Nykita Gibbs Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself!

My Name is Nykita Gibbs I am a Gamilaraay woman from Kamilaroi country in New South Wales I have worked in the early childhood sector for 13 years. I have worked at Goodstart Elizabeth Vale as the Director for just over two years now and hold a degree in Early Childhood. I am very passionate about reconciliation and working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and children.

What does reconciliation mean to staff at Goodstart?

Reconciliation is about respectful relationships between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Building positive relationships with Aboriginal and Torres strait Islander families and children providing a learning environment where their culture is respected and embedded in everyday practice

Goodstart Early Learning Elizabeth Vale strives to inspire children and families to achieve greatness through teamwork, communication, educational programs, purposeful experiences and ongoing support. Our vision is to have a culturally safe environment where everyone feels welcome. We aim to ensure all families, children and educators feel accepted and included. We have developed and continue to foster respectful relationships with our local Aboriginal community in order to provide children with a greater knowledge and understanding of Australia's First Peoples. At Elizabeth Vale we have created a community where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families feel welcomed and respected in an inclusive environment which celebrates and encourages all families to share their knowledge and experiences. This practice, which is collaborative, embodies the culture of our centre and enables families to be active partners with educators in their child’s learning journey.

Supporting families and their culture empowers our educators as advocates and promotes reconciliation and education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and our community.

What role do staff play in the reconciliation process?

Every educator has a role to play in reconciliation at Goodstart Elizabeth Vale and we are committed to providing a high-quality program which celebrates and consistently acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and culture. We have created a culturally safe and inclusive space for all families to support them in feeling safe and secure. As educators we have the opportunity to make a positive difference in children’s lives.

What does this year’s NRW theme mean to Goodstart?

NRW theme this year means we all have our part to play in reconciliation. It is important to support and encourage each other to make positive steps towards reconciliation. As educators we advocate reconciliation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and promote reconciliation through education and play. This is vital to ensure we are educating children about our history to ensure we are taking more positive steps towards an inclusive future. It is important to continue to connect to our Aboriginal and Torres strait Islander families and provide support where needed.

 Why is reconciliation important to education, and why is education important to reconciliation? How did you engage your local community in the process?

Children are central to everything we do; it is important to give children the opportunity to explore and learn about our First Nations People. It is also important that our families feel safe secure and supported knowing they can be proud of their culture and respected in our community. The community has helped us get flags to fly in the centre and have provided us with important feedback which has helped us to progress on our reconciliation journey. It is important for education services to be inclusive and teach reconciliation at a young age to create a better future for all Australians to ensure we stand strong together.

What are some challenges you have faced with Reconciliation?

Covid-19 has been a huge challenge this year as we have a Nunga playgroup which has been running successfully since term 2, 2018. This group helps to support our Aboriginal families in partnership with our local Aboriginal health service and local elders. From creating this playgroup, we have fostered relationships with families and were lucky enough to have a high percentage of families enrol their children in the centre. We have been having Nunga playgroup online whilst Covid-19 restrictions have been in place. Educators connect with families online to check in and also give families ideas for fun educational experiences at home such as cooking, how to make playdough and craft experiences. This online platform has helped families to continue to feel connected to the centre and educators through these unprecedented times.

What have your successes been?

Our successes have been developing an inclusive Nunga playgroup which has been held once a week since 2018. We have made positive connections with our local elder village, where we take the kindy children once a month to visit the elders. The children participate in different experiences such as reading stories, dancing and painting with the elders (This is currently on hold due to covid- 19). We have built some wonderful relationships with our community which we will continue to build and strengthen over the years to come.

The educators underpin their programs and experiences with Aboriginal perspectives. Educators and children do an Acknowledgement of country every morning showing their respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. This pedagogy aims to support children in developing a deep understanding and respect for the history and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Our educators are continuously reflecting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practices to ensure they are maintaining an inclusive environment for all children.

What key learnings would you share with others that are starting the process of Reconciliation and writing a Reconciliation Action Plan?

At the start of our reconciliation journey, it was important for us to understand and be accepting of everyone’s varying knowledge and experience with reconciliation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. Together we worked to create and change our practice and pedagogy which advocates for reconciliation and is underpinned by our educators’ skills and knowledge. By developing our team’s knowledge, we were able to move forward positively and create a vision in which our team is inspired to promote in all areas of their educational programs. From this, we were able to work through the Narragunnawali platform to create our RAP.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

We provide experiences for children to explore different aspects of Aboriginal cultures through loose parts play. Our nursery children enjoy sensory experiences. I would like to share a beautiful set up created for our babies to explore different textures and materials with some aboriginal perspectives.

I have also completed a large welcome sign for the centre with help from the educators and children for our entrance. To show we respect and acknowledge the Kaurna people as the traditional owners of the land we learn and play on.


BGR Chair Allen Edwards talks History, Education, and Reconciliation

Reconciliation isn’t about talking the talk. It’s about making positive change for Aboriginal people, creating safer workplaces, classrooms and more. And proud Kaurna/Kokatha (Adelaide Plains/West Coast of SA) man, and Blackwood Reconciliation Group chair is doing just that, figuratively, and literally, he’s walking the walk. From the Blackwood Reconciliation Walk to walking into class rooms and educating.

The Blackwood Reconciliation group began in 1994 when a group of local Blackwood residents got together to hold a study circle on reconciliation for an eight weeks course and when they finished, they wanted to continue with reconciliation, so they formed the Blackwood Reconciliation Group.

Mr. Edwards told Reconciliation SA that the “BRG being a local group, they knew of the Colebrook Home in Eden Hills, and that nothing was being done with it, and they decided to focus on that site and build a memorial, so that eventually became known as Colebrook Blackwood Reconciliation Park”.

The Colebrook Blackwood Reconciliation Park is a memorial park dedicated to the children of the Stolen Generations, who’d been taken to the ‘Colebrook Training Home’ after being taken from their families.

Through the efforts of the Colebrook Tjitji Tjuta, the Blackwood Reconciliation Group, the Aboriginal Lands Trust and others, ‘The Fountain of Tears’ (1998), and the ‘Grieving Mother’ (1999) statues were erected to help remember the Stolen Generations that were held there. The statues were sculpted by Silvio Apponi.

In 2019, the group celebrated its 25th Anniversary, and as well as being the longest running reconciliation group in South Australia, is also possibly the longest running reconciliation group in Australia. The group still has up to six of the original members attend the meetings and event, of which Mr. Edwards speaks of highly, saying that “you just got to meet them, and you see why it’s been going so long.” But he also highlighted the renaissance the group has felt in the last few years, saying “But we’ve had younger people interested in the group, coming along and joining up as members.”

It’s fair to say that the successful local group is well supported, an Annual General Meeting held when Mr. Edwards was voted in as Chair, was the biggest the group had seen. That occasion was made even more special because Mr. Edwards, who’d been on and off as an active group member, became the group’s first Aboriginal Chair.

Over the last few years, Mr. Edwards tells, “we’ve worked on a number of other projects, for the 2019 reconciliation walk, we unveiled ‘listening posts’ which tell the stories of the former residents, and we unveiled a mosaic around the campfire, and we are working on a number of other projects”.

The Blackwood Reconciliation Group is still in “full swing” according to Mr. Edwards, and could last another 25 years at least. “That’s just the sort of people we have in there, they’re committed to reconciliation, they’re committed to Colebrook and the Colebrook kids, they’re so committed to Colebrook and the Tjitji Tjuta, which is the Colebrook children, are in BRG’s constitution, to look after the site, and look after the children.”

While the Colebrook Blackwood Reconciliation Park is a large focus of the BRG, they are still involved in other events to do with reconciliation. In 2019 the group held a forum on the Uluru Statement from the Heart and had 80 chairs available for attendees. However, 80 was not nearly enough. Mr. Edwards reveals the number was closer to 400. “The chairs were full, people were standing up on the sides, and even poking their heads through doors”, he exclaims with a grin. He also says that the group is well known partly because they work closely with the community. The Mitcham City council is a close collaborator, as is the local RSL, as well as Schools, Universities and other local organisations.

Mr. Edwards himself, is thoroughly enjoying his role as Chair, as the opportunities that come with it are too good to pass up. One such opportunity (thanks to Covid-19) is the chance to host a lunchtime webinar via the Zoom platform. Mr. Edwards with speak about topics of Reconciliation, the Stolen Generation, Colebrook Reconciliation Park and the Blackwood Reconciliation Group.

Mr. Edwards believes reconciliation is “coming together to achieve a common goal and having an awareness of other people’s cultures. You don’t have to agree on everything but have an awareness and just get along.”

