Challenges still ahead

Local indigenous Australians have said challenges still lay ahead, despite the progress made towards equality.

Karen Andrew, who works at the Central Gippsland Aboriginal Health and Housing Co-operative, said Reconciliation Week was about inclusion and realising all cultures should be welcomed and feel like part of the community.

Ms Andrew said the Latrobe Valley in particular needed to focus on inclusion as she “didn’t see a lot of it”, but there were little steps the community could take to be more inclusive, including flying the Torres Strait islander flag.

“It’s good to see the Torres Strait Island flag flying… because it wasn’t when I first came eight months ago,” Ms Andrew said.

“Torres Strait Islander people in the Valley weren’t acknowledged because the flag wasn’t flying here.”

She said a stronger indigenous Australian presence was needed in Latrobe City.

“You don’t see indigenous people working in any other fields, only the human service area. I’m just surprised I don’t see any indigenous Australians working at supermarkets and department stores in all of the Valley,” Ms Andrew said.

“I suppose they need more role models to come into the community and show young indigenous people to be proud of who you are, study hard and get a good job, and you can make a change.”

She said she could not pinpoint where the lack of workforce presence came from, but the situation could only be improved if everybody worked together.

Latrobe Community Health Service Koorie Men’s family violence case worker Cliff Wandin agreed he would like to see more work for young indigenous Australians.

“I would like to see more traditional owners having jobs in the big companies, like the power stations,” Mr Wandin said.

“I think there are still issues about trust. You still get those stereotypes, with people focusing on the negatives not positives.”