The 2023 Reconciliation Week theme Be A Voice for Generations, encourages all of us to tackle the unfinished business of reconciliation.
We believe it takes all of us to create meaningful change, and that genuine collaboration is built on equality and respect. For this reason, MacKillop Family Services supports a constitutionally enshrined Voice to parliament. We believe having a Voice shaping national policy is integral to reconciliation and self-determination, and that it is a mechanism for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to exercise their human right to have a meaningful say on decisions that affect them. You can read our full position statement on the First Nations Voice to Parliament here.
At MacKillop, we acknowledge and respect the cultural significance. Protocols, customs and diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities that we work in, and we are committed to engaging in opportunities to work in partnership, share knowledge, and action reconciliation initiatives that support healing and prevention. Our work with all children, families, and communities is improved by our connection with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures, and history.
We are proud to be in partnership with Aboriginal youth-led organisation Strong Brother, Strong Sister in the Barwon region of Victoria. Together we support over 30 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in our out of home care Barwon program and our MacKillop Education school to access Strong Brother Strong Sister’s youth group activities, school holiday programs, personally tailored mentoring, and cultural support. The program connects young people to community and culture, and strengthens their pride and identity. This work creates a strong sense of belonging, which we know creates strong foundations and roots for our children and youth to live healthy, prosperous lifestyles.
The partnership is generously funded over the next three years by the Anthony Costa Foundation and is the first of its kind in the space of out of home care. It offers all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in our out of home care Barwon program cultural connections, support and investment through Aboriginal mentors and sector professionals.
The program is delivered through the lens of trauma and acknowledges the unique experience of intergenerational trauma caused by the stolen generation, and the many young people we work with who inherited it.
One young man in foster care is benefiting from two Strong Brother Strong Sister mentors and is thriving with their support. Encouraged to pursue his passion for surfing, the young man recently won a surfing competition for his age and division. The team and his mentors are incredibly proud of him, and he is proud in himself.
The partnership has strengthened the knowledge and cultural planning processes of our Barwon Foster Care and Residential Care teams, who have embraced the learning. Supported by Strong Brother, Strong Sister, they are continuing their efforts to strengthen the connection to culture for every Aboriginal child in care.
“Culture to Aboriginal young people is integral to their wellbeing, it provides connection, strength, identity, healing, and learning.”