International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples: 2018
Published: 9 August 2018
Australian social workers today commemorate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This year’s theme is Indigenous peoples’ migration and movement.
AASW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander director Linda Ford said, “As social workers, we are acutely aware that the world's Indigenous peoples are often one of the most vulnerable, disempowered and marginalised groups in society.
“This means that as social workers we have a responsibility to empower our First Nations people to attain equality, through assisting them to access services and supports, to value their ability to survive and overcome some of the most horrific treatment and history and to promote and preserve two of the world’s oldest cultural heritages. This is an opportunity to celebrate how far we have come as First Nations people and how far as a country we still have to go in addressing the challenges that we are still facing and overcoming.”
This year’s theme of migration and movement of Indigenous peoples is a poignant one as it relates to the Australian experience, Ms Ford explained:
“Many First Nations people were dispossessed from their traditional lands, their country and forced onto reserves and missions which still exist today. In some cases, these forced removals were punishments for speaking out against conditions or treatment of Indigenous people. People were forced away from their families and country and sent to live with other kinship groups which may have been culturally inappropriate to live with. The most significant example of this was the Stolen Generation in which many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were removed and placed away from their families. This caused significant fracturing within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures as many aspects of culture were lost such as language, stories and relationships as well as the decimating impact of separation on children and families. The effects of these experiences are still felt today throughout the whole Australian community as discussed in the Apology speech of the then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2008.”
Ms Ford has used her position as an experienced Aboriginal social worker to harness global power and solidarity to advance justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia.
She said, “One of the opportunities I’ve had is becoming a member of the International Federation of Social Workers International Indigenous Committee which represents all Indigenous social workers across the globe. This enables the AASW to have an international voice in relation to the status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia. Further to this, it gives me the opportunity to contribute to media campaigns about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and encourage members to speak at the national and international level about key Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander challenges, social status and achievements.”
Social workers have an important role to play in addressing the continued injustice towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Ms Ford said, “Social work is the lead profession which is at the forefront of any social justice and equality discussion or debate and the AASW is the voice for Australian social workers. Social work also provides the opportunities for research and public discussion, opinion, debates and media commentary to highlight the plight of our vulnerable Australians including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
The United Nations declared that 2019 will be the International Year of Indigenous Languages.
Ms Ford said, “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have recognised the importance of language when it was proclaimed the NAIDOC theme in 2017. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians celebrated “Our Languages Matter” from the 2-9 July 2017 ‘which aimed to emphasise and celebrate the unique and essential role that Indigenous languages play in both cultural identity, linking people to their land and water, and in the transmission of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality and rites, through story and song…’
“Next year, it would be useful to revisit some of the learnings from this year and how we as a nation celebrated languages in 2017 and develop these further to celebrate with the UN in 2019.”
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