But what he truly relishes, is being able to teach students, and the general population, about the history of Australia’s treatment towards Aboriginal people. He says that “in the past, it wasn’t spoken of. It wasn’t heard of. But truth-telling is what it’s all about now. Through my mother, I am part of the Stolen Generations, but I didn’t know about the Stolen Generations until later in life, because it wasn’t spoken about. We didn’t have people coming to our schools speaking about reconciliation or the Stolen Generations, deaths in custody, we had nothing like that.” Edwards continues with “We have Reconciliation Week, but for me, it’s 12 months of the year, and people are willing to listen, so it’s my goal to get the message out.”

To sit in on Allen Edwards “Lunch with a local Webinar”, click here.

 

 


Uncle John Browne discusses his Journey of Healing, and National Sorry Day

Uncle John Browne at a Sorry Day Event held in Adelaide

In 1997, the Bringing them Home Report, the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families was released. The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, who tabled the report to parliament said,

"This report is a tribute to the strength and struggles of many thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by forcible removal. We acknowledge the hardships they endured and the sacrifices they made. We remember and lament all the children who will never come home."

One of the recommendations was a National Apology, which the then Prime Minister John Howard did not provide (eventually the National Apology was provided by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on 13 February 2008), despite this in 1998 on the 26 of May, the first National Sorry Day was held.

Since then, National Sorry Day has been an annual event, to help raise awareness about the Stolen Generation, the Bringing Them Home Report and community events that are often held to support the community. One such event is held by the Journey of Healing SA Inc., which is chaired by Larrakia man Uncle John Browne, who was sent from Darwin under the Assimilation Program of the 1960s to go to school in Adelaide.

Mr. Browne says he

“was born in Alice Springs although my Mother came from Darwin. I am one of the Aboriginal Stolen Generations from the Northern Territory”, telling Reconciliation SA that he has “since established myself permanently in Adelaide”.

Mr. Browne, the eldest of 9 brothers and 4 sisters, has a varied, yet impressive work history which includes a stint working for well-known Aboriginal activist “Charlie Perkins, among working for the Government and the University of South Australia”.

His education is just as impressive, with Mr. Browne possessing a Master’s Degree in Social Work and a Postgraduate in Management. A great achievement considering he has his own, large family, revealing that he has four daughters all born in Adelaide, all with their own impressive work histories as a nurse, another a lawyer, another a real estate agent, and one a flight attendant.

Uncle John explains that he joined the Journey of Healing SA Inc, “because I feel for the Stolen Generation, I feel their hurt and their Loss from their families”. He explains that the event that the Journey of Healing SA Inc., would normally plan, but cannot in 2020 due to the pandemic, “presents performances and various stalls showcasing what we mean by Sorry Day, to exhibit the continuing effects of removal on Aboriginal families.” The event also brings “people together who have been stolen to meet with the public to bring healing.”

Members of the Stolen Generation also share their stories with the wider community so that the public can empathize with some of the pain and suffering, other community members will also recount various Homes in SA to which Indigenous children were removed from their families.

Mr. Browne says that on National Sorry Day, the Indigenous Elders of the Stolen Generations “will be given special treatment with a tent of their own, but the Indigenous community and other Stolen Generation members will have tents to display their wares, commodities, old photos, posters and other items.”

The successful event has had 28 stalls in the last five years that provide free services to the Stolen Generations of South Australia at the National event in Victoria Square.

Mr. Browne, recounting the establishment of National Sorry Day, says,

“the actual event was forecasted in the ‘Bringing them Home Report’ of 1997, recommendations, where it was handed down from Federal Parliament. The National Sorry Day in the early days was a National Sorry Day Organisation.  South Australia has carried the traditions since. Most states still have a National Sorry Day each year.”

But continuing the tradition of commemorating National Sorry Day is not the sole purpose of Journey of Healing SA Inc., Mr. Browne, sharing it is other functions, says, that the organisation also helps:

  • Assist the Stolen Generation to come to terms with their grief and hurt through various programs and support counseling.
  • The Stolen Generation in South Australia to reconnect their Cultural identity.
  • Educate the young Aboriginal people to understand what has been happening in their own families.

And,

  • Attempts to dissipate the effects of a powerless people who suffer from degradation, forceful removal of families, and Hurt and assist with rebuilding their cultural identity, their history, and their freedom.

