In Australia, 2021 marks 20 years of Reconciliation Australia and almost three decades of Australia’s formal reconciliation process. National Reconciliation Week takes place annually between 27 May to 3 June.
The dates for National Reconciliation Week are the same each year and they commemorate two significant milestones in Australia’s the reconciliation journey – the successful 1967 referendum on 27 May, and the High Court Mabo decision on 3 June, respectively.
Since 2000, Koorie learners participating in Vocational Education and Training have been supported mainly through the Wurreker Strategy (Wurreker). In partnership with the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated (VAEAI), Wurreker was implemented with the aim of improving education and training delivery in the VET sector to achieve quality education, training, and employment outcomes for Koorie learners.
As part of the Wurreker Strategy, Box Hill Institute engages a Koorie Liaison Officer.
Executive Manager Student Life, Box Hill Institute, Ms Simone Spicer, said this vital role supports, liaises, and consults to ensure the success of all Indigenous students studying at BHI.
“They work with lots of people and contacts from different areas, so they need to build up collaborative and productive relationships to help support stakeholders in the workplace,” she said.
This includes students, community, teachers, and other team members, to encourage cultural understanding and safety in the BHI community.
A commonly used definition of cultural safety is that of Robyn Williams a Lecturer in Indigenous Health, who in 1999 defined cultural safety as:
“An environment that is spiritually, socially and emotionally safe, as well as physically safe for people; where there is no assault, challenge or denial of their identity, or who they are and what they need.”
The Koorie Liaison Officer reports to the Executive Manager, Student Life and works collaboratively with teachers and managers at all levels to engage, retain, and build the success of Indigenous students.
“The position is a requirement of the Wurreker Strategy for BHI, to ensure the Institute retains its pre-eminent position as a quality educational provider and is a first choice for education and training.
“The role of Koorie Liaison Officer at BHI is currently vacant. It is an interesting and key part-time role working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and a diverse range of stakeholders.
“If you love building partnerships, working with people and making a difference, it’s a great career opportunity,” said Simone Spicer.
The Wurreker Strategy also includes implementation plans for each VET provider involved.
This year Box Hill Institute’s Wurreker Strategy aims to achieve eight outcomes in areas including a positive climate for learning and development, community engagement in learning and development, a culture of professional leadership, and higher education and skills.
The eight aims are:
The word “Wurreker” or “Message Carriers” is the subject of a painting which is the story of Wile the Possum and Tyuling the Goanna*.
Wile and Tyuling are the Totems of learning, and they are reaching out to all Koories and their communities to carry the message of the need for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to gain greater knowledge.
In the painting, the eight circles surrounding Wile and Tyuling are representative of the eight Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated regions. Grey is the rock of the region, blue relates to rivers in various regions, and green relates to the forests in those regions.
The ninth circle in the centre of the painting is the VAEAI community and is coloured red, for this is the heart of VAEAI where all communities have input.
The artist of the painting is Kevin J Williams, the painting is acrylic on canvas, and the language is Wemba Wemba.
On 27 May 1967 Australia’s most successful referendum saw more than 90 per cent of Australians vote to give the Australian Government power to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands people and recognise them in the Census.
On 3 June 1992, the Australian High Court delivered the Mabo decisions, the culmination of Eddie Koiki Mabo’s challenge to the legal fiction of ‘terra nullius’ (land belonging to no one) and leading to the legal recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodian of lands. This decision paved the way for Native Title.
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.
Reconciliation Australia’s theme for 2021 is More than a word. Reconciliation takes action. It is a theme that the Box Hill Institute community would agree with.
*BHI thanks the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated (VAEAI) for the use of the image of the Wurreker or Message Carriers painting and story from the Association’s website. Thank you.