Temiah Henaway was only eight years old when the first National Reconciliation Week began 20 years ago. And now she is joining the fight for change.
Temiah Henaway was only eight years old when the first National Reconciliation Week began 20 years ago. And now she is joining the fight for change.

Temiah Henaway travels the road to national reconciliation

Temiah Henaway was only eight years old when the first National Reconciliation Week began 20 years ago - but its significance goes far beyond just an annual event on the calendar.

"It's what I'm working for and fighting for every day," the Birrigubba woman said.

"I'm only 28 years old, so for starters it's put me in a better position to go out and help people, and I have more opportunities to create change."

National Reconciliation Week began in the year 2000, when people came together to walk on bridges and roads across the nation and show their support for a more reconciled Australia.

The dates of 27 May to 3 June also commemorate two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey - the successful 1967 referendum, and the High Court Mabo decision respectively.

Ms Henaway is the Queensland engagement officer for the National Indigenous Support Program run by GIVIT, the online not-for-profit assisting those in need across the state and the nation.

When Reconciliation Australia announced last year that this year's theme would be #InThisTogether, the organisers could not have imagined the meaning those three words would take on.

Bogabann senior corroboree officer Tyson Kelly celebrates National Reconciliation Week in 2019 – when events were not subject to this year’s COVID-19 restrictions. Picture: Nigel Hallett.
Bogabann senior corroboree officer Tyson Kelly celebrates National Reconciliation Week in 2019 – when events were not subject to this year’s COVID-19 restrictions. Picture: Nigel Hallett.

Despite the physical distance this year, Ms Henaway said it's important to focus on acknowledging Australia's history, and finding a way to strengthen the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous people.

"It's about Australians coming together, learning from each other, and working towards a respectful, equal and just country, where racism and discrimination doesn't exist," she said.

"On a personal level, it means working towards a future where my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have the same life expectancy rates as non-indigenous children.

"There's been positive changes over the last two decades … there's also a lot more support and services available for indigenous people. I think there's a better understanding of the need for identified positions for services working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, and also the indigenous culture is being celebrated in mainstream services like daycare and early learning centres, they've actually started to incorporate our culture into the curriculum."

But Ms Henaway said there's more educating to be done, with no clear way forward if people don't understand.

"So being taught the history of Australia - both good and bad.," she said. "I think the healing process for indigenous Australians is greatly underestimated.

"Also, a lot of people don't understand a lot of things are still happening today, for example, (the) Adani (coal mine in central Queensland) - people are still being removed from their land, so that just continues to add to the suffering of indigenous people.

"I think there are simpler things that can be done as well, I think it's good practice for workplaces to do an acknowledgment before their meetings and presentations, with or without indigenous people in the room, and for them to look into having reconciliation action plans to support reconciliation in the workplaces and in the community."

National Reconciliation Week 2020 – #inthistogether.
National Reconciliation Week 2020 – #inthistogether.

While communities are unable to gather physically to mark National Reconciliation Week, Ms Henaway and her GIVIT colleagues participated in the National Acknowledgment of Country on May 27, with Reconciliation Australia asking everyone to take to social media and tag the traditional owners of the land they are on, as well as their own mob.

"In my role … we're working for it every day with charities and services who support indigenous people," Ms Henaway said.

"I'm hoping that all my social media news feeds will be filled with people across the country doing their acknowledgment."

You can follow events on the Reconciliation Australia Facebook page.

 

Originally published as Indigenous healing underestimated


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