National Reconciliation Week: “We can be the change”

Youth Off The Streets’ Reconciliation Action Plan is committed to contributing to a more inclusive society for young people and rebuilding the lost connection with First Nations Australians.
Aboriginal artwork by Key College student Raz for reconciliation week

National Reconciliation Week is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.

This year’s theme, ‘More than a word’, conveys what Youth Off The Streets strives to provide: action.

“As a youth organisation, we must make a difference,” says Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) Chair and Team Leader- Refuges, Katie Brennan.

“First Nations Australians young people and their families have been directly impacted by the Stolen Generations.

“We can be the change that helps break the cycle of historic systemic abuse, at a pivotal time in their lives in terms of their development and mental health.

“We can be the organisation that young people say has made a real difference.”

Katie explains that our RAP will put in place long-term strategies to achieve inclusion and equity for First Nations Australians across our organisation.

Our vision includes respect, opportunities and relationships.

“We can’t fail our young people,” says Katie. “We will embed practices that rebuild the lost connection with First Nations Australians’ communities.

“We must rebuild those bridges because it’s the right thing to do, and it will have positive outcomes for the people we serve.

“Hopefully, it will show young people and their communities that they can trust us; that we are an organisation with their best interests at heart and truly care about them.”

The Uluru Statement from the Heart

Reconciliation Week’s dates are significant – 27 May marks the anniversary of the 1967 referendum, when Australians voted to remove the clause in the Australian Constitution that discriminated against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, while June 3 marks the Mabo decision in which the High Court of Australia recognised native title.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart, signed by 250 First Nations Australians representatives from across the country on 26 May 2017, asked for further action: a constitutionally guaranteed voice for First Nations peoples in parliament, which can only come through a new referendum.

The Statement also requests a Makarrata Commission – a Yolgnu word meaning ‘the coming together after a struggle’ – to supervise a process of agreement-making with Australian governments.

“With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood.” – Uluru Statement from the Heart.

First Nations Australians voice is key to our RAP, and it is vital that we support The Uluru Statement from the Heart.

“Constitutional enshrinement of a First Nations Australians Voice to Parliament will both redress the lack of recognition of First Nations peoples in the Australian Constitution, and fulfil the government’s stated agenda of consultation with First Nations Australians on matters that affect them,” Katie explains.

Dakota, an Eden College student and young Anaiwan woman, wants to see peace made with the past and for all Australians to move forward in unity.

“We need to keep talking about it,” she says. “Reconciliation, to me, means coming together as one and sorting out our differences.”

She adds that a new referendum will allow the voice of First Nations Australians to be heard. “It will give us the chance to influence things that matter to our community.”

Katie says it would change many aspects of young people’s lives. “A structural shift can make a real difference to them.

“By reducing institutional racism, First Nations Australians young people will receive greater access to education, economic opportunities, employment and healthcare.

“With change at the constitutional and parliamentary level, all First Nations Australians will be living in a more inclusive society, where they are considered and represented.”

Artwork by Raz, one of our students at Key College Redfern.

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