NATIONAL Reconciliation Week is celebrated annually from May 27 to June 3.
This year the focus is on recognising one another and, importantly, the contributions, cultures and histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Youth Off The Streets continues to share the vision for Australia in which all cultures are respected and a greater sense of Aboriginal identity is embraced to nurture the growth and strengthening of these communities.
During the week, we will join in the celebration of the traditions of our Aboriginal population and recognise the 1967 referendum and High Court Mabo decision, both significant steps towards reconciliation in Australia.
Youth Off The Streets has continually taken an active approach to raising awareness of the needs of our Aboriginal communities, particularly the young people, and cultural awareness is a vital training process for all staff employed in our services.
Our work with Aboriginal communities has always been about identifying a gap in the services available to Aboriginal youth, and establishing the support services that fulfil their needs.
In Australia, there is a significant over-representation of Aboriginal young people in our juvenile justice system.
Young Aboriginal people aged between 10 and 16 are 15 times more likely to be under supervision on an average day in comparison to non-Aboriginal young people.
Understanding that there is limited access to culturally appropriate services for Aboriginal youth, we have established a bail accommodation service that will support these young people following their first offence, to divert them from entering juvenile detention centres.
Functioning under the premise that the incarceration of any young person should only ever be used after all other avenues of rehabilitation have been exhausted, the program is located in Illawarra at our new Cordeaux Heights Centre for Youth.
It will offer a range of activities relevant to the needs of the clients and aim to encourage these young people to live positive and healthy lives away from crime.
There are many more needs of our Aboriginal communities that should be addressed.
I encourage you to think about how we are going to work towards closing the health status and life expectancy gap for our Aboriginal people, as there is still much work to be done to address this issue yet.
FR CHRIS RILEY Chief Executive Officer, Youth Off The Streets Ltd
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
The Catholic Leader acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Peoples of this country and especially acknowledge the traditional owners on whose lands we live and work throughout the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.