When I was the President of the RMIT Law Students’ Society I organised a symposium about Aboriginal recognition in the Constitution. I invited Aunty Joan Vickery AO to speak. Aunty Joan is a passionate advocate for Aboriginal health and self-determination. Aunty Joan only said eleven words at the symposium, preferring instead to listen to the other speakers. We were lucky enough the Federal Member for Melbourne the Hon Adam Bandt and the co-chair of the National Congress of First People’s also spoke.

Although Aunty Joan is short in stature, her principles stand ten feet tall- and possibly still growing. She is the true personification of an advocate.  She was fundamental in helping set up the many Aboriginal community controlled health services around the country owned and operated by and for the Aboriginal community.

When asked by a participant why Aboriginal recognition in the Constitution was necessary for strengthening our understanding of Aboriginal culture Aunty Joan just said: “if you don’t do this, my people will never trust you.” With those finely chosen words Aunty Joan sucked the air out of the room.


While the debate of the importance and merit of Constitutional recognition (or maybe even a treaty) continues, the importance of having the freedom to practice and celebrate culture, your culture, is settled; more important for those who have suffered under colonialism around the world like Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.


Will reconciliation be achieved through constitutional recognition alone? Doubtful. Reconciliation starts person-by-person, step-by-step. Before graduating as a lawyer I graduated as an anthropologist, so excuse me while I wax lyrical about culture, but culture is fundamental to our very existence.  Below are some ways you can take the first step in this journey:


1-     The LIV is supporting the Culture Is Life Campaign, and so should you. The campaign is trying to raise the profile of Aboriginal youth suicide by strengthening the importance of Aboriginal culture in promoting healing and empowering communities and the Elders.  To find out more start by watching the culture is life video at: www.cultureislife.org

2-     Do not keep the Culture is Life campaign to yourself.  Share it on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, telepraph, semaphore, whatever.  Share it with your work colleagues, with your partners and clients.  Maybe ask if for a couple of weeks you can change your email signature to state your firm proudly supports the campaign as well as a link to its website.

3-     Come to our next Indigenous Reconciliation and Advancement Committee at the LIV. Lawyers have a special role in this conversation. The LIV’s support of the Culture is Life campaign began at this committee and quickly spread. Our voice becomes louder when there’s more of us speaking. Be heard and join the committee.

4-     Does your firm have a Reconciliation Action Plan? The plans give organisations a guide on taking practical steps to increasing reconciliation and cross cultural understanding at all areas of the firm, from recruitment to procurement.  If you don’t have one download an information kit from www.reconciliation.org.au and start the conversation about implementing one at your firm today.

5-     The horrific experience of colonisation of Australia’s first people is well documented (and unfortunately poorly understood by most). How much do you know? If the answer is not enough book yourself in to the Koori Heritage Trust on King Street on your lunch break. They have a brilliant exhibition of Victoria’s first people and a gift shop to defeat all gift shops!

6-     Over the weekend go to the recently reopened First People’s gallery at Melbourne Museum.  Entry is free for students and $6.00 for everyone else. Six bucks! For the price of a coffee on Collins St (I’ve paid north of 6 bucks before!) treat yourself to the First People’s gallery, appropriately enough it’s called Wominjeka, which means “welcome.”

The Culture of Life campaign is important for all of us this is why it needs our collective support. The campaign is trying to strengthen Aboriginal culture and in so doing and use it in promoting healing and empowering communities and Elders and in turn hopefully reduce youth suicide.

Please don’t just read the post and keep it to yourself, share it, share it widely, share it often and more importantly share this campaign as much as you can.  Then share it again. No one person reading this can be complicit by act or omission from not doing their part in promoting healing. Begin by visiting the campaign page www.cultureislife.org

This post appeared in the Law Institute of Victoria’s Young Lawyers’ Section blog on 29 November 2013. To read the original article go to: http://www.liv.asn.au/YoungLawyersBlog/November-2013/Culture-faith-and-trust-6-ways-we-all-can-make-a-d