Promoting the rights of First Nations People: A personal perspective
- Posted on August 8, 2022
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
I remember the first time I heard a Welcome to Country be shared at a corporate event. It was a conference, about a decade ago now. I was sitting in a packed ballroom at one of many round tables waiting for the opening keynote. The organizer announced that a Welcome to Country would be delivered by an Elder of the Gadigal people in the Eora nation. As I listened, I felt emotional and proud as a descendent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the First Nations (or Indigenous) people of this country.
International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is about sharing the message about protecting and promoting the rights of Indigenous peoples around the world. This can be a complex topic, and a simple thing anyone can do is to choose to learn. This year’s theme is the role of Indigenous Women in the Preservation and Transmission of Traditional Knowledge. As a First Nations descendent and a proud Tjupan Pinhi woman, I aspire to play a role in this process by sharing what I have learned, and what I continue to learn.
I did not learn a lot about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history at school, it was not something that was well covered when I was growing up in Australia. And what I did learn in school, I now know was not the whole truth.
I learned most of what I know from my own mob (family) and through my own curiosity and research. What I knew in my youth as facts about our mob, that we came from Mogumber and had been at Sister Kate’s, materialized in later years as my understanding that my grandfather and so many of our mob were of the Stolen Generation. Mogumber (also known as Moore River Native Settlement) and Sister Kate’s were just two of many locations where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were forcibly taken under the premise of child protection.
Learning about my own culture is a continuous experience. Many aspects of it are deeply personal and sensitive, and not something that I have always felt comfortable or safe to discuss, particularly in a workplace context.
I have been learning from family, researching, and collecting information since my early school days. My heritage and experience have led me to be deeply passionate about Inclusion and Diversity. Understanding and recognizing the past, however ugly, is a crucial step to reconciliation. Avanade’s approach to Inclusion and Diversity was a key factor in my decision to join the team. I am incredibly pleased to have joined at a time when Avanade Australia is taking positive action to support reconciliation in Australia by developing their first Reconciliation Action Plan.
I am proud that I can take part in the reconciliation process at Avanade, and I am very conscious that my experience is not the same lived experience as most of my mob. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the oldest surviving culture in the world yet represent only 3.2% of the recorded population in Australia. I would never claim to speak for them, and I feel a right and responsibility to help represent my culture and share knowledge. Truly complex challenges cannot have simple solutions, but that does not mean that we cannot all do simple things to contribute to change.
If you are wondering what you can do on International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, I recommend learning a little about the First Nations people where you live, and then having a conversation with a friend or family member to share that knowledge.
Acknowledgement I acknowledge Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation where I live and work in Naarm, the Whadjuk Noongar people of the land where I was raised in Boorloo, and to the Wongi from whom I descend. I pay respect to all past, present, and future Traditional Custodians and Elders of this nation, and the continuation of cultural, spiritual, and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
About the Artwork and Artist Ancestors is a piece by proud Tjupan Pinhi woman Danielle Ashwin (cousin of Rebecca Jackson). Danielle is an emerging contemporary artist who shares her deep connection to culture through her work. This piece represents Danielle’s and Rebecca’s elders, their Wally Pop (grandfather) and his five siblings and our extended families as their descendants. Ancestors is copyright used here with permission of the artist for this article. © Ashwin Aboriginal Art