NAIDOC Week is being celebrated nationwide from July 6 to July 13.
Its focus is to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
NAIDOC Week is an ideal starting point to what I believe should be a year-round pursuit – Australians learning, understanding and recognising the history and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
I want to remind Australia that Aboriginal people still aren’t recognised in Australia’s constitution and that they remain marginalised nationwide.
This year, Youth Off The Streets has pledged its support to the Recognise campaign – we have made the commitment to hire more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff and to raise awareness of this lack of recognition.
Recognition would mean connecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to Australia’s history and country, which is incredibly important to their culture.
Through the programs we run for disconnected, behaviourally-challenged and problematic Aboriginal youth, we are able to help create a connection to country, which is an integral part to young people living happy and fulfilling lives.
Cory, a youth worker here at Youth Off The Streets, has seen firsthand how this connection to country helps Aboriginal youth foster a sense of meaning and understanding.
After spending nine weeks on a camp with a troubled young person, Cory focused on teaching the young person about their history and country, he immediately saw a positive change.
He experienced zero incidents during the entirety of the camp, whereas, prior to the camp, the young person was having an incident report filed every day.
This connection to country and recognition of Aboriginal culture is integral to their identity as a community and as people.
But right now, our constitution is ignoring the history of this country and the world’s oldest culture and denying Aboriginal people a connection to country.
As the Recognise website puts it so well, “We need to fix this, and bring the country together after so many chapters apart. It is the next step in reconciling our past. And it’s the right thing to do.”
NAIDOC is a week that brings attention to the marginalisation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but let’s not leave it at that.
Once this week has ended I urge Australians to continue to recognise, learn and pledge their support to the Recognise campaign.
NAIDOC Week is a great time to visit www.recognise.org.au, but there is no wrong time to pledge your support to this essential campaign.
Father Chris Riley,
CEO and founder,
Youth Off The Streets.