We acknowledge the wisdom, living culture and connection of the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work. 

We are grateful for the opportunities to listen to and learn from strong First Nations feminists, leading us to a better understanding and belief in shared and just cultural transformation that embraces diversity. 

We acknowledge that these diverse lands are sacred, and that culture and country are intrinsically linked. Each of us holds the responsibility of caring for country. 

We acknowledge the profound disruption of colonisation and the Stolen Generations on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and that these lands were never ceded. Always was, always will be Aboriginal Land. 

To mark the National Reconciliation Week 2022 theme “Be Brave. Make Change.” the Women’s Health Goulburn North East (WHGNE) team prepared a case study outlining how we have made changes to our team processes to incorporate dedicated space for learning and appreciation of First Nations people, culture, ideas, stories and knowledge. 

By embedding this practice of shared learning and story-telling, we hope to develop a stronger understanding of the rich culture of First Nations Australians that drives our everyday actions for solidarity.  

We encourage you to consider how you can embed practices such as this into your work, to ensure ongoing connection and commitment to reconciliation with First Nations Australians. 

CASE STUDY

Incorporating space for learning and appreciation of First Nations people, culture, ideas, stories and knowledge into regular team practices 

The team holds a strong interest and commitment to reconciliation and doing all that we can as an organisation to be good allies to Indigenous Australians, listen to what Indigenous Australians are telling us, and actively incorporate Indigenous learnings into our ways of working.

 

“It deepens our knowledge, on topics that we would remain unaware of in our lives if we didn’t purposefully seek them out. This space makes learning about First Nations Australians a priority, and commits us to doing something meaningful to demonstrate our allyship.”
– WHGNE team member

 

“Over the course of our monthly sharing practice, I have noticed that my own personal everyday reflections have become enhanced. I am reminded when I am spending time on country of the deep gratitude I hold for First Nations communities and bringing this front and centre in our work is so critical.”
– WHGNE team member

WHGNE was involved in the Cultural Safety Planning project across 2020-21, prior to introducing this practice into the organisatoin’s regular “All Staff” meetings. This project saw the establishment of a WHGNE staff working group to work alongside a First Nations advisor from Mungabareena Aboriginal Corporation to audit the workplace and prepare an action plan. We continue to make progress against items in this plan and refine the plan further, ensuring culturally appropriate and inclusive actions are embedded into our ways of working. 

 

In June 2021 WHGNE CEO Amanda Kelly met with Fiona Armstrong, the (then) CEO of the Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA), to discuss ways we could work more closely together. Amanda and Fiona talked through Acknowledgement of Country and established that our organisations were in a similar place, in embedding cultural safety across the organisation. CAHA staff choose something relevant to Indigenous culture to research and present back to the team. Such as a song in language, piece of Indigenous research, history of traditional owners.  

 

The idea was raised at WHGNE’s July All Staff meeting and agreed upon as being included as a standing item in future All Staff meetings, with the task rotating around the team. The team agreed that one of the key elements of this practice was that it would be up to each individual to do this research, and to not rely on bringing in First Nations people for information or advice that is often freely available online.

 

We acknowledge the burden on First Nations Australians to ‘explain’ reconciliation and their culture is enormous and that it is our responsibility, as feminists invested in intersectionality, to do the work, explore ideas and be inspired. It is not our role to add to the work of already over-burdened people who continue to grapple with the trauma and impacts of colonisation.  

 

“The most important thing about the way we’re trying to bring cultural learning into our daily practice is the sheer practice of creating space and taking time for understanding, reflection and attempts at deep connection. There’s a deeply political element of this, to me, as our colonial history has conditioned us to believe that these things require neither space nor time. My learnings thus far have forced me to contemplate how my very existence is entangled in the colonial project and sit with the discomfort of that as a first tiny, imperfect step towards collective healing and greater understanding of, connection with and care for First Nations communities, friends and neighbours.”
WHGNE team member

 

“As a migrant to Australia, having the opportunity to be part of this practice has enabled opportunities for me to broaden my understanding and deepen my knowledge of First Nations People and culture. It has brought me to a key point of reflection about my heritage and how I now hold the tension of knowing that although my forbearers were colonised, they were also colonisers of these lands.”
– WHGNE team member

Cultural safety team learning was included as a standing item in All Staff meeting agendas from August 2021. However, it was the last item on the agenda and there were a few times where meeting time ran short in this and meant that the cultural safety team learning piece was carried over or picked up at another time. To demonstrate our commitment to learning and reconciliation, the team agreed to prioritise this item by bringing it to the start of the agenda.  

 

With moving the cultural safety team learning piece to the start of the agenda, we have found this to be a reflective, grounding way to frame our meetings.  

 

“It has transformed our meeting spaces as the nature of the pieces are so rich. We have had the unintentional impact of grounding ourselves powerfully in our work through knowledge sharing, and reflection on First Nations topics, that are steeped in themes truth telling, equity, care and more.”
– WHGNE team member

 

To ensure sustainability and consistency in this practice, we set up a shared team folder where each staff member saves their notes, reflections, slides, photos and/or resources from their cultural safety learning talk. This enables the team to go back through past presentations and review learnings. 

 

“Listening to women in our team, share and discuss indigenous knowledge and connection has taught me so much. It gives me time to dedicate to learning and connecting to experiences and concepts that are completely new to me. I am grateful for the time they have taken to research, learn and share and look forward to more connection with First Nations people.”
– WHGNE team member

 

“I was profoundly affected by a clip shown from the Miriam Rose foundation on the practice of Daddirri – which spoke of time in such a deconstructed way, speaking of “waiting for our young people as they grow”, it reminded me to be present, to slow down in work and in life and trust in process and the path I am on. Thank you, for bringing this to us.”
– WHGNE team member

 

“It is a great way to learn and think about how to further respect and acknowledge Indigenous culture in my work and everyday life.”   
– WHGNE team member

 

“I feel entirely privileged that in our work we are given the space to learn and deeply reflect on the wisdom and courage of the traditional owners of this land.  Each one of these sessions has taught me something I did not know and allowed me to really think about how I show up on country each day.   The deeply moving stories and practices that my colleagues have so carefully chosen have sent me on a trajectory to not only share this knowledge but to seek out further learning.”
– WHGNE team member

 

We commit to ongoing learning and truth-telling about Indigenous practices and histories, particularly for the local First Nations custodians of the lands across which we live and work. Through the implementation of WHGNE’s Cultural Safety Action Plan, we will continue to find meaningful ways to include First Nations voices in our ways of working to ensure that our work is representative of the community that we work with. 

 

In practicing relationality, we aim to continue to build close working relationships with First Nations people and organisations across our region, to contribute to our understanding of the local experience. With time, we see additional opportunities for story sharing and learning that will add to our local understanding. 

 

“It fills me with pride to be a part of an organisation that cares so deeply for the people in our communities, and that extends to learning about their diverse lives, histories and hopes for the future. I am buoyed by our commitment to ensuring community voice is at the heart of our decision-making and advocacy, and I am incredibly grateful to the First Nations people who offer up their voices.”                                              – WHGNE team member

Image credit: Artwork is by Gary Purchase. Text from Punt Rd Kindergarten and Childcare Centre