The St Vincent de Paul Society NSW will work with Aboriginal people to end disadvantage and provide culturally appropriate services, it was announced at the launch of the society’s new Reconciliation Action Plan at Freeman House, Armidale, on Friday afternoon.
“The Reconciliation Action Plan has come about through collaboration as a way to acknowledge the importance of the relationship that St Vincent de Paul has with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” case worker Oliver Olds said. “It has a lot to do with acceptance and acknowledgement; a huge part of it is also respect.”
Under the plan, the Catholic charity commits to creating a just and equitable society, and closing social and economic gaps between Indigenous people and the wider Australian population, particularly in life expectancy, child mortality, educational achievement, disability support, and employment.
It will build better partnerships with communities throughout New South Wales, employ more Indigenous staff, provide employment and procurement opportunities for Indigenous people and businesses, and ensure its services are culturally appropriate.
The Reconciliation Plan had already been launched in Tamworth and Lewisham over the past fortnight.
“We’re the third in the state,” said Adrian Webber, director of the drug and alcohol rehabilitation service at Freeman House. “It's really nice that two of them have been in Tamworth and Armidale out of the entire state, so we're leading the state in delivering these.”
Mr Webber emphasised that the Reconciliation Plan was a work in progress that would change to meet community needs.
“This is a living, working document that will really improve the way we practice,” he said. “Really, it's just the beginning for us, and every single one of us has a duty and a responsibility to carry forward everything in the RAP.”
Gumbaynggirr elder Hazel Vale gave the Welcome to Country, and explained why her people were so connected to the land.
"For a thousand generations,” she said, “my people have walked and lived on this land. They took care of it; land was such a big thing for us. Our connection is so strong, very strong, because their spirit lives on. Each generation is a continual cycle; we have so much history here. They have preserved their culture through their stories and song lines and artistic norms which have been passed on to us, and it's embedded in us."