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Comment: My Connection to National Reconciliation Week

Teegan and Tie

Mahatia Minniecon reflects on her connection to community, identity and family during National Reconciliation Week. 

National Reconciliation Week represents an important moment to me as an Indigenous serving member of Defence, but also as a lesbian, a mother and a nurse.

I have witnessed first-hand the impact that colonisation has had on my elders and the burden that past policies have had on my family and community. The repercussions of these events have resulted in racism, deaths in custody, transgenerational trauma, health disparities between non-indigenous and indigenous people and a seemingly never-ending search for identity, connection and culture among the indigenous community.

The theme of National Reconcilation Week 2019: “Grounded In Truth: Walk Together with Courage,” signifies how far we have come, acknowledges previous failures and celebrates future endeavours.

On a personal level, it is important for me to have a strong cultural connection, however, it is similarly important for me to embrace service culture. Both have identity and connection at the forefront in our shared values, and both have significant importance in shaping our future towards reconciliation action plans. I am extremely thankful for the Indigenous service men and women who have paved the way before me and have allowed me to serve with rights that they themselves may not have had.

Being gay has not always been something that was accepted within my community. It was something that was not discussed, and as a result many young indigenous people were resorting to drugs and suicide as a coping mechanism for their shame and guilt. Colonisation and the Christianity that came with it, has in many ways, shaped indigenous culture by hiding the voices of indigenous LGBTQI people and down played the importance of their relationships in traditional culture. Because of this past history within my culture, it is very important for me to be open about who I am, which will in turn illustrate to my peers that it is okay to be whoever you want to be and that it is okay to have the courage to walk in your own truth, no matter what that may be.

As a mother, it will be important to continue to share my cultural history and pass on stories of the Dreamtime and language. As years pass, certain aspects of our culture start to fade, so it is important to keep these alive by sharing them with my daughter. By celebrating reconciliation week, I hope she learns to be grounded in her own truth, to be able to have challenging conversations and ultimately be able to walk with courage.

As a nurse, I hope to give back to my community. Reconciliation as a nurse means to close the gaps in health disparities and to assist with this in anyway I can. By becoming educated, I inadvertently impact change within my community and also inspire other young Indigenous people to achieve their goals.

National Reconciliation Week acknowledges the anniversary of the 1967 referendum, which amended the Commonwealth Constitution allowing Indigenous people the right to vote. Furthermore, it acknowledges Mabo Day; when the high court ruled native title which signified the first time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s unique connection to land was acknowledged. The date represents an important day of healing and reconciling inequality throughout our country.

Mahatia Minniecon is an Air Force Nursing Officer
28 May 2019

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