Our Early Years Manager Leanne Rodriguez attended the Early Childhood Australia – Reconciliation Symposium in Darwin in May. Leanne shares her insights from a transformative conference.
"I was one of 24 lucky recipients across Australia to receive a travel scholarship to travel to the Early Childhood Australia Reconciliation Symposium which was held on saltwater land of the Larrikia people. I was obviously very grateful and excited when I discovered my application was successful. However, after attending the symposium I am beyond grateful for the insights and learning I gained that I will take away and that will shape my professional and personal journey.
It was my first time travelling to the Northern Territory. Larrikia Nation is naturally beautiful and I have never seen such amazing sunrises and sunsets.
The theme for this year’s Reconciliation Week is Be Brave, Make Change and this permeated the Symposium. Various keynote addresses and presenters challenged us collectively and as individuals to learn and unlearn all that we know. We heard about intergenerational trauma, Systemic racism, adversity, great initiatives in local communities, resilience, how to strengthen relationships beyond Reconciliation Action Plans. Presenters included Karen Westin (DET Northern Territory), Karen Mundine (CEO Reconciliation Australia), Catherine Liddle (CEO SNAICC), Nurrangawali, Be You local family services (PIN and Anglicare) and remote groups, as well as entertainment (dance and comedy). All were great and provided powerful insights, points for reflection and calls for action.
For me the standouts of the Symposium were the day one closing Key address and the cultural tour on day two. Day one closing keynote was Leanne Liddle (NT state recipient Australian of the Year). Leanne spoke to:
• truth telling
• only fearing what we don’t know
• change the way we think and change the way we act
• transformation starts with self-reflection
• courage and accountability = success
• give a voice to all and be a voice for those who have no voice
• refuse to accept status quo
• resilience is the capacity to adapt well in the face of adversity.
By the end of Leanne’s presentation every person in the room was moved to tears and on their feet applauding. It was a provocative and powerful call to action.
On Day two, we participated in a cultural tour, it was a wonderful opportunity to see the sites. Part of this tour included a saltwater ceremony. Uncle Richard Fejo took us to the National Park and invited us to join the ceremony. This is something specific to lands of the Larrikia people in addition to a smoking ceremony. Three years ago permission was granted by Elders to perform this ceremony for visitors.
During this ceremony my early years colleague Kavita Bali asked permission to perform a blessing in return. It was a beautiful, meaningful experience demonstrating cultural awareness and a celebration of different cultures coming together, the way we should all live. Whilst on the tour we also learnt about scared places and kinship families.