The world is currently looking for a new way forward. First Nations communities across Australia and the globe hold many of the answers, and many Australians are beginning to adopt some of these cultural systems and ways of being like never before.
This National Reconciliation Week (27 May – 3 June) marks a time when it is possible for every Australian to embrace and celebrate our First Peoples, their cultures and our shared history. Over time, we are finding ways to learn about these histories, and celebrate the gift of rich cultural diversity Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people share with this country.
While creating the mechanisms for Australians to come together in a move towards ‘truth telling’ is an important step in the healing of our nation, we must see further shifts in the way Australians create space for First Nations people and acknowledge the ongoing impacts of colonisation on First Nations communities. Through shifting power and acknowledging privilege, we can create the environment in which First Nations communities can self-determine their own futures.
Making space for First Nations young people
To shape an Australia where First Nations people are driving the change they want to see, we must first see organisations, institutions and individuals shifting power to make space for First Nations people. At YLab First Nations, we are working to create a platform for First Nations young people to centre their unique cultural identities in shaping better systems across Australia. We are a self-determined practice that sits within YLab, with First Nations Associates from across Australia.
The challenge within this lies in ensuring that we are driven by the aspirations of these young people. For us, this looks like First Nations young people co-designing and co-delivering our strategies, training, coaching and client work. This all sounds fantastic in theory, but must be met with First Nations people employed across all levels of our internal work and all levels of leadership. Our practice is driven by myself, a Kaytetye woman working to ensure young people face no roadblocks in steering the direction of the work we do. As a First Nations woman sitting within the landscape of a wider system, I walk between many worlds and couldn’t do this work without other non-Indigenous Australians co-opting power and working to make space for me to blaze a trail others can step into.
Centering First Nations knowledge
When we value the cultural knowledge and lived experience of First Nations communities, we can shift narratives from the current cost-deficit paradigm to one of value and investment. In a country where the colonial frontier has left First Nations people and their aspirations at the door, there lies an opportunity to move to a place where First Nations cultures can instead enrich all of society.
As the world looks to create sustainable economies, improve learning systems, and enhance community wellbeing, we can see that First Nations communities already hold many of the answers we are looking for. We have the opportunity to look at 80,000 years of knowledge, taking what we have explored in this period and Indigenising our future in ways that will enrich all of society.
At YLab First Nations we are looking to embed First Nations knowledge systems into everything that we do. From our consulting models, to coaching frameworks and ways of working with each other, our own cultures hold many of the answers to improving outcomes for our communities. For me, the cultural practices and knowledge systems of my culture and other First Nations cultures are a source of great strength and pride. By championing these ways of being and knowing, we can shape future systems within Australia that centre First Nations people and cultures.
Acknowledging privilege when you acknowledge Country
A growing number of Australians start their meetings and events with an Acknowledgement of Country. This however, often resembles a box ticking exercise unless coupled with a heartfelt acknowledgement of our privilege in standing on unceded lands. These statements are hollow unless they acknowledge the true history and colonial impact still faced by First Nations people today.
While a reconciling of our colonial history is important in healing our nation, we need to see collective action by individuals, organisations and institutions across society to shape a better Australia that is fairer for all. Within this, we must acknowledge the ongoing impacts of colonisation, make space for First Nations people, and centre knowledge systems that are as old as time. These are small steps on a journey to create an Australia that celebrates and embraces its First Peoples.