Thursday, January 26, 2012

celebrating indigenous survival

What a great celebration of Indigenous Survival at Belgrave Survival Day today.

It was terrific to join with over 1,000 people across the day to celebrate the world's oldest living culture.

Pictured left to right: Belgrave Survival Day organiser Jane Thomas, myself and another organiser Jordan Crook. They have worked tirelessly to bring this event to the people of the hills and beyond and they did a great job.

I had the great honour of speaking at Belgrave Survival Day. I talked about council's commitment to our Indigenous community.

I am proud to support Belgrave Survival Day with funding from my Community Ward Fund and Council is proud to support the event with funding from our Community Grants program.

Bunjil, the wedge tailed eagle, flew overhead today. Bunjil is the creator spirit of many Aboriginal clans in Victoria. It is always breathtaking to see a wedge tailed eagle and a real treat to see one at Belgrave Survival Day.

Yarra Ranges Council was the first council in Victoria to adopt a Statement of Apology. It was drafted in collaboration with the Shire's Indigenous community.

"The Yarra Ranges Council recognises the past injustices and treatment of Aboriginal Peoples. If we are to proceed in an open hearted and responsible way to address the issues which will come before us in the future we first need to acknowledge the past.

Council recognises the need to confront the policies and practices which caused the forced removal and separation of Aboriginal children from their parents and families, the effects of which continue today.

Accordingly, we wish to express our deep sorrow and sincerely apologise for the pain, the grief and the suffering experienced by Aboriginal Peoples as a result of past laws, government policy and actions."

Since 2006 Council has employed an Indigenous Development Officer and established an Indigenous Advisory Committee to assist council in the delivery of its priorities, which include:

- Maintaining an Indigenous voice on Indigenous issues
- Acknowledging and protecting Indigenous cultural heritage
- Engaging Indigenous young people
- Promoting health and wellbeing
- Building stronger relationships and new partnerships with the wider community in order to promote business and employment opportunities.

Gnarnayarrahe Waitairie led the crowd in a didgeridoo meditation.

In 2011 we have been working on:
- the consolidaton of the Healesville Cultural Strengthening Project that oversees the Aboriginal Choir and Hip-Hop Program
- council will be launching our Indigenous Employment Strategy this year
- council, in collaboration with our Indigenous Advisory Committee, will be developing a new 3 to 4 year action plan that will focus on opportunities for participation in contemporary cultural activities
- council has played a strong supportive role in the NAIDOC Ball and will continue to into the future
- council has played a key role in the development and launch of the artwork at the Meeting Place Garden in Healesville, with its inclusive theme of 'Who are we as Aboriginal Victorians'
- council staff have played a key link up role connecting the right people together leading to the development and launch of the Mt Evelyn Historical Society's book 'Aborigines of the Northern Dandenongs'
- council continues to take a lead role in advocating for the Outer Eastern Aboriginal community through a range of state goverment forums and networks, most recently providing a submission to the review of the Aboriginal Heritage Act.

It was terrific to catch up with Aunty Dot Peters, she's been a great supporter of Belgrave Survival Day and has spoken at every Belgrave Survival Day.

I thought it important to mention Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians. The Federal Government has committed to a referendum however given the past success rates of referenda in this country it will be difficult to achieve. Of 44 referenda only 8 have succeeded.

I spoke about my hope for a simple, straightforward question that people could easily support with wide consultation and a well resourced education campaign to accompany it.

Belgrave Survival Day organisers marked the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy with this umbrella (to mark the beginnings of the embassy).

I couldn't go without mentioning the 40th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy - I salute all the people who've maintained the site, you are an icon of Indigenous struggle in this country. I was also pleased to report to the crowd that we'd had reports from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy that around 2,000 were in Canberra.

Indigenous people still face significant disadvantage in contemporary Australia, particularly in health, education and employment outcomes.

The Yarra Ranges Council support the rights of all Indigenous people as outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

We are committed to reconciliation and strengthening our relationship between Indigenous and non Indigenous communities.

We take pride in our Indigenous cultural heritage.

It was a terrific day, it was wonderful to see so many people come out to celebrate the survival of Indigenous culture.

There was some great entertainment on the day.

This is Lou Bennett, a Yorta Yorta/Dja Dja wurrung woman and co-founder of the female trio Tidddas. Lou has been an integral member of the Black Arm Band as well as venturing into a solo musical career.

Yung Warriors treated the crowd to some deadly tunes. Yung Warriors are an emerging hip-hop act comprising Tjimba Possum Burns and cousin Danny Ramzan (D Boy). Both in their 20's they share the same grandfather in legendary painter, the late Clifford Tjapaltjarri Possum.

We were treated to a surprise performance by Black Elvis.

In its fifth year, Belgrave Survival Day is going from strength to strength. This year the most successful by far.

Once again my congratulations to the organisers, you did a great job and I thank you.


For more photos from the day visit Belgrave Survival Day official website.

Fair Projects did a great video on the day featuring interviews with Aunty Dot, Uncle Bill Nicholson and one of the event organisers, Jordan Crook.

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