Launch of YWCA Canberra’s 2020 Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan

3 June 2020

On behalf of the YWCA Canberra Board, I am so excited to announce the virtual launch of our Reconciliation Action Plan (our RAP) with all of you today. The RAP represents our commitment to continue to support First Nations women and families on Ngunnawal and Ngambri land.

I’d like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we gather today, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people and pay my respects to their Elders, past, present and future, as well as acknowledging any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people who may be watching this. I also extend my respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who for thousands of years have preserved the culture and practices of their communities on country. This land was never surrendered, and we acknowledge that it always was and will continue to always be Aboriginal land.

I would also like to acknowledge the beautiful artwork from Megan Daley, a Ngunnawal/Wiradjuri artist, and all of the hard work from YWCA Canberra staff, the ACT Nannies and Reconciliation Australia to get this far.

The importance of RAPs

RAPs provide a framework for organisations to support national reconciliation. They can be tailored to meet the capacity of any organisation, ensuring strategies and opportunities for learning are embedded and targets to develop and create meaningful relationships with First Nations peoples are realistic and pursued.

At YWCA Canberra, we are proud to be launching our third RAP with stretch status. This means our organisation is embedding reconciliation, implementing longer-term strategies, and working towards measurable targets and goals, making sure reconciliation becomes ‘business as usual’.

For us, this looks like:

  • continuing to embed cultural activities and awareness in our childcare centres, so the current and next generation have a deeper awareness and appreciation for First Nations cultures
  • providing outreach to First Nations women and identifying pathways to prevent or address homelessness
  • working toward all staff undertaking cultural awareness training
  • consulting local Traditional Owners and First Nations persons on the implementation of our cultural learning strategy—to strive for continual engagement and improvement
  • seeking feedback from the ACT Nannies group on all program development and evaluations
  • providing scholarships to First Nations women and girls to participate in our leadership events
  • ensuring First Nations women are represented at our leadership events—so all members of our community are seen and heard.

Why YWCA Canberra takes reconciliation so seriously

Reconciliation is an ongoing journey. YWCA Canberra takes reconciliation so seriously because generations have fought for meaningful change. It is our responsibility to work as hard as we can to make sure First Nations people are not only included in our community, but we remove the barriers that prevent them from becoming leaders.

First Nations women and non-binary people experience domestic violence, homelessness and incarceration at far higher rates than their non-Indigenous counterparts. YWCA Canberra has been supporting the Canberra and regions community since 1929. We have seen many positive steps forward since then towards First Nations rights. But we still have a long way to go.

Our vision for reconciliation is one where the ACT and surrounding region truly acknowledges, pays respect to, and celebrates First Nations cultures, contributions, knowledge and histories.
We support the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the underlying principles of Voice, Treaty, Truth including entrenching a representative voice to parliament in the Australian Constitution.

Our mission is to ‘strengthen communities by supporting girls and women through our services and delivery’. We will deliver our mission through our values of courage, respect, inclusion, reconciliation and responsibility. These values show our role in honouring the self-determination and agency for First Nations women, including female-identifying and non-binary people.

We will always strive to do more to empower First Nations women through our services.

The importance of diversity of views and inclusion

Diversity of views and inclusion is important because, how can we say that our services and advocacy can provide for our community, unless all the voices of all backgrounds, genders and histories have a voice in developing them?
At YWCA Canberra we strive for the experience of vulnerable people to be embedded in everything that we do. One of our YWCA Canberra contributors said:

“Just one in one hundred teachers are Indigenous, and that’s for all genders, and this has real impacts on the culture of the schools, how the curriculum is taught and how kids see themselves represented within their educational journey.” – Hayley McQuire.

It’s simple: all members of our community must feel included to be able to exercise their basic human rights, and to contribute fully.

National Reconciliation Week 2020’s theme: ‘In This Together’

As a non-First Nations woman, this year’s theme “In this Together” is particularly important to me. As the oldest and most resilient cultures on the planet, we have seen First Nations people continue to fight for reconciliation, justice and equal rights. That fight continues.

It is time for all Australians to come to the table, and demand for the basic rights of the people that everyday, continue to welcome us on their land.

To me, what privilege really means is to not know the fear that others live in. There is a lot of the history that some Australians know, but there is also so much that we will never know. We must lean into the dispossession, the trauma and the pain that First Nations people live everyday. It is uncomfortable, but it must happen to facilitate national healing.

This might sound hard. That’s because it is. But I believe Australia is becoming ready to face these hard truths.

To me, “In This Together” means that First Nations have fought for long enough and hard enough. It is our turn to come to the table, to come to terms with our shared history, and walk the path together.

We must lean into the First Nations ways of being and knowing. I personally feel extremely privileged to live and work on Ngunnawal and Ngambri country, and I believe the more compassionate be can be about each other’s experiences, the further down the path we walk together everyday.

I hope that you take the time to have a look at our RAP, reflect on what your contribution can be to learn something new about the country you’re on, and the shared history and future we have together.

Yerrabi (Let’s go/goodbye in Ngunnawal)

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