I grew up not knowing much about my Aboriginal heritage. I didn’t understand why my great grandmother had kept it from our family and I didn’t understand the shame of it.
As I grew up and began to learn about Australia’s black history in school, it became clear to me that my family wasn’t the only one who had been taken away from its culture, family and history.
My great grandmother grew up in a time when it was shameful and dangerous to be black. If you were lucky to marry a white man and have light skinned children, you clung to that chance of a new life and you left everything you knew behind.
Some people may not understand the dissociation Aboriginal people exercised during the 20th Century. But when faced with threat of losing your siblings, children, cousins etc., I think any person would do just about anything to avoid that, and that’s what my great grandmother did.
She married an English solider who fought in both World Wars, she gave birth to seven children and moved as far away from her country and land as she could. It wasn’t until she passed away at the mighty age of 98 that our family found a history of secrets.
Today, however, I celebrate my culture in every aspect of my life. Working on GPT’s first Reconciliation Action Plan has enabled me to share my culture and learnings with my colleagues and my friends.
It is hard to communicate what happened to my family and many other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and for people to understand. But the RAP and GPT’s efforts towards reconciliation are just another way I personally connect further with my culture and my heritage. I am able to learn by teaching, by sharing knowledge and insights with my colleagues and use that knowledge to influence authentic positive change.
I think reconciliation is important because Australia needs to celebrate and recognise the difference between both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and other Australians.
This will enable us as a country to move towards a just and equitable future for all Australians. I hope my work on GPT’s Innovate RAP has in some way contributed to that positive future.
Tiarne Shutt is an intern in the GPT Communication and Government Relations team, a member of GPT’s RAP Working Group and has been a key driver of GPT’s inaugural RAP.