As Chairman of the Journey of Healing SA Inc., Uncle John explains that there are also other achievements that are being pursued. The journey of Healing SA Inc. encourages “Aboriginal people to achieve stability in the Aboriginal community which has been torn apart by the Authorities, forcefully removing Aboriginal Children for their families with little or consultation or advice.” The journey of Healing SA Inc. also wants to tackle the effects of that removal in order to bring peace to the community.

An impassioned Mr. Browne declares that at the Journey of Healing

"we encourage Aboriginal people to work together and go through a healing process so that they can be healed and move on in their lives eventually. This is a long process and the track is tough going for many of us.”

Mr. Browne says that

“the Journey of healing SA Inc., has many facets, but it is important to realize that the removal caused and destroyed the Aboriginal community and widened the gap between the Majority race in Australia to the point of blatant racism in this country and the horrendous effects of that.”

 


Stepping it Up for Reconciliation

 

Stepping it Up for Reconciliation

 

 

REGISTER NOW!

 

 

Its been 20 years since the Corroboree 2000 Bridge Walk, where on Sunday 28th May in 2000 more than 250,000 people marched together across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in support of reconciliation. That day has gone down in Australia's history as one of the most unifying memorable moments. This symbol of unity has been acknowledged in 2020 with the theme of National Reconciliation Week being named as "In This Together".

With the current COVID-19 restrictions, it has not been possible for such a walk or gathering in 2020. However, we are innovative and creative peoples so we are asking people to join in a week-long activity that is aimed as showing South Australians we all remain committed to reconciliation and a fair and just community. 

Your Call to Action

We’re asking everyone to help replicate the spirit of that Bridge Walk!

So, here is the challenge. The length of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is 1.14km which equates to about 1,600 steps.

The challenge that we’re setting for you, is to walk, run, or ride across the virtual Sydney harbour bridge at least once a day for every day of National Reconciliation Week (27th May to 3rd June). These steps or kms are to be purposeful and reflective of your or your organisations journey of reconciliation.

Each day log on to the Reconciliation SA website and log your steps – it will send a message to all South Australians that we are indeed all in this together.

In this way, we can all demonstrate our personal commitment, and our own personal journey to learn more about our rich and diverse Australian history and Culture, and in the spirit of genuine reconciliation we can all take the time to learn just a little more about our Country’s rich and diverse history and Culture. We are………. all in this together.

 

Competition Details

 

Who can enter the competition?

Any and all persons can enter

 

How can we send our entry in?

  1. Register your name and email
  2. Each day log in and record your steps
  3. Remember to REFER a friend or family member so they can participate

What do participants receive?

Each person who completes the entirety of challenge will receive a 'Certificate of Participation'.

Prizes will be presented in the following categories

  1. Most distance travelled
  2. Most successful referrals
  3. Most creative action shot

What are the important dates?

  • Register at anytime prior to May 27th 2020
  • Walking (or preferred activity) to be completed each day from May 27th 2020 to and inclusive of 3rd June 2020
  • Last date to record your steps is June 4th 2020
  • The winners will be announced on Friday 6 June 2020 via facebook at 3pm

 

 

To download a copy of the T&Cs and an entry form, click here.

Please contact travis@reconciliationsa.org.au for further information and support.

 


AVSA committee members ensure Aboriginal digger sacrifices are honoured

Covid-19 is known to have a prolific infection rate, but it has probably canceled just as many events as it has infected people, if not more, and, as such, ANZAC Day was particularly affected.

If not for the determination of Australian’s and New Zealander’s to keep the tradition of recognising the sacrifices made by the ANZACS alive, it would have been almost completely forgotten in 2020. Many of us lined up in our driveways, some with candles, others with poppy’s and wreaths, to pay tribute to ANZACs past and present. While all of the day's community events were canceled, there was still some public commemorations going on. The AFL organised for a single bugle player at the MCG, but back in Adelaide, at the Torrens Parade Ground at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander War Memorial, two Aboriginal Veterans of South Australia (AVSA) committee members were honouring the Aboriginal diggers, who were for a long time, overlooked.

AVSA committee member Simon Kelly and AVSA committee member and Peramangk/Kaurna man Ivan Tiwu-Copley were on site to provide a smoking ceremony. Reconciliation SA caught with both of these men to get their feelings about the day.

