Reconciliation Week: More Than A Word

In honour of National Reconciliation Week (27 May – 3 June), staff from across the Diocese have been taking steps to embody the 2021 theme ‘More than a word. Reconciliation takes action’.

National Reconciliation Week is a time to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.

Reconciliation must live in our hearts, minds, and actions as we move forward, strengthened by respectful relationships between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

In the spirit of unity and support for reconciliation, the Campus Ministry Team and Catholic Schools Office collaborated to organise a Reflection at the Diocesan campus. At this special event, staff were invited to come forth and plant a Sea of Hands to symbolise community support for reconciliation, rights, and respect. You can view photos from this Reflection on our MNnews Facebook page, and a video on our YouTube channel.

Students of St Mary’s Primary School in Warners Bay also took the ‘More than a word’ theme to heart, by standing together in the colours of the Aboriginal flag to recognise and apologise for injustices that have been done to Indigenous Australians , particularly for the pain inflicted on the Stolen Generations. The first step in mending any relationship is apologising for causing hurt. Saying sorry – and demonstrating that you mean it – is vital for friendships to continue to grow and become strong. The students hope that this simple apology can help initiate healing so all Australians can move forward together.

David Dryden is the Aboriginal Cultural Planner for CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning, as well as a proud Aboriginal male from the Dunghutti nation (Kempsey NSW). In the lead-up to Reconciliation Week, we spoke with David on how we can each play our part in achieving reconciliation in Australia.

MNnews: As a member of the Dunghutti nation, what does Reconciliation Week mean to you?

David: “Reconciliation to me is acknowledging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of this land, and recognising that these peoples were dispossessed, persecuted, and oppressed due to colonisation in Australia.

Recently, I have heard people say or write, ‘we need to get over it’ or ‘it didn’t affect you so move on’, or in the Permancy Support Program, ‘I don’t want the young person to stay in care his whole life just because he is Aboriginal’. The stolen generation has affected our culture in so many ways, and it’s examples like this that display a lack of education. We as a nation need to listen to our Elders, acknowledge Australia’s history, and start embracing the culture and true identity of Australia’s first nations people in a similar nature as New Zealand does with their Maori people.”

MNnews: 2021’s theme urges us all to take action for reconciliation. Do you think CatholicCare Hunter-Manning is actively taking steps in the right direction?

David: “I think CatholicCare  is actively taking positive steps in the right direction, and I personally think they have been for the last couple of years. CatholicCare’s Aboriginal Reference Group is an example of this. At our recent CatholicCare staff conference, we had Uncle Bill Smith conduct a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony and Winangay Dreaming perform cultural performances. These are also good examples of CatholicCare actively taking the rights step forward regarding our culture and best practice for the services and support CatholicCare provides .”

MNnews: How can we as individuals do our part for National Reconciliation Week?

David: I feel as individuals it’s about education and it’s about having empathy for our culture. I believe with an open mind and open heart, when an Aboriginal person is telling their story or providing cultural support/awareness, individuals can make some massive changes to their community. In some cases, a person’s core belief is too engrained to make change. However, individuals, organisations, schools, and even the country can work together to make positive change or ‘close the gap’.

If we can use sport as an example, look at the positive stories to come out of some of the most influential organisations in the country. In the NRL Indigenous Round, the exposure and education regarding our culture is amazing. It is also an excellent opportunity for some clubs to expose how they give back to the community through engaging with local artists and organisations to promote Aboriginal culture/stories through memorabilia artwork.”

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