LAUNCHING Lismore City Council's new Reconciliation Action Plan are (l-r): General Manager Gary Murphy, staff member Dave Edwards, Aboriginal Advisory Group member Aunty Thelma James and Lismore Mayor Isaac Smith.
LAUNCHING Lismore City Council's new Reconciliation Action Plan are (l-r): General Manager Gary Murphy, staff member Dave Edwards, Aboriginal Advisory Group member Aunty Thelma James and Lismore Mayor Isaac Smith. Jasmine Burke

The long journey to reconciliation

TEACH the past, look at it, understand it and change it was a message from a local elder in recognition of Reconciliation Week.

Banyam elder Thelma James - known to the Lismore community as 'Aunty Thelma'- said while the 1967 referendum made a big change to the lives of Indigenous Australians, there was also a lot of the unknown.

Reluctant to talk about personal hardships during the time of the referendum, Ms James said while living in North Lismore at the time, they had the freedom to come and go.

"A lot of the people who came to Lismore were other races with dark skin, there weren't a lot of white Europeans so we were all surviving," Ms Thelma said.

"We weren't able to keep our culture but my dad was able to connect with other communities. I didn't identify with that or see it happening until later on in life...as a young women".

Ms Thelma said while the referendum was a big step forward, there was a downside at the time.

"Those who came from an institutionalised life were all of a sudden free to go to places they were never allowed to go before, to purchase high finances, to travel. They went mad with a lot of that," she said.

"We all need to learn about Aboriginal Australia history and Australian history to better ourselves for future because it all works in parallel... so when we plan for the future we will do it with respect and compassion towards a brighter and healthier future".

National Reconciliation Week is a time to celebrate and build respect between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians and marks significant dates in the history of Indigenous Australians: the 1967 referendum and 1992 Mabo decision.

This year's national theme is 'Let's take the next steps'.

Lismore was the first Northern Rivers council to adopt a RAP in 2013, setting clear targets for employment, increasing cultural awareness internally, and ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had a voice in decision-making. 

General Manager Gary Murphy said council is immensely proud of the measures taken in the community.

The new RAP builds on the three primary principles defined within the first RAP - relationships, respect and opportunities - and details key deliverables over the next two years. 

"We have come a long way in four years and I am immensely proud of the practical measures we have taken to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people," General Manager Gary Murphy said. 

"Our first RAP turned symbolism into action, taking our good intentions and laying out a clear plan of action to affect positive change both within our organisation and the broader community. 

"This new RAP consolidates the work we have done in employment, community engagement and cultural awareness, and pushes us to go even further. Implementing our RAP has been an amazing experience and has given staff a real sense of pride about making a contribution to reconciliation in this country. It is exciting to launch this second action plan and to continue what has been a profound and engaging experience for this organisation."


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