Art of celebrating reconciliation

As we continue to collectively tackle the effects of COVID-19 on our communities, the theme of National Reconciliation Week for 2020, In This Together, seems particularly relevant this year.

Applying the same levels of effective co-operation that have proven beneficial in managing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, recognition that reconciliation can only be achieved through mutual understanding, is imperative.

Like most organisations across the region, Northern Tablelands Local Land Services (LLS) will be marking Reconciliation Week, beginning on 27 May, with a different approach this year.

Ivan Lackay, Aboriginal Communities Officer at Northern Tablelands LLS, recognises the importance of National Reconciliation Week as a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.

Understanding that reconciliation is a journey for all Australians – as individuals, families, communities and organisations – Ivan has initiated a project for the entire Northern Tablelands LLS team.

The project consists of a “painting pack” for staff to take home to complete an Aboriginal artwork with their families or friends. The pack includes canvases, paints, brushes, as well as templates of Aboriginal symbols including campsites, waterholes, footprints and bush tucker among others.

“The project is a way of sharing Aboriginal history and culture, not just with the LLS team, but with the broader Australian community. Most of our stories are told through art and dance, so it offers a means of building positive relationships and respect, as well as bringing our organisation closer together,” explained Ivan.

“The project provides an opportunity to visually interpret culturally significant symbols in a way that I hope builds a deeper understanding of Aboriginal people, culture and customs,” he said.

The project comes on the back of the Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Training recently undertaken by the Northern Tablelands LLS team, conducted by Dave Widders, a proud Anaiwan man from Armidale. Mr Widders has spent over 20 years working towards positive reconciliation across the wider community, which he sees as a two-way education process.

“Outcomes of the training included providing staff with a better awareness of the issues and barriers facing Aboriginal people in the workforce, as well as a better understanding of the history of policy and practices that have disadvantaged Aboriginal people and communities,” said Ivan.

Ivan is encouraged that National Reconciliation Week will provide the opportunity for further conversations about the value of recognition.

“At the heart of both the Cultural Awareness Training, as well as the “painting pack” project, is the ability to break down the barriers and build positive relationships between the broader community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” said Ivan.

It is inspiring that through these innovative projects, Northern Tablelands LLS continues to demonstrate its commitment and understanding of championing positive reconciliation, not just for its own team, but for everyone.

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