A smoking ceremony, as Tiwu-Copley explains, was put in place to

to ensure that this National Memorial in Adelaide was not left out of the 2020 ANZAC Day remembrance ceremony. To ensure that Aboriginal service Men & Women are given the grateful respect for their sacrifices for us all. Lest We Forget.”

To give context to the smoking ceremony, Tiwu-Copley says

“The Gum leaves and Rosemary placed around the Memorial are very significant. In Aboriginal Culture the Gum leaves are important for healing and a sign of respect to Gum tree and their association to human beings, in parallel to the Rosemary was in Remembrance to Gallipoli as it found all over the Gallipoli peninsula.”                                                                

Interestingly, Tiwu-Copley told us that while rosemary was used to remember Gallipoli in particular, due to growth on the Gallipoli peninsula, it also is used to improve brain function and memory.

Kelly, who was on-site to support Tiwu-Copley and place to place memorial crosses for South Australian Aboriginal servicemen and servicewomen who paid the ultimate sacrifice, to help record the event and to place a floral tribute. He said,

“Once we were there, just the two of us, under the scrutiny of the Memorial’s statues, we really sensed the responsibility of what we were about to do.”

The commemoration, which Kelly says

is not a formal ceremony as such but rather an opportunity for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to gather and reflect on the service and sacrifice of First Nations’ men and women in defence of the land we share.

The centre-point of the gathering is an address from a South Australian Aboriginal serving member, veteran or descendant of a South Australian Aboriginal service man or woman.”

On how it felt to attend the site and perform the ceremony, with only Kelly also in attendance, Tiwu-Copley says

“Growing up as a child and a young man, I experienced the mental and physical scars that were the result of these Wars on my Father, Grandfather, Mother and siblings. Much of life as a teenager was spent going to the Repat with my Father and spent time with the Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Vets receiving treatment and seeing firsthand the effect of the Wars on the Young and Old at that special place. So I can never forget that War didn’t discriminate! And just to be grateful for the massive sacrifice they all made and pay respect when possible”

Along the same note, Kelly felt

Like Ivan, I felt it was important to attend the Memorial, a sacred place, on Anzac Day. We placed crosses for the fourteen South Australian Aboriginal servicemen (known to date) – ten World War 1, three World War 2 and one Vietnam War – who died in service of their country. Ivan then performed the Smoking Ceremony after which I placed the floral tribute. It is always an emotional privilege to be on this site, because the descendants of many of these people list in the pavers I know, and it also includes many relatives including my Father and Grandfather and Great Uncles.

Kelly also placed a floral tribute on behalf of Aboriginal Veterans SA and 9 RAR Battalion Association, which was comprised of rosemary, wattle, and a single poppy. He says

“While I was placing it on behalf of those two groups of which I am a member, I felt it also carried the sentiments of all those who could not be there. I reflected on last year’s gathering of over 160 people, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, who gathered in friendship and were as one in commemoration.”

 While no one was in attendance during the smoking ceremony, Kelly recalls

“When I returned just before dusk to collect the crosses, I noticed another floral tribute placed next to one of the engraved pavers and a crocheted poppy in the lawn under the statues. A family was there, too, paying their respects. It is my belief that many more would have visited during the day.”

Tiwu-Copley gave his overall feeling for the occasion

“Being able to provide a smoking Ceremony for cleansing and healing on this sacred place and to be able to say words in Kaurna is nothing short of being a great honour. To place, the little Crosses just reminded me of the ultimate sacrifice and seeing the names of people that were the great-grandfathers of people I call friends today, is something that hits you in the stomach and brings Goosebumps every time I even think of it. This place touches my spirit in many ways that can’t be placed into words, especially with the loss of my Father in 2019 and the passing of my dear friend /mate Geoffrey Vincent COOPER (Coops) early this year cuts deep. But the rocks that are there come from Peramangk Warta (Country) and placed on Kaurna Yerta (Country) mean so much to me. Being a descendant of the Peramangk and Kaurna Nations through my Father and mother's side. It feels such an inclusive, familiar, welcoming, and peaceful place to be upon and I feel quite at peace when I leave. 

The beautiful gesture by Simon and Uncle Ivan was sadly only able to be appreciated, and sadly not experienced, by the many that would have attended if COVID-19 had not hit our shores, which makes the gesture all the more important. But, photos of the event have been shared with Reconciliation SA, see below.

The team at Reconciliation SA would also, once again, like to thank the serviceman and women that have made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our safety.

 

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.