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Ken Wyatt got a standing ovation at the Reconciliation WA Breakfast at Crown.

‘Grounded in truth’: reflections on Reconciliation Week 2019

In keeping with the theme of Reconciliation Week, this year’s Reconciliation WA breakfast – the largest breakfast event ever hosted at Crown Towers – was very much “grounded in truth.”

With 1350 people in attendance, the morning started with a unique energy in the air, not least because this was to be the first public address made by newly-appointed Indigenous Affairs Minister, the Hon. Ken Wyatt, the first Indigenous person to take this responsibility.

High-profile journalist Narelda Jacobs hosted the proceedings, with Noongar Elder and respected community member Dr Richard Walley delivering a powerful Welcome to Country, setting the tone for the morning and ensuring that, as Reconciliation Week comes to an end, all-important conversations go on.

It was a morning of commitments to the reconciliation cause and reflection on guiding principles that must shape our nation as we move forward together in conversation, grounded in truth and respect.

With 10 years’ experience at Crown, Manager of Indigenous Programs Sharon Ninyette shared her personal story, highlighting the need to acknowledge the past and never stop fighting for justice. She urged people in the room to have conversations about reconciliation with people they had not met before and reiterated Crown’s support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Minister for Community Services Simone McGurk spoke on behalf of Premier Mark McGowan, citing how a project like the Matagarup Bridge represents a physical reminder of the importance of maintaining a connection to Indigenous culture, and acknowledging the traditional owners of this land.

“We are committed to ensuring Aboriginal children remain connected to culture through partnerships and advice from Aboriginal community,” she said.

Ms McGurk made key points about recognising the strength of Aboriginal culture and people while also acknowledging legacies left by governments, with a particular mention of the importance of telling the true history of Wadjemup (Rottnest Island). The State Government’s $1 million commitment to Reconciliation WA was met with resounding applause.

But no applause was longer and no standing ovation more emotional than was received by Mr Wyatt. Like Minister Wyatt, I was teary. What an historic moment to be a part of, to hear from the first ever Aboriginal representative responsible for the Aboriginal portfolio at the highest level of government.

Mr Wyatt spoke of unity and the importance of culture and the Indigenous way of life. He also acknowledged those who came before him and those who stood with him, in working towards bettering relationships and representations of Aboriginal people within the constitution and society.

“Knowing our history and truth telling are vital for better relationships…policy will not be made in my office. It will be made in conjunction with Aboriginal people and representative bodies,” Mr Wyatt said.

The announcements of federal commitments to refresh the Close the Gap policy framework, constitutional recognition and a national resting place to commemorate ancestral remains for national reflection, were also among the calls for grounding in truth.

“For my people, our people, my country, our country,” Mr Wyatt said.

Mr Wyatt was a tough act to follow but that task fell to West Coast Eagles chairman Russell Gibbs, who reinforced his club’s commitment to zero tolerance to racism. An impactful video shot by the Eagles earlier this year taking a stand against racism has been viewed more than 500,000 times across a variety of channels.

Nolan Hunter from the Kimberley Land Council, Edgar Basto from BHP and Zara Fisher from Rio Tinto all spoke strongly in support of constitutional recognition, supportive frameworks and cultural safety in workplaces.

It was fitting that just as the event opened with one strong female voice, it closed with another. One of the most amazing Aboriginal women and advocates I know, Carol Innes, had the final words of the morning:

“Who will stand with us, and stand beside us, for unity, reconciliation and constitutional recognition?”

In answer, the whole room rose to its feet.

At Cannings Purple, we are proud of our clear purpose: “To start and shape conversations that matter.”

As a proud Nimanburr woman the conversation I was privileged to be part of today resonates deeply with my own purpose.

A sociologist and Cannings Purple’s Senior Consultant in Corporate AffairsJordin Payne specialises in strategic communications and relationships with the community. She is a proud Nimanburr woman and traditional owner from Broome Western Australia with ancestral ties to Yawuru, Djugan, Nyul Nyul and Bardi groups on the Mid Dampier Peninsula. You can contact Jordin directly at  jpayne@canningspurple.com.au.

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