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Published: 6 November 2020

Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Board Director and Chair of the AASW Reconciliation Action Plan Working Group, Linda Ford has called on all Australians to embrace the true history of this country during NAIDOC Week 2020 (8-15 November).

“NAIDOC is a time for us all to come together to celebrate and honour the history, culture and the achievements of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people which dates back thousands of generations.”

“The theme for NAIDOC this year is ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’, a recognition and acceptance that for more than 65,000 years the land on which we live and work was and is first and foremost Aboriginal land, has always has been Aboriginal land, and sovereignty was never ceded.”

“’Always Was, Always Will Be’ acknowledges that for tens of thousands of years this land was criss-crossed by generations of Nations who were spiritually and culturally connected to this country and whose adaptation and intimate knowledge of Country enabled sustainable management of the land, transforming the harshest habitable continent into a land of bounty.”

“For us, this nation’s story began at the dawn of time and NAIDOC Week 2020 acknowledges and celebrates that our nation’s story didn’t begin with documented European contact whether in 1770 or 1606 , with the arrival of the Dutch on the western coast of the Cape York Peninsula.”

“The very first footprints on this continent were those belonging to First Nations peoples and we want all Australians to celebrate that we have the oldest continuing cultures on the planet and to recognise that our sovereignty was never ceded,” she said.

AASW National President Christine Craik said that for social workers, NAIDOC Week is also an important reminder about learning from our past mistakes and working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and communities to address the structural disadvantage and discrimination they face in all facets of their lives, an ongoing consequence of colonisation.

“Social workers have played a role in many of the atrocities against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders communities since colonisation and the AASW’s apology in 2004 began to address the hurt done by the profession.”

“The AASW continues to embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing into social work as a fundamental component of decolonising social work practice in this country. The Association recently launched its Reconciliation Action Plan 2020-2022 and supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ right to self-determination and their children’s right to culture.”

“Currently, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 9.8 times more likely to be removed from their family than other children. This significant injustice has profound consequences which extend beyond the trauma it causes for children and their families. It often results in breaking the connection between the child and their community, their country and their culture. It also furthers entrenches the intergenerational trauma experienced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Ms Craik said.

Ms Ford said the National Agreement on Closing the Gap enables Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and governments to work together to overcome the inequality experienced by Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, and achieve life outcomes equal to all Australians.

“Closing the Gap began in response to a call for governments to commit to achieving equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in health and life expectancy within a generation and is underpinned by the belief that when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a genuine say in the design and delivery of policies, programs and services that affect them, better life outcomes are achieved.”

“Although the AASW welcomes the creation of a new Closing the Gap target to decrease the rate of removal, we recognise that progress will take time. The AASW supports the principle that Aboriginal children should be placed with Aboriginal families. This is the central idea of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle in all states and territories.”

“We have been advocating strongly for, and will continue to advocate for, the implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and that government work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in meeting the Closing the Gap targets,” she said.

The theme of the 2020 AASW National Symposium on 6 November is ‘Promoting Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Social Work’ and it provides a timely commencement to NAIDOC Week 2020.

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers