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Celebrating strength through culture

04 August 2022, Impact of Our Work

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day

Every year, on 4  August we celebrate National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day, to mark the importance and strength of culture of First Nations children and their communities across Australia. This day of significance is led by the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC), the national non-government peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Save the Children and 54 Reasons (which is responsible for delivering Save the Children services here in Australia) are supporters of SNAICC’s work to protect the rights, safety and development of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

This year, we are proud to celebrate Children’s Day by introducing Strength through Culture - a cultural artwork commissioned by 54 reasons. 

 

Strength though Culture is the creation of Elizabeth Yanyi Close, a Panaka Skin Anangu woman from the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara Language Groups, whose family links are to the communities of Pukutja and Amata in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands. Led by an advisory group of First Nations people within 54 reasons who developed the artwork story, Yanyi Close created a piece that embodies our commitment to cultural safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, so they can grow and thrive.

Mena Waller, Yawuru woman and new Queensland Director of 54 reasons, played an important role in bringing about the development of this artwork. We sat down to chat with her about this significant piece of work, and why it’s important to our staff, as well as the children and families we work with. 

Why did we commission this piece?

54 reasons (formerly Save the Children Australia) have an extensive history working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In line with the recent re-brand, Waller says that it was important to be intentional about who we are as an organisation, who we work with and what we stand for. 

We work in community with First Nations children and their families. We have a strong Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce. We want to reflect the work we do, who we work with and the strength of our workforce. The artwork tells this story, our recognition of the importance of culture as a protective factor. Seeing it on shirts, in classrooms, in offices - it sends a message of cultural safety - that we respect and honour culture as a significant part of children and families’ lives.

Waller

She acknowledges that the artwork alone does not automatically equate to a culturally safe organisation, but that the process to develop it - creating space and safety to bring First Nations peoples together to consult and participate in the foundation of the work - put intention into practice.

What was the process?

In order to ensure the end result was something that everyone could connect with, Waller sought expressions of interest from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff across the country. The advisory group, made up of representatives from each of the states and territories, worked together to develop an artwork story, and to select an artist. After much consideration an artist was chosen - Elizabeth Yanyi Close, represented by Indigenous-owned creative agency Saltwater People. 

As part of their selection process, the group felt it was important to consider previous work done, the artist’s own story and who would best reflect the story that the group sought to tell. Excited by the choice of Elizabeth Yanyi Close, Waller notes that the artist was just as significant as the work created. After studying and working as a nurse, Yanyi Close returned to painting as a means to connect with her family and help immerse her children in culture on the APY lands. 

What is its significance?

When asked what it means for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce, Waller reflects that while the final product is “nice-to-have”, it was actually the process to achieving the artwork that holds greater significance. Bringing people together, making time and space, ensuring they have an opportunity to have a voice. 

What we got out of it at the end of the process is a beautiful artwork, a conversation piece, but it’s what we do with it and how we got there - that holds the most meaning.

Waller

The artwork also opens up conversation to further progress reconciliation within the organisation and puts the intentions set out in our Reconciliation Action Plan into practice. It is important to model cultural safety and cultural responsiveness within our organisation for our people, and for the children and families we work with. It encourages non-Indigenous people to engage and learn, acknowledging and honouring the importance of culture to First Nations children.

This Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day, the theme “My Dreaming, My Future” celebrates children’s connection to culture, community, and Country, as well as their aspirations for the future. So, for 54 reasons, it seems fitting that it presents an opportunity to come together as a collective and feel pride in what Strength though Culture represents for our work now and into the future.

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