Huon Valley News

The Journey of Reconciliation

“Reconciliation is about coming together, and then starting to work together, doing things together. We want to share history. We want to share culture, we want to do these things together, so I think that’s the journey that we need to talk about, where we get up to, where we’re going to go.

“We’ll talk about the truth of history. We’ll talk about where we go with the truth of history. I think truth and reconciliation both work together. We’ve not only got to take the journey of understanding one another but then we’ve got to start talking about the truth of what happened.”

We had the privilege recently of speaking with Local Elder Rodney Dillon about what reconciliation means to him. The Huon Valley Council’s Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan was recently endorsed by Reconciliation Australia and while Rodney believes this is a good step, he reckons a Reconciliation Action Plan isn’t the vehicle to fix everything.

“Some people think that reconciliation’s going to do this and going to achieve that, but reconciliation mightn’t be able to do that. This is not the vehicle to fix everything that we’ve got. This is just a vehicle to help address that relationship of coming together and working together and I think that’s the role a Reconciliation Action Plan will play with this council.

“… Reconciliation is not just about Aboriginal people standing up, reconciliation is about white people standing up and admitting the wrongs of the past, what’s happened, so we can go down that road together. So, there’s a little bit in this for everyone to work together with.

“There wasn’t a settlement. There was an invasion… and this is a journey to get to there and when we can get to those words that there was an invasion and there wasn’t a settlement, I think they’re the steps that councils will play a role in.”

Rodney grew up in Nicholls Rivulet. His ancestry comes from the North East Tasmania and his family has been in the Huon Valley for about seven generations.

“This is a time when two groups of people who have been a long way apart are starting to come gradually together, to understand one another and to start working towards a common goal together,” Rodney said.

“There’re two and a half thousand generations of my ancestors in this land here, and we as a community have a responsibility to them. I have a responsibility, but so does the local council, they have a responsibility to make sure that we protect what they had and make sure that we don’t damage it and going ahead in the future that we have that feeling of ownership, that we feel pride in these two and half thousand generations that’s in this land here and understanding the sustainability of people.

“When we start talking about a race of people that’s lived on this land for fifty thousand years, I wonder what fifty thousand years of white people living on this land would look like?

“So, I think that when we start talking about reconciliation, we talk about sustainability and not leaving too big a footprint on this land and damaging this land or the rivers… I think it’s not just having a relationship with the people but you’re going to have to start having a relationship with the land and the waters.”

One of the steps the Huon Valley Council has taken to making a meaningful impact in Australia’s reconciliation journey is developing a Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan.

The Council began this journey in November 2019 with a significant engagement process, hearing the aspirations of the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, the wider Huon Valley community, and our staff.

Meeting with and listening to the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community has been critical to creating something meaningful. The ideas and feedback received through this process directly shaped the actions set out in the plan.

Reconciliation Action Plans include practical actions that drive an organisation’s participation in reconciliation both internally and within the community.

Included in the Huon Valley Council’s RAP are meaningful actions that build respect, relationships and opportunities. Some of the key action ideas in the RAP include:

  • Connect the community through local Aboriginal cultural experiences.
  • Support Aboriginal cultural awareness and competency training.
  • Show respect through actions such as Acknowledgements of Country and flying the Aboriginal flag.
  • Consult with Aboriginal staff and community members about projects that impact on them.
  • Create a dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander liaison role within Council.
  • Consider dual naming using local language.
  • Share local Aboriginal histories and cultures to all in an inclusive and accessible way (interpretation signage, displays, films, exhibitions).

Mayor Bec Enders said Council’s vision for reconciliation is that all who live on this land, acknowledge our shared history and move forward together, in a respectful way.

“We understand that the journey to reconciliation is ongoing, and the Reflect RAP provides us with an opportunity to learn and build our capacity for reconciliation that will prepare us for the journey ahead.”

For further information about Council’s commitment to reconciliation and to access the plan.

Watch Rodney’s film on YouTube.

Portraits: Andrew Wilson Photography