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Because of Her, We Can! AASW supports NAIDOC Week 2018

Published: 4 July 2018

Today marks the beginning of NAIDOC Week 2018, which celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures in Australia.

This year’s theme is “Because of Her, We Can”. AASW Director and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representative Linda Ford said Aboriginal women bring valuable knowledge and experience to social work practice, especially when working with Indigenous clients and communities.

Ms Ford said, “Aboriginal women have played a significant role in protecting our culture and passing it on to our children and this is what we are celebrating this NAIDOC. Being Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander is challenging; being an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander woman means that you are one of the strongest peoples in the world because of what you have had to overcome to achieve anything worthwhile, as this group is one of the most discriminated against.

“I embrace that I have more skills and knowledge to impart when working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities because I am Aboriginal and a woman. I often see the challenges in practice that others do not see because I am Aboriginal and I can add a cultural lens to all the projects and practice I am engaged in.”

Ms Ford said there are ways for non-Indigenous Australians to positively interact with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

She said, “Something so simple as wearing a shirt with an Aboriginal print is a sign of acceptance which encourages Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to engage with you. The little things are what have the biggest impact and I often promote this in my practice. Treating people with respect, taking the time to talk and get to know someone. My favourite time is yarning with someone (even though I have to consciously give myself time to do this in my busy schedule), being helpful by taking the time to explain things rather than giving pamphlets. Showing a genuine interest in other people and their story are all positive things we can all do to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

Ms Ford chairs the AASW’s committee to advance the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), which aims to embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge into every aspect of the Association and to promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social work practice.

“The RAP allows people space to remember and think about how we engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and people and to fold this into our everyday lives both personally and professionally. Further to this, it also gives us focus on what are the areas which will have the most impact and how we can include all Australians as one people.

“I have always participated in some type of empowerment movement and RAP is a good fit as it empowers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people whilst bringing all Australians along on the journey which also describes cultural practice perfectly.

Ms Ford said social workers have an important role to play in addressing the continuing inequality and structural discrimination faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples.

She said, “Social work is pivotal in changing the landscape of how we engage and more importantly empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Social work and the AASW have the opportunity to be a vehicle to effect thinking on a national and global level in how we create space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be the drivers of change and equality.

“More than that, is the ability for social work to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to choose what is best for them rather than believing the only options are the ones presented to them. The most powerful change only occurs when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the decision makers. The outcome is always going to be successful – even if it fails.

“NAIDOC is about celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and our nation’s heritage. That we can all participate and that it is seen in a positive light is extraordinary given our history.”

Ms Ford explained just how far Aboriginal women have come with her own family experience, “My grandmother Thelma Bird applied twice for an exemption from the Aboriginal Protection Act so that she could have rights to make decisions about her life. Now less than sixty years later I, her granddaughter, can live where I want, have a tertiary education, own my own home, travel overseas, have married someone of my choosing, because the world has changed so significantly. My granddaughter is two. I wonder what her world will look like in another sixty years?”

To hear Linda Ford in conversation, please watch our AASW interview .

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers