The following is an extract of the Acknowledgement to Country and inspiring words delivered at the Launch of our inaugural Reflect RAP on 7 June 2019 by Mr Michael Reynolds – Chair, APA Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Committee, APA Sports and Exercise Physiotherapist and member of the Council’s RAP Working Group.
Yiradhu marang! Hello! in the words of the Wiradjuri tongue I continue to reconnect with.
I acknowledge the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nations, traditional custodians of the land on which we meet today. I acknowledge their elders, past, present and emerging. I extend that respect to any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people here today.
What a different world we live in today? I feel deeply humbled and privileged to be part of the changes that our profession is undertaking, and how these changes are influencing others across the health care sector.
My mother grew up in the stolen generation. A period where our First Peoples had not yet had the right to vote or be counted among the citizens of Australia. She is part of a generation, living with us today, that still bears the scars of our people, who’s spirit survives so that her children, and her grandchildren, may have a better life.
I grew up in the 80s. A time when Australia, proud of it’s bicentenary in 1988 which was celebrated and embraced across the nation, but at the same time was seemingly unaware of the elephant in the room – the continued lack of recognition that we have created a big problem here. A festering wound on our nation, which to this day has still not healed for our First Peoples. A deep-seated pain for Australia, felt by some more than others, the resolution of which is hampered by the poorly understood histories, misplaced beliefs and a fear of change.
As physiotherapists, we are expertly equipped to tackle these kinds of challenges everyday with our patients. However, the challenges of reconciliation that the Australian Physiotherapy Council have committed to here today, drive to the heart of what it is to be an Australian Physiotherapist, to treat ALL Australian patients with the care and respect we expect of ourselves.
So, to borrow from the APC’s RAP and David Dunn’s fabulous artwork, let it begin with us. I see the changes in our organisations already. I see the APA tackling reconciliation with a genuine gusto. After launching their inaugural reflect RAP in 2012, and subsequent innovate RAP, they have put significant effort and resources into making sure physiotherapy is an active part of the solution. We are working hard to educate our workforce; we sit on the CTG Steering committee which is supporting the indigenous peak bodies to work with government to produce meaningful policies and initiatives with Indigenous voices from the start. The way it should have always been. The APA’s aims are the same as the APC’s, to see ALL Australians receive the healthcare they need, including the ability to access the core services of physiotherapy. Healthcare that isn’t delivered with a side of racism and involves a genuine understanding of cultural differences, and similarities.
I see it in our universities. An injection of innovative thinking has entered our Physiotherapy schools around the country with cultural awareness, safety and reconciliation now permanently on their agendas. They are working towards building the culturally safe workforce we need now and into the future. Several large universities now have cultural awareness embedded from early in the curriculum, not the 2-hour lecture I had years ago as an undergraduate. Australian Catholic University with campuses in Brisbane, Sydney and Ballarat and where I also work, has developed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specific resources for use across all 4 years. ACU Sydney students for the first time now have an optional indigenous placement and they are sending two to a Northern Territory placement later this year. The university has also joined others in launching its first RAP this year, hopefully a sign of better things to come.
Let it begin with us. Let conversations begin with us. Let new initiatives begin with us, let a greater understanding of who we are as Australians, working to improve the well-being of all Australians, begin with us. This RAP is a beginning but we cannot finish or expect continue on our journey without continuing to listen and learn from Aboriginal voices. Nor can we progress without those people we hope to reconcile with, those First Peoples who we need to ensure have equitable access to culturally safe healthcare. Healthcare that is deemed culturally safe not just by a course, or a certificate, but by those who receive it.
Reconciliation, our First Peoples, and Australia, need many things to move forward but it begins with Yindyamarra, it begins with respect. It needs Yalbalinya, it needs learning, from all of us. The National Reconciliation Week theme this year was “Grounded in truth”, seek out those truths, learn from them and teach others. It needs mudyi, or friends. This is a journey we share together, without a defined end point, but with many places we collectively strive to get to along the way.
So, congratulations to the Australian Physiotherapy Council – Anton, Shane, the RAP Working Group, and Tammi, for the energy you have devoted to developing this plan and for your commitment to the future. We all look forward to walking with you on your journey and build on our collective strengths, shared thirst for greater knowledge and sharing it with future generations. Just as custodians of our profession should do.
Mandaang guwu. Thank you.