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Time to heal Country: ANZSOG supports NAIDOC Week 2021

1 July 2021

News and media


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Statement from ANZSOG Dean and CEO Ken Smith AO

NAIDOC Week celebrates the achievements, history and continuing culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and gives all Australians the chance to get involved in celebrations in their communities.

This year NAIDOC Week will be held from 4-11 July, with many events scheduled around Australia on the theme of Heal Country! – a call for greater protection for First Peoples lands, waters, sacred sites and cultural heritage.

NAIDOC Week 2021 invites Australians to embrace First Peoples’ cultural knowledge and understanding of Country as part of Australia’s national heritage and equally respect the culture and values of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders, as they do the cultures and values of all Australians.

For the First Peoples of Australia, Country is more than a place but something inherent to identity. It is spoken about like a person, sustaining lives in every aspect – spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially, and culturally.

ANZSOG recognises the importance of acknowledging Indigenous history and culture, and the importance of incorporating Indigenous knowledge into the work of government, for the benefit of all Australians and Aotearoa New Zealanders.

We are currently on our own journey to include Indigenous ways of knowing and being in our mission to lift the quality of public sector leadership in Australia and Aotearoa-New Zealand. This includes representation of Indigenous people at all levels of the public sector. The steps of this journey are outlined in our First Peoples Strategy which recognises our commitment to commits to working with communities across our two countries to promote and prioritise the perspectives and contributions of the First Peoples of Australia and Aotearoa-New Zealand.

This February, with financial support from the National Indigenous Australians Agency, ANZSOG held its third First Peoples Public Administration Conference: Proud Partnerships in Place in February/March this year. The conference was an entirely virtual event, which allowed us to provide greater access for a wider audience across all sectors and jurisdictions. Each of the four sessions of the conference attracted more than 500 participants.

One of the strong themes of the conference was the value of First Peoples’ knowledge of the environment to inform the development of better policy, in areas such as river management and cultural burning. If we are to Heal Country, governments need to recognise the value of this knowledge and enter into genuine relationships and partnerships.

For generations, First Peoples have called for stronger measures to recognise, protect, and maintain all aspects of their culture and heritage, and in most cases are still waiting for those protections.

Recent years have seen a substantial change in attitudes towards the relationship between Australian governments and First Peoples. There is growing recognition of the need to include First Peoples on an equal basis through a Treaty or a Voice to Parliament, with the State of Victoria beginning negotiations with Aboriginal Victorians around a Treaty framework, and establishing the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission with its focus on truth-telling.

We cannot afford to let pass the very real opportunity that now presents itself for reform based on a fundamental change in the relationship Australia has with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Healing Country, is part of this process of resolving outstanding injustices and building partnerships that allow governments and First Peoples to work together to deliver change and better outcomes.

We encourage you to take the opportunity to participate in NAIDOC Week celebrations in your community or online, and learn more about how we can all help Heal Country.

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