*Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned photographs in this story may contain images of deceased persons which may cause sadness or distress.*
The world consists of many different cultures, languages, religions, and abilities amongst others. Imagine the everyday morning commute to work on public transport and the different characters around. Two people sharing a seat could have different beliefs, and the four people standing might speak four different languages between them. Diversity is everywhere, it’s at home, at work, and in public places. It’s just life. The important thing is that there is understanding and connection between all people.
National Reconciliation Week is a time for Australia to reflect on its history, the rich cultures around, and how individuals can work together to achieve reconciliation for the country.
For Aboriginal Health Coordinator, Rebecca Hyland and Chief Actuary Andrew Matthews, National Reconciliation Week goes deeper beyond those seven days of the week.
Rebecca Hyland, whose role consists of multiple, Aboriginal health-related projects across Medibank, says that it is a time of celebration and reflection of her proud identity as an Aboriginal woman.
“I have a powerful story. A powerful story of my Ancestors, and as a proud Aboriginal woman from the Kamilaroi Nation. A descendent from many strong and courageous Aboriginal women and men who grew up living on Aboriginal missions on the outskirts of towns. My great-grandmother was a part of the Stolen Generation, removed from her family and her culture. None of this is Ancient history, it’s a part of today and a part of who I am. It’s a part of my identity.”
A photograph of Rebecca’s great-grandmother, Ida Fuller (far right), from the Australian War Memorial collection.
Andrew Matthews, who is also a former Co-Chair of Medibank’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) agrees, saying that National Reconciliation Week is a time for us to reflect and realise the importance of reconnecting to who we are as a nation. This includes history from the past, the history we’re currently making, and the history that’s still to come.
“National Reconciliation Week, to me, is not just about reconciling Indigenous Australia to the rest of the nation, it’s about people connecting with each other. It’s being curious enough to want to learn and being open enough to want to understand.”
Medibank Indigenous intern Nakita Kirby with Andrew at a RAP event.
This week is dedicated to sharing stories, celebrating the country’s rich culture and history, and discussing how Australia can keep working towards reconciliation. Rebecca says that to be able to do this, it’s important to welcome, to celebrate and to learn from everyone’s differences.
“It’s about avoiding putting someone in a stereotypical box of what an Aboriginal person should be or are. It’s about being open to many stories. All of our stories are unique and are important and so are the stories of our Ancestors because that connects us to who we are today. I share my story because it’s important we don’t lose our history and it helps us in understanding today.”
Rebecca Hyland’s mother Lorraine with her granddaughter Scarlett.
For Andrew, during his time as a Chair of the RAP group, his goals included inspiring people at Medibank to become more connected to Indigenous Australia. He also wanted to replace people’s idea of having to fix relationships and instead aimed to reconnect Indigenous Australia to the rest of the country and vice versa.
“It is important to connect not just Indigenous Australia and westernised Australia but also bringing together cities with remote towns. It’s crucial that we think about how we can be contributing to better health for all Australians. We are all connected and the health of our Indigenous communities is integral to the health of the nation.”
Andrew speaking at a RAP event.
At Medibank, there is a strong sense of dedication and connection towards the Indigenous community. This is an ongoing discussion in the company and isn’t limited to just a week of conversation.
“We speak openly about the importance of reaching out a hand to our Indigenous communities. We send senior leaders to travel to remote communities to experience the life there and have the opportunity to learn from those who are from there,” Andrew says.
“What Medibank is doing well is developing people’s skills to have diverse views and learning to be inclusive of different perspectives. Being in Wadeye taught me to seek harmony as sameness is an act of oppression. If you allow harmony to resonate, you get music.”
Andrew on a senior leaders trip to Wadeye.
This view is something that Rebecca proudly echoes, saying Medibank’s welcoming attitude towards different cultures is something that has always stood out to her.
“If we don’t have discussions then we don’t know nor do we have the opportunity to share knowledge. Especially working at Medibank, it’s very important. We have people from all over the world and that is such an exciting opportunity to share all our different cultures with each other.”
Rebecca with the Tamworth Medical Centre staff.
Rebecca also says that having an open discussion about Australia’s Indigenous history encourages people to understand, to acknowledge and to learn about our past, to live in the moment and to create a better future. A future that, she hopes, truly understands the importance of Indigenous Australia’s history.
“We’re all working towards a better future for our children. It’s natural to want something great for them. I’m a proud mother of a beautiful Aboriginal Maori daughter and she’s the next generation of a line of strong Indigenous women. I’ll pass onto her all the strength and knowledge that was passed down to me. She will be connected to her proud ancestral story because that is part of her identity.”
Rebecca with daughter Scarlett.