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Now more than ever: Reconciliation Week 2024

From 27 May-3 June we mark National Reconciliation Week, and now more than ever (the official theme of this year’s Week) it is an opportunity to acknowledge the continuing cultures and contribution that Aboriginal peoples make to the life of this country and to our work at UCRH. We are committed to walking lightly on this country and to providing a strong education and cultural grounding for future health practitioners, and we do this with the leadership, support and guidance our Aboriginal staff provide us. To acknowledge Reconciliation Week, we must also acknowledge that reconciliation is unfinished business, and that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people still face an array of discrimination and disparity. Understanding that challenge is the first step to addressing it, so over the week we will share stories from some of our Aboriginal research staff, and those affiliated with other University of Sydney schools or projects. These stories are extracted from an article published in AlterNative (DOI 10.1177/11771801241235756) which explored the perceptions and judgments they have faced about their Indigenous identities.

First, the narrative of Author B:

“I was invited to sit on a panel for one of a series of public talks. Me and two other First Nations colleagues were presenting on the topic of decolonisation and how we might, as a community, walk the talk of decolonisation. I was invited to do the Welcome to Country. I took pains to explain that I live off-Country and therefore not in the position to do a Welcome, though I would be happy to do an Acknowledgement of Country. I was asked for, and provided, a short bio that could be used by the MC to introduce me to the audience. On the night, the MC proceeded to introduce me as a “part-Aboriginal woman who will conduct a Welcome to Country.” Clearly, my bio did not describe me this way and the discussion about Welcome to Country verses an Acknowledgement of Country had fallen on deaf ears. My identity was publicly diminished and my cultural integrity was called into question by a person who had never met me before—a non-Indigenous person who felt authorised to judge the authenticity of my Aboriginality based on their stereotyped perception of who a real Aboriginal person is.”

Next, the narrative of Author G:

“I was recently on a working trip in Canada, working on a collaboration with other First Nations colleagues. I spoke about the impacts of the stolen and hidden generations and how I see my identity as a journey. One colleague said to me “so how much Aboriginal are you?” which is a question I have been asked many times in my life being fair skinned. I said “I’m ALL Aboriginal” another colleague in the room smiled and said “oh my god I love that! You are so right we are head-to-toe Aboriginal.””

And finally, the narrative of Author A:

“Some years ago, I was at work and a staff member came into my office to tell me that she was talking to an Aboriginal man in the community space, and that this man had told her that I was not Aboriginal. He went on to tell her that I was adopted by my black mother and shouldn’t be in the position I held. When called on to “please explain,” I realised I had never met this man, and he had never seen me—he was passing on information from someone in the community that didn’t like me. When I asked him why he thought he had the right to do this, he told me that it was his right, and that unless I carried my papers with me—not just identity papers, but also birth certificate to prove my mother in fact gave birth to me, then he would not accept me as Aboriginal.”