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Diabetes Victoria Blog

Join the discussion in our blog where a variety of writers from all walks of life take a stance on current diabetes issues.

Diabetes Victoria celebrates National Reconciliation Week

By Ruairi Cleary
Health Promotion Officer
Aboriginal and Cultural Diversity Program

Pictured: Diabetes Victoria's Aboriginal and Cultural Diversity Program Team

This week Diabetes Victoria celebrated National Reconciliation Week, which takes place annually from 27 May to 3 June. Central to the week is the commemoration of two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey – the 1967 referendum and the High Court’s Mabo decision.  

This year’s theme, “Grounded in Truth: Walk Together with Courage”, seeks to develop positive and improved race relations, between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the broader community, through a relationship grounded in truth.

This includes encouraging all Australians to undertake a formal truth-telling process about Australia’s colonial history.

This theme was enshrined in our activities at Diabetes Victoria where staff were sent a daily email with one ‘truth’ to encourage us to reflect on the events and implications of our country’s colonial past.

The ‘truth’ strategy was complemented by activities designed to raise awareness, including a morning tea where our colleagues Tahanee-Rai French and Colin Mitchell spoke about what reconciliation means to them. 

Tahanee-Rai is a Yuibera woman from Queensland and Colin is a Wemba-Wemba/Gureng Gureng man from Echuca, Victoria. 

Hearing their stories was powerful and profoundly moving. The impact of their stories on the audience was palpable and I was moved in a very personal way as the truth message reverberated through the room. You could have heard a pin drop and there was no mistaking the sense of solidarity and commitment generated by the stories.

Pictured (left to right) Colin Mitchell, Ruairi Cleary and Tahanee-Rai French.

Tahanee-Rai French had this to say about the week;

‘When Ruairi asked me to speak at the morning tea, my first thoughts were, “Oh I’m not black enough”. In that moment I realised these thoughts are so unhealthy but this is how i have felt my whole life. It was an honour to be recognised as an Aboriginal woman and to be given a platform to be able to share my experiences and what reconciliation means to me.

My name is Tahanee-Rai French and I am a Yuibera woman from Queensland. Reconciliation means two things for me; getting rid of shame, there is no place for it anymore and reconnecting with my mob and country."

Tahanee-Rai wrote a poem and shared it with the group.

I Feel
By Tahanee-Rai French

Sometimes I feel I need to justify my skin
Sometimes I feel I need to prove the blackness within
Sometimes I feel I need to prove my worth
Sometimes I feel I need to connect with this earth

I feel like I’m judged when asked how frequently I connect with my mob
I feel like I’m judged when asked, “How’d you get that job?”
I feel it every day, this balance between not black and not black enough
I feel it every day, when my life’s not enough.

How do I walk this thin line of mine?
This thin line that’s tied between your world and mine?
It’s a balancing act and I’m not the only one.
We’ve had to learn to walk and talk the ways of the governing one.

My journey started when mob took my hand
And guided me back to my people’s land
It’s not too late to reconnect
It’s not too late to pay respect

It was a privilege to hear Tahanee-Rai's and Colin’s stories.

Special thanks to Ruairi and the Aboriginal and Cultural Diversity Program team for organising this week's activities. We also wish to thank the talented team at Charcoal Lane for providing the delicious catering at the morning tea and Koorie Prints, who supplied lapel pins to our staff for participating in this week's activities. 

Diabetes Victoria is committed to the health and wellbeing of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community living in Victoria. Diabetes Victoria acknowledges the traditional owners of our lands and pays respect to all Elders, past and present. We strive to reduce the impact of diabetes on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in Victoria.

For more information, please visit our website.