Hundreds of people assembled on Coogee beach last Wednesday the 27 May 2015 to mark the first day of National Reconciliation Week. The event, named Koojay Corroboree, was hosted by Randwick City Council in collaboration with Father Chris Riley’s Youth Off The Streets, to celebrate the shared histories, cultures and achievements of Australia’s indigenous peoples.
Community leader and local Ranger of Warada Kinship, Dean Kelly, commenced the morning’s celebrations with a Welcome to Country, to help onlookers recognise the traditional owners of the land, Aboriginal history and culture. Dean also explained the cultural significance of the fires that surrounded the Corroboree area and about the meaning of reconciliation.
“If you ask what reconciliation is about; it’s about you. Reconciliation is a gift that costs you nothing but time,” Dean said.
The crowd then enjoyed the rich performances of the Warada Dancers and the Soldier’s Settlement Public School choir. Tonnia Johanson, member of the Reconciliation Action Plan Committee at Youth Off The Streets, commented, “the Soldier Settlement School choir got up and sang the National Anthem in language first and then in English, it was really beautiful to see all the children sing the words together!”
The Director of Aboriginal Services at Youth Off The Streets, Chad Ritchie, also addressed the crowd on Wednesday on the topic of reconciliation and his journey through life as an Aboriginal Australian. He spoke on the issue of racism and the importance of young people understanding their Aboriginal culture and background.
Each year National Reconciliation Week runs from the 27th of May until the 3rd of June commemorating the landmark achievements of the 1967 referendum, the Mabo and Wik High Court decisions and Sorry Day. The week also serves to highlight the issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in a broader Australian culture.
This year, the focus of National Reconciliation Week is to equip our first people with the abilities and tools to make a difference and close the gap between black and white Australia.
Each community that we work in at Youth Off The Streets is made up of many different cultures and religions, however they have one thing in common, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are over-represented in welfare service and experience greater disadvantage than other Australians.
In our crisis accommodation service Don Bosco Home, part of the Inner West Youth Homeless Service, Aboriginal young people make up 14.7% of the young homeless people we help (in the last six months). Troubling statistics like this demonstrate that it is fundamental that we provide our Aboriginal people with the support needed and that we work together to close the gap between white and black Australia.