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Indigenous hopes rising with the appointment of Ken Wyatt to leadership at the highest level

Ravina Waldren: “It will be up to Ken (Wyatt) to interact and engage with communities, including here in Queensland, and I’m sure he will do that.”

A BRISBANE indigenous Catholic leader has hailed the appointment of Ken Wyatt as indigenous Australians’ minister as a significant moment for reconciliation in this country.

“I think that this is a great milestone and our young people need to see some leadership at the highest level,” Murri Ministry co-ordinator Ravina Waldren said.

“They need to see that through reconciliation we too can achieve, that it is possible for our young people to become Aboriginal leaders.

“I’m sure his own community (in Western Australia) will be very proud of this achievement.”

Mr Wyatt, was the first indigenous man to become a federal government minister when he took on the aged-care portfolio in January 2017.

As part of the new Federal Cabinet, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Mr Wyatt as indigenous Australians’ minister, heading up a renamed indigenous affairs portfolio. 

“(I’m) incredibly honoured to be the first Aboriginal Minister for Indigenous Australians,” Mr Wyatt tweeted soon after being sworn in. 

“Committed to working and walking together with our elders, families and communities to ensure the greatness of our many nations is reflected in the greatness of our Australian nation, now and forever.”

Ms Waldren said while she was pleased for Mr Wyatt’s elevation, she had been expecting Labor to win the federal election, and that would have meant another indigenous leader, Pat Dodson, would have become the indigenous minister.

“Yes, I guess that was a bit of a shock,” she said. “Pat has the experience and for a long time has had the respect of indigenous people.

“It will be up to Ken (Wyatt) to interact and engage with communities, including here in Queensland, and I’m sure he will do that.”

Ms Waldren spoke at the recent Mission of the Heart conference in Sydney, describing the continuing vulnerable and marginalised condition of indigenous Australians, despite a long and rich spiritual culture.

“Our culture, stories and traditional lore is connected to the land and all that is in it and on it and in the waterways, rivers and seas,” she said at the May 13-15 conference, jointly organised by Catholic Mission and Catholic Religious Australia. 

“We have always acknowledged God as our creator and expressed this in our stories, songs, dances, music, art and our culture. 

“This cultural knowledge has been passed through 60,000 years with our people. 

“Aboriginal relationships and connections are across and deep within this ancient land and when I see and hear the pain of our people who are suffering with inter-generational trauma, my heart becomes heavy with deep pain and sorrow. 

“This suffering began 200 years ago.

“Our people, men, women and children have been traumatised for generations, from all forms of abuse and dispossession from their homelands and families and communities.”

Ms Waldren said indigenous people “need healing from what history has done to us, dividing us and hiding our true Australian history from we the Settler Peoples”. 

“Return the First Peoples’ dignity by recognition, respect, restoration, restitution and recompense,” she said.

Ms Waldren told conference delegates there were many actions that could support community reconciliation.

“Join a Reading For Reconciliation group; buy your children, grandchildren, family members and friends literature by Aboriginal authors and artists plus have art, posters, artefacts around the home and office,” she said.

“Get the flags flown and plaques erected at schools, churches, public spaces.

“Subscribe to Aboriginal newspapers and agency journals like LinkUp which supports the stolen generations. 

“Do these as individuals and groups.

“Don’t let racists get you down.

“Let the Holy Spirit of God in. Remember Pentecost.”

For the past three years, Ms Waldren has been behind efforts to introduce a reconciliation action plan (RAP) into the Archdiocese of Brisbane. 

RAP measures include recognising cultural protocols at public events with “welcome to country” ceremonies performed by elders, and ensuring indigenous flags are flown in parish grounds and schools.

RAP measures across the Brisbane archdiocese would also aim to increase indigenous employment opportunities, and introduce cultural competency training for clergy, staff and key archdiocesan personnel.

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