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LIV President's Blog 2012

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Culture, faith and trust: 6 ways we all can make a difference

Culture, faith and trust: 6 ways we all can make a difference

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. She only said eleven words at the symposium, preferring instead to listen to the other speakers. 

Although Aunty Joan is short in stature, her principles stand ten feet tall- and are possibly still growing. 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. 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 and in turn hopefully reducing youth suicide. To find out more start by watching the Culture is Life video
  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, your partners and clients.  Maybe ask you firm if for a couple of weeks each employee’s signature can state that the firm proudly supports the campaign with a link to its website.
  3. Join the LIV’s Indigenous Reconciliation and Advancement Committee. Lawyers have a special role in this conversation and the LIV’s support of this campaign began at this committee and quickly spread. 
  4. Does your firm have a Reconciliation Action Plan? If the answer is no then I encourage you to download an information kit 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 for your lunch break. They have a brilliant exhibition about Victoria’s first people!  
  6. Over the weekend go to the recently reopened First People’s Gallery at the Melbourne Museum, appropriately called ‘Wominjeka’ which means welvome.  Entry is free for students and $6.00 for everyone else. For the price of a coffee on Collins St (I’ve paid north of 6 bucks before!) it’s certainly worth a look!
The Culture of Life campaign is important for all of us; this is why it needs our collective support. 
Please don’t just read this blog and keep it to yourself, share it, share it widely and often so that the profile of the Culture is Life Campaign is increased. 
What other ways do you think we can promote reconciliation, or have we done enough? Do lawyers have a part to play?
The LIV is based in the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri People and respectfully acknowledges the Aboriginal Peoples of Victoria as the original custodians of the land.
About the author: David Meja-Canales is a recently admitted lawyer and blogs about law, life and other things at
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