Updated: Dec 9, 2022
Words from guest author Victoria Mathison
In November I had the pleasure of attending the Working in Two Worlds Forum, a beautiful and impactful event organised and co-facilitated by Terori Hareko-Avaivilla from Avaivilla Group, held at the Koorie Heritage Trust Centre in Federation Square. The forum was described as an event where both First Nations and Non-First Nations allies could come together in conversation to challenge and inspire change in mindsets, behaviour and systems. The event delivered on this promise and much, much more.
Over the course of the day we heard from many inspirational speakers in the activism, advocacy and reconciliation space. This included, artist, performer and cultural consultant Gail Mabo; CEO of Reconciliation Victoria, Nicole Findlay; founder and director of Jinkigi Consultancy, Jacqui Watkins; and ARC anti-racism facilitator, Jane Lewis, just to name a few. Each speaker took the time to respond through the imparting of their own experience and knowledge, how we can challenge current systems to better facilitate the complexities and nuances of working in two worlds for First Nations workers in mainstream services and organisations.
At times during the session, discussion found itself in deeply emotional territory and brought colour to the picture that was being created about the deep and divisive roots in our society and in workplaces that perpetuate alienation, discrimination and prevent healing. We explored what it takes to establish a meaningful and sustainable Reconciliation Action Plan in your workplace, especially without turning to the existing First Nations employee with this as their sole responsibility.
Another area of discussion that we kept circling back to and has stuck with me since was the idea of being comfortable with being uncomfortable; and, recognising that every day on unceded Australian soil will be uncomfortable for First Nations people navigating a life here in an ongoing postcolonial context. That it is our responsibility as Non-First Nations allies to persevere despite discomfort for the possibility of a better future, and one that requires our enduring commitment and support.
In the afternoon, as the session came to a close, the panel of speakers came back to Yarning, allowing for questions from the room. This gave us the opportunity to reflect and unpack anything that was left unsaid. It was during this discussion that the impact of the forum was apparent and that we all understood when we left that room that we carried with us a deep feeling of gratitude and a clarified responsibility.
At this stage, the Working in Two Worlds Forum will be returning late next year; but until then, Avaivilla Group will be holding the upcoming Ngarra-djarra Gurri Bunmarra Wellness Gathering in Torquay in March, as well as offering its services in Cultural Leadership workshops and Working in Two Worlds training for organisations.
These are important learning experiences and First Nations knowledge building opportunities for everyone, and in the future if you’re considering joining this journey along the way, consider tapping someone on the shoulder and extending the invitation to those around you.
You can find out more about Terori's work with Avaivilla Group here.
Images courtesy of Avaivilla Group and Helen Rodd