In a historic decision, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference endorsed the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) acknowledgment plaques for use in schools, parishes and organisations across Australia, making a strong statement of support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Recently, each of our CEDoW workplaces, every school and our head offices, received these plaques to display in a prominent location as a physical sign of welcome and understanding.
Accompanying the plaques, was a letter for each workplace outlining the importance of acknowledgement. Notably, the Catholic Education Diocese of Wollongong logo was included into the design of the plaques, alongside the NATSICC and Australian Catholic Bishops Conference logos, with CEDoW being the first organisation to have this significant addition.
The premise of the plaques is to make our CEDoW workplaces, and more broadly the Catholic Church, a welcoming place for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. By our workplaces displaying these acknowledgement plaques, we are sharing the vision of the NATSICC, that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples will be included in the prayers and thoughts of all Australian Catholics.
Founded in 1992, the NATSICC is the peak advisory body to the Australian Catholic Bishops on issues relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics. NATSICC is a not for profit organisation, funded by the Catholic Church and Caritas Australia's First Nations program.
The NATSICC Chair, John Lochowiak, said that he is very grateful to the Australian Catholic Bishops, in particular the Bishops Commission for Relations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, for working with the NATSICC to gain approval for the plaques to be used nationally.
“We are compiling a list of all workplaces that display the acknowledgement plaques. These supporters will be added as Partners in Faith with the NATSICC and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics,” he said.
“By displaying a plaque, it shows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics that they are welcome and included in the life of the Church. The national response has been wonderful, with nearly 100 plaques produced since their release.”
We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians who have walked upon and cared for this land for thousands of years.
We acknowledge the continued deep spiritual attachment and relationship of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to this country and commit ourselves to the ongoing journey of reconciliation.
The main logo on the plaque was designed by the Murri Ministry (Brisbane, Queensland) to depict black and white coming together in God and unity, growing in faith and respect for one another. Aboriginal artwork has, for thousands of years, used symbolism to display deep and complex concepts that are interpreted through the lens of culture and spirituality learned from Elders. The plaque artwork uses colour as a simplified point of difference to symbolise all of the diversity and gifts of humankind.
Importance of Acknowledgement
The practice of inclusion forms an important part of rebuilding relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians. Displaying the plaques in our CEDoW workplaces provides a symbol of acknowledgement that there is an understanding of Australia’s past. The plaques also provide opportunities to further educate our communities of the need for continual progress on the ongoing journey of reconciliation.
An acknowledgement of Traditional Custodians must be seen in the context in which ‘Country’ is understood by Australia’s first people. Professor Mick Dodson AM, member of the Yawuru peoples and Aboriginal Leader and Advocate for reconciliation explains this relationship, “For us, Country is a word for all the values, places, resources, stories and cultural obligations associated with that area and its features. It describes the entirety of our ancestral domains.”
Our CEDoW workplaces have started to proudly place their plaques, with some using their display as an opportunity to invite, meet and form relationships with local Traditional Custodians.
St John the Evangelist, Campbelltown is proud to display the NATSICC plaque prominently in the foyer of our office. Within our culturally diverse community, we strive to support an appreciation of the rich culture of our country’s first people. The development of an awareness and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture for all, is a high priority within the St John the Evangelist community. We are proud to boast a high percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student enrolments.
By prominently displaying the NATSICC plaque in the main entry area of our school, it is our intention to send a very clear message of welcome to all who enter our school site. The plaque also symbolically acknowledges the important role that education can play in being a conduit for understanding so that all members of our community, both individually and collectively, have an opportunity to learn about and contribute by word and action to the ongoing journey of cultural understanding and reconciliation that is so vital in our Australian society today.
Tina Murray, Principal
For our workplaces looking for resources for an unveiling ceremony of their plaques, please see suggestions below:
- Read excerpts from the letter provided to each CEDoW workplace together with their plaque.
- Refer to the Guide to Welcome to Country and Acknowledgment of Country Ceremonies, produced by the NATSICC and the Bishops Conference, to assist parishes, schools and organisations to plan appropriate and thoughtful events.
- Refer to the 2018 NATSICC Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday Resource kit, a great resource for holding celebrations in congregations with and without Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
- Show the NATSICC videos here. They, along with other videos at NATSICC TV, provide insight into the role of the NATSICC in the Church and the role that faith plays in traditional culture.
The NATSICC, on behalf of all First Nation Catholics, thanks our CEDoW workplaces for displaying the acknowledgement plaques and walking together on the journey of faith.