Josh to Spearhead Inclusivity in the Hills

Josh Spier is the Adelaide Hills Council’s new Community and Social Planning Officer. Josh explains his new role as “ensuring our district is accessible and inclusive for all people, a key step in strengthening community wellbeing.”

Josh grew up in Bridgewater, in the Adelaide hills. “Even when I moved to a high school in the CBD, I still spent every weekend playing basketball, cricket and music with my ‘Hills mates’” Josh recounts.

While he now lives in the Unley area with his wife and three children, the hills location was a factor when considering the new role. Josh says “what appealed to me most about the role was a desire to give back. I want to brew my background and training in community development and social research together to serve a community and environment I deeply care about.”

Josh taught Indigenous studies at Flinders University. One of his most important memories of this time is the “true collegiality I shared with Indigenous scholars at Flinders.” Josh was privileged enough to co-teach with members of the Unbound Collective, research and performance group.  He worked most closely with Associate Professor Simone Ulalka Tur, Pro Vice Chancellor (Indigenous).

Josh says that The Collective’s performances move through spaces that “have historically seen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians excluded and reduced to tell untold chapters of Australia’s true history”.

When Josh worked with Associate Professor Tur in 2018, he recalls that “she would spend all week teaching large courses and supporting Aboriginal students, go home and work on her PhD, perform with her activist-art Collective in the evening, and support her family and community. And then, over the weekend, she’d help lead a campaign against a nuclear waste dump in regional South Australia.”

Josh says that he learnt much from Associate Professor Tur. “From my friendship with Simone, I learnt so much about the importance of getting behind Aboriginal-led movements – and the vital role of Indigenous storytellers and activist-artists in achieving social change.”

When it comes to reconciliation, Josh believes that it is about “building friendships”

“Friends listen to one another. Really listen. They laugh and cry together. They stand up for each other. They challenge each other and learn from each other. They work hard together toward shared interests and goals. They know each other.”

He says the words of Brooke Prentis, Waka Waka woman Aboriginal rights activist, express what reconciliation means better than he can:

“The gap is so wide because Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people don’t know each other. We don’t know each other therefore we can’t be friends and I think when you have friendship it’s about relationship and that’s when you get to know each other and you can see a different future, one that’s filled with hope and love … . When you look on an individual basis with your own friends, you would hope that there was truth and love between you. So, for me, we can’t have reconciliation without truth, and therefore we can’t have friendship without truth. With truth and understanding comes justice, and understanding our struggle for justice, and for non-Aboriginal people to come and walk alongside us in fighting for justice.”

Josh’s first priority with the Adelaide Hills Council will be “developing and coordinating the new AHC Disability Inclusion Plan 2020-24. The role is about making sure our community planning guides the hard work that Council need to keep doing – in collaboration with our community and partners – to create inclusive environments that enable health for all. I’ll also be co-designing better strategies to track community wellbeing/needs and the reach of our community services.”

To achieve parts of this, Josh is looking to work with First Nations leaders in the Adelaide Hills.  To explain how he feels about working toward helping others, he quotes Gangulu woman Lilla Watson comes to mind:

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Josh will be working with the Adelaide Hills Reconciliation Working Group (AHRWG) in his new role.  He explains that he sees his work as “aligning with AHC’s Reconciliation Action Plan moving forward. I also see the AHRWG being a resource and brains trust to provide feedback and guidance on all the planning projects I will be coordinating with respect to community wellbeing and inclusion.”

Josh would like to hear from any First Nations peoples who live with disability, and their families, who are interested in giving their feedback on our new Disability Inclusion Plan (DIP).

“We are currently preparing our draft DIP in consultation with staff, the community and the local disability sector. We want our DIP to encompass actions that will improve access and inclusion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability who live, visit or work in the Adelaide Hills.”

To share your thoughts and ideas, you can contact Josh at email jspier@ahc.sa.gov.au.