In the spirit of Reconciliation, I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of all lands where our C4IE Blog readers reside. I pay my respects to our elders past, present and emerging and recognise their roles as traditional knowledge holders. I acknowledge their spiritual, cultural and continuing connection to Country and that Australia: ‘Always was and Always will be’, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land.
In this post, Dr Francis Bobongie-Harris discusses what it means for all Australians to be #InThisTogether during National Reconciliation Week 2020.
I am fairly confident that when the theme ‘In this together’ was chosen for National Reconciliation Week 2020, COVID-19 was not on anyone’s radar. Fast forward six months and here we are. Our children have been learning from home and our lives up until this point have been shut down.
Do you remember those initial television ads with celebrities filming from their multi-million dollar properties and fabulous kitchens? They told us: ‘take care of yourself, we are all in this together’? Of course they were probably quite genuine in their sentiments. However, I do wonder who they thought their audience was when they were filming? If nothing else, COVID-19 has highlighted two things: 1. The ever increasing wealth gap that exists between the richest and the poorest people in our country, and 2. The importance of connecting and communicating from the highest level of Government to your regular Joe Blow next door.
We are ‘In this together’
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up 3% of the population and 31% of the country’s poorest with percentages being higher in remote communities. At the moment, they are out of sight and out of mind. As Indigenous Australians, this picture of isolation should be very different but at the core of who we are as people – we have something that money cannot buy. We have Country, we have family and we have community. We are ‘In this together’.
We have the oldest Indigenous culture in the world. The decision by Indigenous leaders to shut down our communities from the rest of the world was the right decision and it came at the right time. Local Indigenous leaders then responded to this call for action and in our very remote communities they took everyone home and they locked the rest of the world out.
“We’re waiting it out in paradise”. Witiyana Marika
When Queensland closed their borders to the rest of the country, everyone went home. I went home to my family and my community. That is what we do – we go home and we assume our roles as part of a greater support system. We respectfully lock away our elderly – who are our key knowledge holders and we take care of the children – who are our future. Our most vulnerable are our concern.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders have been paving the way for Indigenous people since the beginning of colonisation. Twenty years ago people came together to walk on bridges and roads across the nation to show support for a more reconciled Australia. This year is the 20th anniversary of that momentous occasion. In 2020, 90% of Australians are in favour of Reconciliation. Moving forward means moving together. Whether you are part of a remote community or you live in suburbia, when we all come out of isolation our country will take on a new norm. Let’s show how we can truly be ‘in this together’. Connecting will require more than a filmed message to a mainstream audience.
At its heart, reconciliation is about strengthening relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples, for the benefit of all Australians…whether in a crisis or in reconciliation we are all #InThisTogether’.
Dr Francis Bobongie-Harris is a Program Co-Leader in the C4IE Indigenous Education Research Program. Francis is a Lecturer in Culture Studies – Indigenous Education. Her research focus is the improvement of educational opportunities for Indigenous children in Australia and Melanesian Countries in the South Pacific. Francis is a Chief Investigator on an ARC Linkage project that is investigating the implementation of Australian South Sea Islander historical content into the school curriculum in Queensland, through Community Led Research.