others about this morality, this need our country has for the inclusion of the First Nations, the First Peoples in our constitution in a manner that is meaningful for them. We are on the brink of the beginning of a real reconciliation. One that hasn’t been with us before now. Let us do our bit towards making that a reality.

Be brave. Make a change. I think this theme for Reconciliation Week means just this. Take on your own responsibility for contributing to the implementation of the Uluru Statement from the heart: a Voice to parliament, Truth telling, and a Treaty.

Be Brave. Make this change happen.

Jan Aitken – NRG President 2022

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