Working towards Reconciliation

By Peter Gardiner
CEO, Samaritans

The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation envisions “a united Australia which respects this land of ours, values the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and provides justice and equality for all.” This is something we should all strive to achieve.

The Federal Government must actively support this vision with strategic, long-term planning to bring about sustainable outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. As citizens we have a responsibility on an individual level to respect our land and the values of our fellow Australians.

“Respectful relationships are paramount to building a stronger future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.”

As an organisation Samaritans is committed to the development of a future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility. Our agency is committed to making a meaningful contribution to reconciliation and improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social, economic and financial disadvantage. We welcome staff members to join our Reconciliation Action Plan Committee and take on an active and collaborative role in the development of Samaritans Reconciliation Action Plan.

Respectful relationships are paramount in building a stronger future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Working collaboratively and in consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations is vital to not only establish and build these relationships, but to also bring about effective change.

As individuals we can all play a role in building and maintaining respectful relationships with our fellow neighbours. In our homes, in our schools, in our workplaces and in our communities we must work together to foster reconciliation.

As a nation, until reconciliation is truly achieved, we are falling short of our potential.

Improving Mental Health Access for Indigenous Youth

Since the launch of the Yarnsafe Campaign, aimed at improving mental health access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth, Samaritans headspace centre in Maitland has welcomed more young people through its doors seeking support.

The campaign aims to reduce the shame in talking about mental health and to remove the barriers that stop young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from accessing support. headspace has seen a significant 32% increase in the number Indigenous Australians aged 12-25 accessing their centres for mental health support. headspace Maitland centre manager, Felicity Scott said, “It is extremely pleasing but we know that there is a lot more to be done in this space and we are committed to continuing this important work.”

The campaign, launched in 2014, was developed in collaboration with Aboriginal young people and leaders to renew focus and improve mental health support. “We are particularly grateful for the support and advice we have received working in partnership with Mindaribba Local Aboriginal Land Council, Nae Wannee Health Service and Ungooroo Aboriginal corporation – to name a few,” Felicity said.

Depression, anxiety and suicide affect Indigenous youth at a significantly higher rate than non-Indigenous youth. Samaritans Youth Development Officer, Bron Dyason, said the campaign aims to close this gap by sending a powerful message that “there’s no shame in talking it out”.

“The Yarnsafe Campaign plays a vital role in improving mental health literacy among young people and their parents or carers.

“It encourages them to seek support at headspace Maitland, eheadspace online and telephone counselling services or other appropriate mental health services” Ms Dyason said.

Photo caption: The Wakakulang Aboriginal cultural group performing at the Launch of the Yarnsafe Campaign at headspace Maitland.


Resources for Reconciliation

Acknowledgement of Country

I would like to show my respect and acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Land, of Elders past and present, on which this meeting takes place.

Thanksgiving Prayer for Australia

God of holy Dreaming, Great Creator Spirit,
From the dawn of creation you have given your children
The good things of Mother Earth.
You spoke and the gum tree grew.
In the vast desert and dense forest, and in cities at the water’s edge,
Creation sings your praise.
Your presence endures as the rock at the heart of our Land.
When Jesus hung on three
You heard the cries of all your people
And became one with the wounded ones:
The convicts, the hunted, and the dispossessed.
The sunrise of your Son coloured the earth anew,
And bathed it in glorious hope.
In Jesus we have been reconciled to you,
To each other and to your whole creation.
Lead us on, Great Spirit,
As we gather from the four corners of the earth;
Enable us to walk together in trust
From the hurt of the past
Into the full day which has dawned in Jesus Christ. Amen.
(Australian Prayer Book page 218)

Hnaidoc-heroow you can celebrate reconciliation week in your church or organisation

  • Place banners around your church with Aboriginal colours and symbols
  • Burn native scents in your church
  • Raise the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags
  • Invite Indigenous elders to visit
  • Prepare damper or indigenous dishes
  • Plant a native plant
  • Create an internet page showing your activities
  • Have an artist competition on the theme of NAIDOC
  • Create Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags with crepe paper or calico
  • Invite Indigenous artist to paint a wall
  • Show Indigenous artefacts
  • Listen to Indigenous radio stations or music
  • Hold basket making workshops
  • Create dot art drawings
  • Thread beads of Indigenous colours
  • Have a face painting for the kids
  • Read Indigenous stories in Messy Church
  • Colour in Indigenous drawings in your kids club
  • Create Indigenous ribbons by applying black, red and yellow ribbons to a balloon stick
  • Create a banner with handprints
  • Create an altar cloth using Indigenous colours and art styles
  • Place red, black and yellow ribbons around your church
  • Collect money for NATSIAC
  • Conduct an Acknowledgement of Country
  • Use an Aboriginal prayer
  • Have a red, yellow and black colour theme
  • Place an acknowledgement plaque in your church

Read more on reconciliation here

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