Brett Holmes of NSWNMA: Reflecting on reconciliation


Brett Holmes addressed the staff of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association today at a morning tea for Reconciliation, before a short video on the background to the Reconciliation struggle was screened. Watch the video below.

Here’s what Brett said: Thank you all for being here. I wish to acknowledge the Gadigal People of the Eora nation on whose land we meet today. I wish to pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging and to any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people here today. This land was never ceded. It always was and always will be Aboriginal land.

Today we are here to celebrate National Reconciliation Week and to talk more about how we at the Association can work to progress the cause of reconciliation through our own Reconciliation Action Plan.

Established in 2001, Reconciliation Australia is the independent, not-for-profit national expert body on reconciliation in Australia. Their goal is to build relationships, respect and trust between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.  Also to inspire and enable all Australians to contribute to reconciliation and breakdown stereotypes and discrimination.

Reconciliation Action Plans (RAPs) are one of the frameworks promoted by Reconciliation Australia to assist organisations like ours to realise our vision for reconciliation. RAPs are practical plans of action built on relationships, respect and opportunities. RAPs create social change and economic opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

While NSWNMA has a long history of supporting the cause of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, NSWNMA has decided to embark on a renewed journey toward greater reconciliation using the RAP framework provided by Reconciliation Australia. This will become a key feature of our strategic plan, particularly in promoting a world class, high quality health system. This goal will never be realised until the symbolic and practical measures are in place that close the gap in health outcomes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and the rest of the community.

We are doing this because we are a health professional organisation and we have a responsibility to understand and address the determinants of the very poor health outcomes we see in Indigenous Australians and we are also doing this because we are a trade union and we believe in social justice and we also have a responsibility to carry on the trade union movement’s mostly proud history of supporting this cause.

We will be joining a wide range of organisations from a broad range of areas, including the corporate, government and NGO sector, including sporting the AFL, Ausgrid, the ARL, Clayton Utz, Commonwealth Bank, a range of superannuation funds, other unions including our Federal AMNF Office, Harvey Norman, Microsoft and many others.

Essentially we have made a commitment to further the cause of reconciliation with a conscious focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment, retention, cultural awareness and procurement.

We have established a RAP working group who have begun documenting how we propose to foster progress toward reconciliation within our organisation.

So today we come together as an organisation to stop and think about National Reconciliation Week and in doing so we should acknowledge two important anniversaries of major milestones on the long march to reconciliation:

  • On the 27th May we marked the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum
  • And tomorrow we mark the 25th anniversary of the Mabo decision in the High Court.

There have been quite a few things in the media this week which you may have seen, mostly focusing on the anniversary of the referendum. When you have time I recommend you take 15 minutes to re-watch the Redfern Speech, Keating’s seminal speech in 1993 at the launch of the International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, as an example of the type of leadership we, a non-Indigenous organisation, can show in moving this process forward.

I’d like everyone to pause and reflect on the giants of civil rights movements from around the world. Inspirational names like Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Marcus Garvey, Aung San Suu Kyi, Lech Walesa, Emmeline Pankhurst and so many others who have fought for justice and inspired the people like us who choose to work for social justice.

Eddie Mabo belongs in that pantheon of greats. So does Faith Bandler. So do Vincent Lingiari, Lowitja O’Donoghue, Charles Perkins, Chicka Dixon and Marcia Langton. They and many others fought and continue to fight to undo the damage of colonisation.

So thank you all for making time to attend today and please join wholeheartedly in future initiatives as we progress toward greater reconciliation with the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

Previously on Nurse Uncut:


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