Reconciliation is a journey for all Australians – and one that ICMS staff and students are committed to making. At the heart of this journey are relationships between the broader community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
This year, to mark Reconciliation Week, ICMS staff were invited, as part of a Culture Program Team initiative, to attend an Aboriginal Culture Heritage Talk to learn about our Australian histories and cultures and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.
The Culture Program Team identified the need to raise awareness into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture, to ensure social responsibility within the Institution and to support reconciliation within Australia.
“The support for Aboriginal students at ICMS starts with ensuring our staff are educated and well informed in this matter, and actively support positive change within the community for First Nations people,” said Natalie Watt, ICMS Executive Officer.
The cultural awareness presentation was delivered by Karen Smith from the Aboriginal Heritage Office.
Ms Smith grew up in Freshwater and her family has lived in the area for several generations. She explained that the theme for this year’s Reconciliation Week is ‘more than a word, reconciliation takes action’. “We need more than words, we need impactful actions to address the issues facing Aboriginal people,” she said.
Some of the helpful and healing actions suggested on the Reconcilliation.org website include:
The history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples has been marred by massacres, forced removals and genocide – recognised by the United Nations* – since the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788.
ICMS staff learned about the diversity of Aboriginal people in Australia and the many different languages and mobs who lived on the Australian continent before colonisation. The British who arrived on the land with the First Fleet called it Terra Nullis, meaning “land belonging to no one”. This effectively denied Indigenous people’s prior occupation of and connection to the land.
Ms Smith explained that it was not only the introduction of European diseases that decimated many Aboriginal populations but also policies such as land clearing and the denial of basic human rights that have been so detrimental to preserving the culture of a people who lived in harmony with the land.
“The first step to healing the generational trauma caused by the past is to share the stories and acknowledge the true history of our country,” she said.
Scottish-born Elspeth McAinsh, ICMS Vice President (People and Training) said that, although the history can be confronting, it’s valuable for us to learn about our shared past. “We are most appreciative of Karen sharing her knowledge of Aboriginal history and culture with us and for facilitating a productive discussion about driving cultural awareness in education,” she said.
Other activities planned for Reconciliation Week at ICMS to build awareness of Aboriginal culture and cistory include:
“The revival of Aboriginal culture relies on acknowledging the history, and the trauma of the past, said Ms Smith. “This reconciliation week is an opportunity to collectively build relationships and communities that value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures, and our futures.”