BASS Coast Reconciliation Network thanks the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community for their generous sharing of experiences and wisdom on National Sorry Day on May 26 and wishes everyone happy National Reconciliation Week.

Sorry Day, a COVIDSafe event held at the stunning Cape Paterson Surf Lifesaving Club, was attended by over 100 participants. It began with a smoking ceremony led by the Bunurong Land Council’s Uncle Eric Edwards and followed by a Welcome to Country from his father Uncle Mik Edwards.

The discussion that followed provided a unique chance to learn, heal and explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation through hearing personal experiences from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community and broader Australian community.

National Reconciliation Week started on Thursday, May 27 and runs through to Thursday, June 3. The network regrets to advise the Bridge Walk planned for yesterday (Monday, May 31) was postponed. It is hoped it will proceed during NAIDOC Week in July.

The theme for this year’s National Reconciliation Week is ‘More than a Word: Reconciliation Takes Action’ and encourages us all to explore how we can contribute to reconciliation by being active participants.

Bass Coast Reconciliation Network has members from Bass Coast Shire Council, Bass Coast Health, Westernport Water, Phillip Island Nature Parks, Bunurong Land Council, Bass Coast South Gippsland Reconciliation Network and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community members.

Although the walk was postponed, they will acknowledge the week online, and look forward to the day when we can walk together for reconciliation. They offer the following comments for the week and walk ahead.

Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation chief executive officer Dan Turnbull: “The Bridge Walk is incredibly important and helps to raise awareness and support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the Country. Many talk the talk regarding their commitment to bring about change in this space, but how many of those are going to take part in walking the walk? This presents a great opportunity for all people driven to make change, to come together in strength with a shared vision for a better future state for this Country and for its Traditional Owners.”

Traditional Owner, Bunurong/Trawlwoolway, Uncle Anthony Egan: “This year’s theme is action more than a word, reconciliation takes action. We all need to be the action in caring for our Country. If Country gets sick, we get sick. It’s everyone’s responsibility, regardless of what nationality you are, we are all here together on Mother Earth. We down here on Bunurong Country appreciate the unity of our community – it brings us all together to care for Mother Earth. Let’s be the action.”

Bass Coast Shire Council Aboriginal development officer Patrice Mahoney: “Our aim is to strengthen relationships with Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members through sharing knowledge and acknowledging our shared past. We first held a long walk in the Bass Coast 11 years ago and I’m excited to be a part of the group leading the event this year.”

Bass Coast Health Aboriginal liaison officer Paul Patten: “Being a part of the very first Sydney Harbour Bridge walk in 2000 was an amazingly powerful experience walking together as one community towards a shared vision. So now, 21 years later, it’s fantastic to be a part of and see Bass Coast host this very important day for all of us to walk together sharing our stories and experiences towards reconciliation.”

Bass Coast Health chief executive officer Jan Child: “Bass Coast Health is committed to providing an inclusive, respectful and responsive health service and workplace. Listening to and partnering with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is vital to achieve this. Our health services, staff and communities are enriched by the contributions of our diverse and vibrant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities”.

Westernport Water general manager customer and community, Gareth Kennedy: “Achieving positive social change through our support for the national reconciliation movement is imperative for Westernport Water and other leading community organisations if we are to make a difference and contribute to the healing process.”

Phillip Island Nature Parks CEO Catherine Basterfield: “Our shared vision for reconciliation is to walk together, side by side, respectfully caring for the Country, Waters and Sea of Millowl and to create a shared future of recognition, opportunity and true partnerships with Traditional Owner and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. We also aim to create opportunities for healing through responsible and respectful truth-telling and knowledge sharing and events such as these help us to move closer to this vision.”

Keep in touch on event updates at basscoast.vic.gov.au/reconciliation.