Chairwoman of the Bundjalung Elders Council, BerthaKapeen, receives the apology to Australia’s indigenous people on the second anniversary of PM Kevin Rudd’s Sorry Day.
Chairwoman of the Bundjalung Elders Council, BerthaKapeen, receives the apology to Australia’s indigenous people on the second anniversary of PM Kevin Rudd’s Sorry Day. Jay Cronan

Aboriginal elders ask what is next

FOR Bundjalung elder Aunty Bertha Kapeen, the second anniversary of the Rudd Government’s apology to the Stolen Generations was a good time to reflect on ‘what next?’

“The Government did a good job with the apology. But what has happened after that? Nothing has happened to me. Is there a step after the apology?” she asked at a morning tea for the Bundjalung Elders Council at Lismore North Coast TAFE campus yesterday.

The elders’ council and staff of the North Coast Institute of TAFE met to discuss its ongoing reconciliation program as part of the North Coast Aboriginal Learning Partnerships initiative.

The TAFE executive renewed its commitment to support Aboriginal people on the North Coast and reported that since Sorry Day two years ago growth indigenous enrolments at certificate 2 level were up 2 per centand course completions were up 4.75pc.

There were concerns from Bundjalung elders, however, that all the education in the world might not translate into jobs, which were essential to ‘close the gap’ between black and white.

“I have a grand-daughter doing her fourth year at TAFE this year,” said Mrs Kapeen.

“I wonder if she’ll be able to find a job. You go to the supermarket and you can’t find a single black face, but those businesses are making money from our people every day,” she said.

“I don’t believe the gap will ever close, but at least a few TAFE organisations are actually doing something,” said Mrs Kapeen.

She added that bringing elders into the classrooms to teach language and cultural awareness to indigenous and non-indigenous people was the only way forward.

“Something needs to be done to get elders into the classroom and ensure they get paid for it,” she said.

“I don’t have a piece of paper, which means I can’t be a paid teacher.”

To mark the second anniversary of the apology to indigenous Australians, the Rudd Government will invest $585,000 in the leadership skills of the Stolen Generations to support them as positive role models in the community.

In the past two years 80pc of North Coast TAFE staff have completed the Australian Cultural Education Programs within the TAFE.

Mrs Kapeen noted that the establishment of the Aunty Fay room for indigenous elders in Lismore TAFE was a positive move.



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