Guide Dogs SA was pleased to welcome Nerida Saunders, the Executive Director of Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation at the State Development Department to speak at our staff meeting on Reconcilation.

As part of her inspirational speech, Nerida said that for her, the act of reconciliation provided the opportunity of atonement, for making things right, recognising and valuing difference, but also accepting individual rights to not just exist by to have equal access to the resources and opportunities that allowed each of us to control our destinies.

She said the reconciliation process had provided the platform for:

Learning about, embracing and celebrating Aboriginal history and culture – the oldest living culture in the world

Providing lasting relationships and friendships that are built on mutual respect and dignity

A dialogue to dispel the myths and negative stereotypical things that non Aboriginal people have been taught about Aboriginal people, way of life, history and culture

Dialogue for discussion about racism, what it means, its impacts and effects.

“For Reconciliaton to be realised we each need to look at our personal and organisational responsibilities and commitment to doing what’s right,” she said. “I look to the future with optimism and the belief that there are strong Aboriginal and non Aboriginal people out there who do care and who are willing and able to forge relationships to work together to make a difference and who have a commitment to bringing about a brighter future for us all.”

Nerida said there were things that we all could do within our spheres of influence: educate the next generation, discuss Aboriginal issues with your children and grandchildren and tell them about Aboriginal culture; pull up a family member or friend if they were to tell as derogatory joke about an Aboriginal person; correct negative comments, indicate to a shop assistant their oversight when they go to serve you before an Aboriginal person who has been waiting longer.

Nerida commended Guide Dogs SA’s Reconciliation Action Plan as being realistic and achievable and encompassed all the values, principles and actions to position Guide Dogs to engage and lead by focusing on the importance of ensuring partnerships with Aboriginal consumers and stakeholders and engaging with Aboriginal people and encouraging participation in decision making and accessing services.