Closing the Gap - Understanding signficant Aborginal Days

Do you know what NAIDOC stands for?

On 26 January 1938, while many Australians celebrated the 150th anniversary of the landing of the First Fleet, a group of over 1000 Aboriginal people gathered at Australia Hall in Sydney to call for full citizenship status’ and laws to improve the lives of First Nations people. As one of the first major civil rights gatherings in the world, this day became known as the Day of Mourning. Since then, National NAIDOC Week has grown to become both a commemoration of the first Day of Mourning as well as a celebration of the history, culture and excellence of First Nations people. National NAIDOC Week is observed annually from the first Sunday in July until the following Sunday.

Closing the Gap - What can boards do to support National NAIDOC week?

In this video Claire Beattie, member of WOB’s Cultural Diversity Committee shares her truth, and explains the significant days and what you can do during NAIDOC week to close the gap.


To those supporting NAIDOC week, use your voice to be the change of generations, because your voice is powerful and your voice matters.

You know me to be very proud. Yorta Yorta, woman. My name is Claire and my totem is a long neck turtle, which means I stick my neck out for more than I've got a bloody hardshell if anyone wants to have a crack. Not that they usually do.

I'm meeting today from the lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. Eora, meaning this place. And I pay my respects to elders, past and present.

And no matter where you're joining me from today you're meeting on the lands of various First Nations people because it always has been and always will be Aboriginal and because it was never ceded.

I've been invited to speak to you about some really significant days that have happened this
year and are coming up very shortly.

It's with great hope and the spirit of healing that I acknowledge a significant of time of healing upon us.

As fellow Australians, we as a nation, each year commemorate National Sorry Day followed by celebrating National Reconciliation Week. And then we pause to acknowledge Mabo Day.

National Sorry Day
Commemorates the 1997 Bringing Them Home report, making the very first public recognition of the stolen generations, the trauma that was caused, and the forced removal of Aboriginal children. And that's why we have national Sorry Day. It is recognition that there is trauma and it still lives in our DNA. That was caused by the forced removal under things like the Aborigines Protection Act.

That meant that children were no longer with their families. Families were split apart, families were separated, family ties were lost, trauma was caused, and languages were lost at the same time.

Events held across the whole country of Australia are involved in National Reconciliation week, where we celebrate the progressive evolution of respectful relationships between wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Reconciliation Action Plans
A lot of companies also have Reconciliation Action Plans.  I'd also like you to pause and think about the RAPs.

RAPs have different stages and can be a great way to educate staff on First Nations’ cultures and also on the healing and truth telling.

It's also an opportunity for procurement to occur to ensure that there is economic prosperity. A time for you to pause and reflect. And one of the most important and strong things that a RAP can do is actually around your procurement function. So at the very minimal, how is your catering and your stationery procured?  Through First Nations businesses, who are known as the largest employer of First Nations people.

How can that be done?

It's a no brainer and it's easy and it's through Supply Nation.

Secondly, there are First Nations lawyers and First Nations psychologists and First Nations people who are consultants and First Nations architects. How can you procure First Nations businesses to ensure economic prosperity and to help to change the negative discourse around First Nations, where, unfortunately, some people are surprised that myself, as a First Nations person, are an executive director with multiple degrees in things like psychology, law, education and a background
in traffic engineering.

Mabo Day

Mabo Day also occurred recently on the 3 June which celebrated the 1992 High Court decision that dispelled the myth that Australia was terra nullius, which means a land belonging to no one.

And we know that's not true prior to European settlement and leading to the introduction of the Native Title legislation. Eddie Mabo and his courage and persistence remains an inspiration to us all. He stood up and said that it wasn't true and that we needed to actually have some healing and some truth telling around that and fought that in the High courts.

This year's theme of National Reconciliation Week was Be a Voice for Generations.  This provides a chance for all Australians to use their voice. Myani says, speak your truth even if your voice shakes. And that's what I'm doing here today with you. I'm speaking my truth, even if my voice is shaking.

