Whenever she talks about reconciliation, the most common question Indigenous Australian “Aunty” Munya Andrews is asked is, “How can I help?”
“Most Australians care about our Indigenous peoples in this country,” said Ms Andrews, who hails from the Kimberley, in WA. “And most want to help.”
To that end, Ms Andrews says that one of the simplest and most powerful acts you can do is to become an ally – to learn about and acknowledge Aboriginal history and culture.
National Reconciliation Week starts this Thursday, May 27, and Ms Munya and her business partner Carla Rogers are spreading the word that reconciliation shouldn’t just be a concept, but a call to action.
“We say that there are seven basic modules that you need to know about in order for practical reconciliation to be effective,” – Indigenous Australian “Aunty” Munya Andrews
Ms Andrews and Ms Rogers are the co-founders of the Indigenous Australian business Evolve Communities. The NSW-based cultural training organisation aims to build “culturally competent” and aware workforces through its programs.
Ms Rogers, a program designer and facilitator, founded Evolve in 2005 after working in senior management positions in state and local government. In 2011, she teamed up with Ms Andrews, who grew up socially disadvantaged and now has degrees in anthropology and law.
Their goal was to close the gap between black and white Australia.
“We run an Indigenous cultural awareness program,” Ms Andrews said, who with Ms Rogers wrote the 2020 book Practical Reconciliation.
“We say that there are seven basic modules that you need to know about in order for practical reconciliation to be effective.”
Acknowledging the past
The modules include learning about Aboriginal history and family traditions, and the concept of becoming an ally for Indigenous Australians.
This can be as simple as acknowledging the traditional owners of the land upon which Australians live and work.
“I remember a time in the sixties when I was a young child and being invisible in mainstream society,” Ms Andrews said.
“To acknowledge Aboriginal people that live in this country is such a powerful act that you can do as an ally. It’s something we were never given as children.”
Further, the women are promoting the education and understanding of Indigenous culture.
“As a non-Indigenous person, it’s my responsibility to find out what I need to know,” – Carla Rogers, co-founder of Evolve Communities
“As a non-Indigenous person, it’s my responsibility to find out what I need to know,” Ms Rogers told Hope 103.2.
“And to educate myself. And there are resources out there to do that.”
Looking for leaders
The destruction of 46,000-year-old rock shelters at WA’s Juukan Gorge by Rio Tinto last year, is an example of cultural ignorance in Australian society, Ms Andrews said.
“Sacred sites are part of our cultural heritage and part of all of our national heritage as well,” she said.
“Unfortunately, CEOs and senior executives of companies like Rio Tinto, are unaware [of the heritage]. Leadership has to come from the top down – to be shared among the workers.”
Ms Rogers added that “it’s just all about education”, which is the focus of their work at Evolve.
“What happened in the past has happened, we can’t change history,” Ms Andrews said.
“But we can change how we move from here, and that’s the emphasis of this. On finding solutions together and moving forward as one people together.”
“What happened in the past has happened, we can’t change history. But we can change how we move from here…” – Aunty Munya Andrews