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‘What is Australian culture?’


Morgan Liotta


7/07/2021 2:35:28 PM

RACGP staff members were invited to ponder this question as they marked 2021 NAIDOC Week.

Aboriginal art
The theme of 2021 NAIDOC Week is ‘Health Country’. (National NAIDOC Committee)

In support of this year’s NAIDOC Week theme, RACGP staff were invited to attend a lunchtime webinar to learn more about what connection to country means to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and how their relationship to plants, animals and other natural materials can be used to ‘Heal Country, Heal Our Nation’.
 
Wurundjeri Land Council Elder, Uncle Bill Nicolson, opened the webinar with an Acknowledgement of Country, introducing himself as an ‘Elder of the Traditional Owners of the majority of the Melbourne area’.
 
‘I feel respect to be invited today. My role is to build connection to the land and culture … we really need to build relationships,’ Uncle Bill said.
 
RACGP CEO Dr Matthew Miles said in his presentation the theme of this year’s NAIDOC Week is a call to action and commitment to continue to seek protection for land, water, sacred sites and cultural heritage.
 
‘This is an important week for all of us, it’s really important for us as a nation,’ he said.
 
‘While many non-Indigenous Australians think of our country as a place or location, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people see it as inherent to identity.’
 
Dr Miles acknowledged the RACGP’s commitment to empowering and celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations and heritage, and the college’s work as a leader in change.
 
‘I’m really proud of the work we’ve done through our RAP [reconciliation action plan], through the work that we do to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners and patients, to work towards a healthcare system free of racism,’ he said.
 
‘And each and every one of us has a critical role to play in realising that challenge. Our organisation is striving for significant and lasting change. But there’s a lot more we need to do.
 
‘Please use this time to reflect on the meaning of country for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.’
 
In his main presentation, Uncle Bill Nicolson spoke about the connection to country felt by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and how their relationship with plants, animals, and other natural materials can be used to ‘heal country, heal our nation’.
 
Aligning with the theme of ‘Heal Country’, he spoke about the value of our country and importance of caring for it, asking everyone to consider responsibility to both country and each other.
 
‘Thank you for letting me share the conversation today to help connect to some of the most magnificent cultures,’ Uncle Bill said.
 
‘If you’re not Aboriginal [and/or Torres Strait Islander], my suggestion for connecting cultures is to get excited … because it’s very embracing if you uphold respect. And that is the real key to Aboriginal culture.’
 
Uncle Bill spoke about many ways people can connect to culture and country, as part of the healing process, in which we all have an important place.
 
To help understand this process, he posed some simple questions.
 
‘What is Australian culture? Where does its heart lie? What is its strategy for the future? Does it care about its Indigenous people? Does it care about its sacred animals and plants? Those are my questions to this country,’ he said.
 
‘I need to know, because for reconciliation both groups need to be honest on where they stand with their values, their history.
 
‘The best way to describe cultural values in the environment is the same as a house and a home. A house is a building, a physical object that someone has built. A home is what you have created, because you’re that human energy and human spirit … whatever suits your own understanding.’
 
Uncle Bill believes the health of country relates to the health of people, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians.
 
‘Reconciliation to me is when non-Indigenous people are as proud about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture as we are,’ he said.
 
Dr Miles encouraged RACGP staff to celebrate 65,000 years of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ culture.
 
‘If you’re able to safely get out to the community, I greatly encourage you to participate and join in NAIDOC week at any events within your community,’ he said.
 
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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander NAIDOC Week


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