19 March 2020
At YWCA Canberra, we are committed to building strong, positive relationships with people of all cultural backgrounds and ethnicity. We particularly hold strong respect towards people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background and acknowledge the inter-generational consequences of colonisation that endure today.
The National Close the Gap day takes place on, Thursday 19 March , and we wanted to reflect on the findings of the recent Closing the Gap report and showcase the actions that we can take to contribute to local progress and support the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.
Close the Gap day is a national awareness day aimed at sending our governments a clear message that we value equality as a human right. First launched in 2007, the day was established to help raise awareness towards the inequalities Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face in areas of health, education and employment.
In line with the aims national awareness day, the Closing the Gap report card measures progress at reducing the gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians against seven goals; child mortality, early childhood education, school attendance, literacy and numeracy, year 12 attainment, employment and life expectancy.
The 12th report card, released in February, shows that despite some gains, progress continues to be mixed and disappointingly with only two of the targets are currently on track; 95 per cent of Indigenous four year-old enrolled in early childhood education by 2025 and halving the gap in year 12 (or equivalent) attainment by 2020.
Those targets set to expire in 2018, relating to life expectancy, child mortality, school attendance, literacy and numeracy and employment have not been met.
The mixed nature of these results is demonstrated in the ACT where full enrolment in early childhood education has been recorded while school attendance rates have dropped.
While monitoring and achieving the targets is the responsibility of government, we all have a role to play in recognising barriers to Indigenous well being and participation, and there is still obviously much to be done. We recognise that such change will require consistent and area-focused attention. YWCA Canberra is committed to working towards reconciliation and playing a part, however small, in closing the gaps between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the wider community.
One way we work towards this is through our Reconciliation Action plan (RAP).
RAPs are a means for governments, corporations and other workplaces to set individual targets and build positive relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the broader community. They provide a means for meaningful engagement in reconciliation and detail the specific actions and measurable targets organisations can commit to in order to achieve workplace progress with a broader impact.
YWCA Canberra has developed and implemented our own RAPs for more than a decade.
Our new RAP, which is still undergoing approval from Reconciliation Australia, puts tangible action to the principles and practices of reconciliation in our everyday business and sets achievable targets to grow our contribution to the community.
We are proud of the work our early childhood education services perform in the engaging members of the Ngunnawal community in integrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural perspectives in children’s learnings.
YWCA Canberra’s early childhood services have been focusing on Children’s learning across the services that are linked to the Eight Aboriginal Ways of Learning. We have also created authentic, age-appropriate Acknowledgements of Country by the children and educators, embedding reconciliatory practices in each of the learning spaces.
Since 2016, our early childhood services have undertaken incursions and excursions to give children a greater understanding of Ngunnawal and Ngambiri knowledge and practices. This has included dance performances, artefact displays, storytelling, planting bush tucker, learning language and using traditional symbols to label children’s learning spaces.
In a joint project with local Aboriginal peoples Adam Shipp, Tyronne Bell and Richie Allan, Campbell Cottage created a Welcome Garden at the entrance of the service. The Welcome Garden looks over Mt. Ainslie, a traditional place of significance for local Aboriginal women. The garden includes native plants and Aboriginal artworks featured on rocks, with a bench that overlooks Mt. Ainslie to be added soon. The project highlights the importance of people and place and cultural connection to our community.
As we celebrate National Close the Gap day on 19 March, we encourage all members of the community reflect on how their workplace or community can support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and be part of closing the gap.