Lluwannee is Manager, Indigenous Employment, Organisational Development, Human Resources at the University of Sydney. With connections to Semsep and Peidu clans (Erub), Lluwannee has previously worked at the Australian Human Rights Commission, working on the Wiyi Yani U Thangani womens voices project on First Nations gender justice and equality.
To me, this year’s theme means that it’s okay to learn something new, it's okay to change your perspective or views on different things despite the views that your friends, families or colleagues might have, it's okay to call things out that don’t sit right with you. I believe we are in a transitional period where change is inevitable and sometimes it can be really daunting to be in a space that is shifting. Being brave in these times means that you can become a good leader or example for others who will need to be part of that change as well.
I am a big believer in building relationships and rapport with people. I think that change is a journey and building trust is key to bringing people along that journey. Having spaces that are culturally safe and inclusive is a really great way to encourage the University community to make change.
Actions… practical change is meaningful structural change. Gestures are great, but embedding those gestures into practice, whether it’s through policies and procedures or accountability measures, there need to be actions to deliver meaningful structural change.
They say not all heroes wear capes. Being brave can mean just calling out every day casual racism, microaggressions, being aware of the space that you’re in to allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to feel included and safe in that space. Being brave can be challenging the status quo or opinions at a dinner party that are negative towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It’s the little things that are just as important as the big picture structure and systems change that is needed.
Matthew is an Academic Facilitator at the National Centre for Cultural Competence (NCCC) with a background in cultural competence education and has worked in the international community development in diverse contexts as well as in Australia. He recently completed his PhD, a performance ethnography that investigates how gay men in Colombo, Sri Lanka, might use theatre as a mode of advocacy and site of discussion for issues important to them.
This year’s theme resonates at a personal and at a national level. For this country it is a call, an invitation, to make a change to our constitution to secure a First Nations’ Voice to Federal Parliament, a well overdue change. At a personal level, it asks me to contribute in some way to bringing about that change to the constitution by understanding what it means and trying to influence others to support the change.
The University should officially support the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full and engage its various constituents in what the Statement means and how all aspects of our University community might contribute to bringing about the First Nations’ Voice to Parliament.
Reconciliation requires a deep reckoning with historical and contemporary injustices towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Meaningful change is when we see parity between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and other people in this country in the areas of health, education, and social justice.
Non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can be brave by listening and acting with humility. Be brave by increasing knowledge of other ways of seeing and being in the world. As a country, we can be brave by accepting the invitation inherent in the Statement from the Heart and commit ourselves to understanding its aspirations and join the fight to see those aspirations realised.
Anthony is a Project Manager within the Indigenous Strategy and Services team. He was born and raised in Western Sydney/Dharug Country and is proud to contribute to making the University a more accessible, welcoming place for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
I think it’s a call for Australians, specifically non-First Nations people, to work harder and move beyond passive allyship.
Recognise and be cognisant of the realities of reconciliation: that its weight isn’t equally shared. Reconciliation isn’t just a week in the year, and it isn’t the sole responsibility of Aboriginal people. The rest of us need to do more to make the changes we say we want to see.
It’s asking us to build some resilience and get comfortable with being a little uncomfortable: start conversations with people around us, call out racism (or the apathy that leads to inequality), and stand with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
I suggest all of the following as someone who has lots to learn; these are some basic ideas/resources.
Take responsibility for your own education: make the time to undertake the online Cultural Competency modules. Enrol in the Aboriginal Sydney MOOC and learn more about the Country we work on.
Familiarise yourself with the University’s One Sydney, Many People strategy.
Think about its goals and how you can contribute. Start a conversation with your team/Department or your manager/Head of School, ask: what are our blind spots? Are our processes—or elements lacking in our processes—blocking the progress of these goals? How can we change what we do to support? Are there ways we can proactively help?
Read up on Aboriginal history, seek out First Nations voices to learn about culture and contemporary issues. Some good places to start:
Check out this Fisher library-recommended list of First Nations writers.
There are lots of meaningful changes that can occur. Here are a few:
Philip Chan is leading the response to modern slavery, human rights, sustainability, and Indigenous opportunities in the University’s supply chains. A first-generation immigrant and lawyer, he has advised some of the world’s largest companies on business and human rights and teaches law to undergraduate and postgraduate students.
As non-Indigenous Australians, we need to be vulnerable and courageous to be good allies with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We need to be brave in driving both personal and social change.
When I look at my own actions professionally, I’m proud to be collaborating with the office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Indigenous Strategy and Services (DVC ISS) on our Indigenous Procurement project. We are transforming the University’s purchasing power for good by increasing our engagement and spend with Indigenous-owned businesses. As a key priority of the One Sydney, Many People strategy, we will establish the University’s first Indigenous Procurement Strategy and processes to spark partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, businesses, and peoples.
Indigenous procurement is a powerful way to make a difference towards reconciliation with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders communities. By purchasing from Indigenous-owned businesses, we have a significant opportunity to boost the employment, skills, entrepreneurship, and economic participation for Indigenous Australians. Indigenous enterprises also create a sense of ownership and pride, cultivating Indigenous business leaders and role models for the next generation.
I am challenging myself to be uncomfortable and to be more self-aware, confronting my own conscious and unconscious biases, and acknowledging that I need to grow in my own attitude and understanding. Empathy is the antidote — and the onus is on all of us to learn, listen and engage. We also need to be champions in our offices and communities. Whether it is calling out racism, advocating for Indigenous voices and participation at all levels of our workplaces, or supporting the Uluru Statement from the Heart and Closing the Gap targets, we can and must drive change in our social systems and structures.
Talk is easy. Bold and meaningful action is overdue. As we emerge from the pandemic, let’s not adjust to the new normal. Let’s get uncomfortable. Let’s step up. Let’s create a better normal for our country and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
We all have a role to play when it comes to reconciliation - as individuals, families, communities, organisations, and importantly as a nation. This Reconciliation Week, our community reflects on how to take more meaningful action.