Last week, the nation celebrated NAIDOC week and the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

This year’s theme ‘Voice, Treaty, Truth,’ referred to the three key elements of the reforms set out in the Uluru Statement from the Heart – and represents the unified position of First Nations Australians in a call for the community to work together towards a shared future.

It’s the impetus for the first ever Aboriginal person to hold the position of Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, to declare his commitment to bringing forward a consensus option for constitutional recognition to be put to a referendum during this current parliamentary term.

“The national interest requires a new relationship with Indigenous Australians,” said Minister Wyatt at his recent address to the National Press Club.

“As if Aboriginal people didn’t know what they needed or wanted. As if proud members of one of the world’s longest-lived civilisations had nothing to say, no wisdom to offer, about what would help their families thrive and their communities flourish.”

­­The Committee for Geelong respects and acknowledges the voice and role that Traditional Owners play in our community. It’s vital that Australia’s First People share in the same economic and social opportunities as everyone else. Therefore it is really important for us to continue to engage and recognise them in everything we do.

We recently welcomed the Wathaurung Aboriginal Corporation (trading as Wadawurrung) as a member of the Committee, the Registered Aboriginal Party that represents the Traditional Owners. Wadawurrung has a statutory role in the management of Aboriginal heritage, values and culture with the region under the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006.

The Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative has been a member of the CfG since 2016 and provides health, education, disability, family and housing services to the local Aboriginal community.

The Committee for Geelong strongly believes it is imperative that local businesses hear from a range of community voices as we move towards a better future for Geelong.  As part of this learning journey, the Committee has recently undertaken a range of initiatives and events.

Last Friday, the Committee in collaboration with Barwon Water hosted our first event to celebrate NAIDOC week.

Attendees heard from Corrina Eccles, Wadawurrung Traditional Owner, Christine Couzens MP, Member for Geelong, Paul Davis General Manager of Wadawurrung, and David McKinnis from Barwon Water.

Each speaker shared information about their role and how we can work together to move towards greater recognition of First Nations, the journey to develop a framework to negotiate Treaty and the important role reconciliation plans play within local organisations.

Corrina Eccles story had a profound impact on the attendees at the event, sharing her journey as a Traditional Custodian of this land and the importance of nurturing and sharing her culture and language.

Barwon Water spoke of its work with the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, and the development of their Reconciliation Action Plan.

Last month, the Committee for Geelong in collaboration with the Australian Government and Wan-Yaari Aboriginal Consultancy Services held the Geelong Aboriginal Employment and Careers Expo at the Arena.

The Expo – part of the G21 Aboriginal Employment Initiative – was a unique opportunity for local businesses to connect with the Aboriginal community as they work towards assisting local organisations to improve Aboriginal employment outcomes.

Wan-Yaari Director Ricky Kildea, believes the role the Expo played in building trusting, respectful and genuine relationships is not to be understated, as this is a key element to reconciliation and improving Aboriginal employment outcomes.

It’s important for the local business community to not only commit to improving Aboriginal employment outcomes, but to develop specific pathways to achieve sustainable results. For example, engaging Wadawurrung for support, cultural and heritage advice can assist in achieving this.

The Committee for Geelong is currently seeking support and advice to ensure we proactively work with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in our strategic planning and within our organisation.

If you are interested in how your organisation can engage with Wadawurrung and access their cultural training and heritage advisory services, you can contact them on 5222 5889 or visit their office at 78 Mercer Street, Geelong.

Published via the Geelong Advertiser, 17/07/2019

Image (left to right) Corrina Eccles, Wadawurrung Traditional Owner, Christine Couzens MP, Member for Geelong, Jennifer Cromarty, CEO CfG, David McKinnis, Barwon Water and Paul Davis, General Manager of Wadawurrung.