IT'S Reconciliation Week in Australia.
The theme this year is #InThisTogether, and Reconciliation Australia along with many other organisations will hold events encouraging everyone to participate (practicing safe social distancing of course). As an educational leader, this leads me to ask many questions: Why is Reconciliation Week important? Why is participation important? What are we truly hoping to achieve?
I have a suggested answer to all of these questions, and it centres on what I believe to be the most important tool for reconciliation in Australia. This tool might come as a surprise - it's the family dining room table.
Our reconciliation success can be measured by the conversations that occur at dining room tables across the country. This is where honest opinions, values and cultural views are expressed openly. It's where young people learn and are influenced from the people in their lives that matter most.
What they hear and observe at this table influences how they engage in conversations with peers in the classroom and on the sports training field, which in turn contributes to our broader social and cultural discussions. When my family share our favourite parts of the day, my wife and I can see that this helps shape our children's view of the world.
The way that we speak about certain topics and what we prioritise as important plays a significant role in Archie, 6, and Charlotte's, 3, values and beliefs.
As an educational leader I have led many professional learning experiences for staff on a variety of topics. One of the experiences reinforces the importance and impact of family conversations.
The professional learning topic was on the NSW Department of Education's, Aboriginal Education Policy.
I shared stories about my own family and in particular how intergenerational trauma had led to many significant events. At the end of the day I had many staff come and speak to me about the stories shared. One staff member became emotional and started to apologise for her ignorance and for the way she had contributed to family conversations.
She left that day armed with the tools and confidence to change the narrative within her own family.
All educational institutions have a role to play. The University of Newcastle is taking a strategic approach to building the cultural knowledge and understanding of staff and students.
A Cultural Capability Framework that partners with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples and organisations will be used as the vehicle to engage stakeholders in cultural learning.
I would encourage everyone to use Reconciliation Week to be proactive, take the time to read and learn and to initiate a positive dining room table discussion. Bruce Pascoe's, Dark Emu or Anita Heiss's Growing up Aboriginal in Australia are books I would recommend.
Reconciliation can seem like a big task and even, unachievable. But when we break it down and think about what it means in our own family we can find the determination and commitment that we can be successful. It can all start at your dining room table.
Nathan Towney is a proud Wiradjuri man and Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Strategy and Leadership at the University of Newcastle
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