To say that there are stories that we need to acknowledge and steps we need to take in the true spirit of healing to acknowledge that the past you didn't do it.

I understand you didn't personally do this. However, as your friend, you can sit with me and say that that was horrible. The massacres of the past, the removal of children, the loss of language, the loss of country, the trauma that has been done in the past to my people and sit with it for a moment and use your voice to be our allies.

When you hear people speak about my people, I really don't want to be called vulnerable. I'm a long neck turtle. I'm not vulnerable, I am not disadvantaged. My people are aspirational and resilient.

I invite you to be a good friend and a good ally to think about the power that you have in your day-to-day discussions, your language, because language is power to speak about us.

To convey messages about us, not coming from the disadvantaged, broken, vulnerable discourse, but coming from an aspirational positive perspective, I would appreciate.  We have an unwavering journey that we must go together and hold hands, unwavering in our truth telling, unwavering in our friendship, unwavering in our ability to walk together.

I can't sprint ahead and talk about the things that I know and you don't. And you can't sprint ahead and leave my people behind and not talk about us as if we're your friends.

I ask you to lift with us. I ask you to educate your friends so that we don't have to do the heavy lifting all the time. I'm a black person, but I don't just do black things. You might be a white person. You don't just do white things, funnily enough, but we know things different to each other.

And that's about sharing, and that's about being able to be honest. And that's about you being able to hear this message just for once or Google it yourself to share with your friends over the next coming months and the next coming weeks.

I am really, really proud of the fact that my people, statistically speaking, are five times more likely to go to university than jail. And I'm sure that you don't know that. I'm sure that the media and places that make money out of telling the negative discourse would tell you other stories about us.

I would like you to sit on this statistic. We are five times more likely to go to university than jail. And that's an amazing outcome. Closing the gap. We've got a long way to go.

I'll leave you with one last piece of history that might allow you to understand a little bit more about closing the gap and how we are where we are today.

An example of the state of New South Wales. The Clean Clad and Courtesy Policy of 1972 meant that First Nations people were not to be educated in the state of New South Wales because we weren't considered clean clad or courteous enough to be educated, which meant we were removed if we turned up.

It meant that we weren't to be educated. It meant that if parents snuck their kids in, they would take them home halfway through and redress them to make sure that they wouldn't be seen as not clean enough to be at school.

And you wonder why there is a gap between our educational outcomes at times and non First Nations people. Because the state started a race and did not allow us to run and wonders why we were left behind.

This was a policy that is within my sister's lifetime, not mine, but still has impact now, because you imagine parents not feeling safe in the asset that is a school not feeling like they can help their kids with their homework. And it flows on.

So, to my First Nations cousins, I'm proud of you. You might be the first person in your family to go to Uni or the first person in your family to speak lingo as well as speak English. You might be still living on country or not living on country because you're working off country. I'm proud of us.

I'm proud of the resilience that it always has been and always will be aboriginal land, and we always will be here. And I'm also proud of that our kids are five times more likely now to go to university than jail.

I'm proud of where we've come from. I acknowledge that there is trauma in our DNA. I acknowledge that there's more to do in terms of policies and positions and walking together and changing the negative discourse in the way that people might choose to speak about us, particularly in the media.

But I'm proud of you. And to my allies out there, I'm proud of you for walking with us, for hearing me, for slowing down, to speed up, for understanding that we all need healing, that we all need to partner, that a true ally is a true friend.

And for thinking about the language that you choose to use when speaking about First Nations.

And to those celebrating NAIDOC week, use your voice to be the change of generations, because your voice is powerful and your voice matters. And in every conversation you can change that negative discourse.
Thank you.

Claire Beattie is Executive Director Asset Activations School Infrastructure NSW, Department of Education NSW & Board member of PCYC NSW and WAGEC and member of WOB’s Cultural Diversity Committee

Meet the Cultural Diversity Committee