Reconciliation is an extremely important concept to Indigenous Australians whose lives have been impacted in various ways throughout the last two hundred years of history in our country. Many Australians hear of Reconciliation and Closing the Gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people but have not had exposure to the experiences Indigenous Australians have had throughout their lives and therefore it makes it hard to comprehend making the views of Indigenous Australians comparable with non-Indigenous Australians. Paul Keating in the Redfern Speech and Kevin Rudd in the National Apology to the Stolen Generations asked non-Aboriginal Australians to ‘imagine’ the devastation on families due to government policies, particularly with the Stolen Generations. In the following I am also asking you to ‘imagine’.
To give some insight into my personal experiences as a direct descendent of the Stolen Generations, I ask those of you who have children to look at their faces, picturing them as a 3 year old, remember them smiling, laughing, crying. Remember all the little things they did when they played and how you watched them learn and grow from an infant. Think of the way they warm your heart, think of the love you have for them – stop and focus all your energy on remembering these feelings. Take a moment to ponder these warm and happy thoughts. Nothing is more important to you than those little faces is there?
Remember when you had to take your little ones for things like their immunisations, or standard health checks? You head to the medical clinic or local government health facilities where a nurse would give them all the necessary checks. Imagine the nurse explaining to you they needed to take your little one into another room as part of the routine check up. Imagine sitting there waiting for this nurse to return to the room with your most precious possession on earth.
Imagine sitting in a lonely room, thinking that this part of the process is taking a little longer than you would expect and an underlying feel of unease growing. You become quite nervous and anxious knowing something is just not quite right and then a person you have not seen before comes into the room without your baby and the words they say are “you are not able to take your baby home”.
Imagine never seeing your baby again – the absolute terror your baby would feel night after night of being away from you, all they had known from the day they were born. Imagine them growing up without you and your baby forgetting you. Visualise a 3 year old child at an airport with a little suitcase of luggage being sent to live with strangers without you ever being able to protect them again.
This is what my Grandmother experienced: my mother was the little child.
I have had a blessed life, my parents always provided for me and I never really went without anything, but I never knew my Grandmother, I never knew my aunts, uncles and cousins growing up. I never got to experience the vast and wonderful culture of my Indigenous heritage. I have grown up with my mother always having a slightly different understanding of family based on being in a foster family all her life and being treated differently. I have also grown up with a feeling of not really fitting in.
I have a constant fear that something will happen to my children and I have slight feeling of distrust towards Government authorities and while my life has been protected and safe, many other Indigenous Australians’ have experienced hard lives, desperate lives on the edge of poverty, with mental health issues, lack of access to education which would provide the tools to be able to change their own circumstances.
This is why Reconciliation is important to me, because things have not been equal in the past for Indigenous compared to non-Indigenous Australians, and Reconciliation is one step in moving forward and allowing my people to even up the playing field.
In moving to JLB-Yaran, I was offered an opportunity that was extremely different to my previous working career, however I was presented with a team of people who I felt were genuinely invested in making a difference to the lives of Indigenous Australians. I was offered a wonderful opportunity as JLB-Yaran’s Indigenous Employment Manager, and although I quite often feel challenged and out of my comfort zone, the commitment to setting an example and creating pathways for future generations of Indigenous Australians keeps me driven and focused on breaking down barriers in employment and professional careers of Indigenous Australians.
In my role as Indigenous Employment Manager, I look to engage with Indigenous Australians who are employed in all levels of Government, Federal, State and local, to identify areas where their careers and career pathways can benefit from and be supported by JLB-Yaran’s Indigenous Development and Employment Program (IDEP). To meet JLB-Yaran’s commitment to Reconciliation and advancing employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians, I met with Gillian Aldridge OAM, Mayor of the City of Salisbury to showcase and promote our (IDEP). In line with the City of Salisbury’s commitment to Reconciliation, the IDEP was presented as an opportunity for the Council to support the career development of their current Indigenous employees.
This was a great opportunity to network and support Indigenous employment and participation as well as drive opportunities for Indigenous Australians, which is at the core of what we do at JLB-Yaran.
We look forward to developing a relationship with Salisbury Council and their Indigenous employees and well as create long and lasting relationships with organisations committed to Reconciliation and Closing the Gap.
Remember: we are all ‘In This Together’
Rick Caruso – JLB-Yaran’s Indigenous Employment Manager