Jewish Care supports NAIDOC week

July 4, 2016 by  
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Generational experiences of alienation, dislocation and persecution are dominant discourses of both the Jewish community and the Indigenous people of Australia.

William Cooper

William Cooper

Whilst there has been mixed opinion about the type of parallels that can be drawn between events and experiences of the two communities, there is no doubt that each has been impacted by formal and informal policies of governments that have sought to reduce their influence and eradicate their existence.

Over the years, leaders from each of these communities have spoken up against the persecution experienced by the other.

In 1938, Aboriginal political activist and community leader, William Cooper stood up against German oppression. Shortly after the events of Kristallnacht, Cooper led a delegation of the Australian Aboriginal League to the German consulate with a petition condemning the Nazi Government’s persecution of Jewish people. This protest occurred at a time when Aboriginal people themselves were being denied basic human rights, subject to horrendous physical, social and economic abuse. Whilst the petition was disregarded, Israel has since honoured William Cooper, marking the significance of this display of support through ceremonial events in both Australia and Israel.

Individuals and peak bodies within the Jewish community have taken active roles in advocating and promoting reconciliation with Aboriginal Australians. In 2011, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry made a submission to the Expert Panel on the Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians, in which the Council stated that it favoured amendment to the Australian Constitution to ‘… recognise the distinct identities and rights of Indigenous Australians arising from their prior and unique relationship with their lands, territories and resources …’

On 27 November 2014, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) announced that it had become a campaign partner of Recognise, a coalition of people and organisations working towards recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in the Australian Constitution. JCCV President, Jennifer Huppert said: “… [Our] platform recognises Indigenous people as the first Australians and affirms the importance of reconciliation as the basis of an Australian community which respects the diversity of values, cultures, ideas and the contribution of all people. We encourage all of our affiliates as well as other Jewish community organisations and individuals to actively support and pursue reconciliation.”

Australia will soon celebrate NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance) Week, a week where Australians are invited to acknowledge and engage with the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The week of events usually involves engagement through music, dance and storytelling, where we are yet again reminded of the continued plight of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders across the country. In recognition of this plight and the parallels in experience of the Jewish and Aboriginal communities, Jewish Care (Victoria) Inc is proud to announce it has released a Position Statement on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.

“The experience of NAIDOC week coupled with the powerful examples of recognition by Jewish community representatives reminds us of the importance to find a way to redress past injustices,” said Jewish Care CEO Bill Appleby. “We realise that there are many parallel experiences and challenges for members of minority groups. Apart from being the focus of unfounded biases and perceptions, people in these smaller communities often face isolation, marginalisation and various other forms of discrimination. ”

“Jewish Care’s Position Statement on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People commits us to recognising their rights, building our cultural competency as an employer and service deliverer, and seeking opportunities to involve them in employment and the delivery of services,” said Mr Appleby.

Jewish Care’s position statement on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People as well as other Position Statements can be found on the Jewish Care website:

 This article was written by Marilyn Kraner and Sheila Ross

* Marilyn Kraner is Manager Individual & Family Services at Jewish Care.

* Sheila Ross is Business Development & Change Manager at Jewish Care.


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