The 27th of May marks the start of National Reconciliation Week, incorporating two significant dates in advancing the rights of our nation’s Aboriginal peoples. The 27th of May is the anniversary of the landslide 1967 national referendum that gave the Commonwealth the power to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and recognise them in the national census. The 3rd of June is another historic day, marking the anniversary of the 1992 Mabo decision, a landmark event which paved the way for subsequent land rights/Native Title legislation and saw the return of custodianship of many land areas to Traditional Owners.
The theme for the 2016 NRW is Our History, Our Story, Our Future, which ties together the themes of understanding and accepting that past injustices and actions continue to have consequences today, and that acknowledging this is essential for our reconciliation journey into the future.
As part of our own reconciliation journey, the NRM South team are working on building our cultural competence and confidence to engage with the Aboriginal communities of Tasmania. We have recently drafted an Aboriginal Engagement Framework, which guides how we work with Aboriginal community groups and organisations, and develop culturally inclusive NRM strategies. It provides NRM South staff, our partners and stakeholders a genuine platform for better relationships by recognising and respecting the important connection Aboriginal people have to land and sea-scapes and the importance of strengthening this connection with cultural and on-ground NRM activities.
Engagement with Tasmanian Aboriginal community groups and organisations is about establishing honest relationships that are secured with trust and respect. One of the pathways to earning respect is taking time. Time to listen, time to learn, time to understand a different perspective and different values. With the support of our Aboriginal NRM Support Coordinator, staff are extending their knowledge about good engagement practices, learning about local Aboriginal history, appropriate language use, Welcome and Acknowledgment to Country obligations, inclusive planning processes and identifying Aboriginal priorities for Country and community well-being.
Some of the Aboriginal priority actions we have most recently been involved with include; support for pakana services in training, upskilling, administration and funding applications; cultural training for our staff with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre; providing financial and technical support for onground activities with Aboriginal organisations to protect biodiversity and threatened species habitat; extending NRM funding through a Culturally Inspired program and; connecting non-Aboriginal organisations and government bodies to Aboriginal organisations.
As part of National Reconciliation Week, NRM South would like to acknowledge the original custodians and their descendants from the southern region (the Paredarerme, Nuenonne and Lairmairrener nations*), and offer our respect to today’s custodians of the region’s cultural and natural resources which have sustained Tasmania’s first peoples for generations. We recognise the devastating impacts that colonisation has had on the Tasmanian Aboriginal people and are committed to building capacity in Aboriginal communities that will benefit our landscapes and build social and economic value with biodiversity, coastal, conservation and cultural heritage outcomes.
*As per the 1996 AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia
Photo credits: Seaweed and woven bowls by Leonie Dickson and Verna Nichols.