Editorial: Plan a positive first step

By Shepparton News

Reconciliation between white Australians and indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders populations is crucial for future prosperity across our region.

As one of the oldest continuing cultures in the world, it is important to ensure the sites that have cultural significance are preserved and help all who walk upon these lands understand not only the positive historical value, but also the hardships that many still face today through segregation and racism.

We are delighted to see one of the region’s largest employers and key stakeholders has taken the time to create the Greater Shepparton City Council Reconciliation Action Plan — Reflect July 2019-June 2020.

First discussed by councillors at the start of 2015, it is surprising to know it has only just come to fruition.

However, it does seem council worked hard to ensure the document was of a satisfactory standard for advocacy peak body Reconciliation Australia.

According to council’s reconciliation plan, most of the municipality was included in the Yorta Yorta Nation, with eight clans occupying Greater Shepparton and the surrounding areas, all of which spoke the Yorta Yorta language or a similar dialect.

The 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics Census data states about 16 per cent of people in Greater Shepparton identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people.

However, anecdotal evidence shows this is an under representation, with the actual population believed to be almost three times this at nearly 6000 strong.

This makes the region one of the largest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populated areas outside of metropolitan Melbourne and one of the most culturally diverse municipalities in regional Victoria.

This is something we need to preserve and something we should all proudly embrace in our community.

It seems the council sees their reconciliation plan as something that will change attitudes from within their organisation, which will ultimately begin to shape their outward efforts.

The plan will have more of an emphasis on developing strong relationships through employment opportunities as well as a stronger respect for local environment and cultural practices.

Education is also another aspect of the plan and one of the key ways in which we can realistically create equal opportunities.

Many of our local schools have already embraced the Kaiela Dhungala — First People’s Curriculum.

Now our council has embraced a reconciliation plan.

Let’s hope this is the start of many positive steps towards reconciliation and writing the wrongs of the past within our region.