Dr Robert Isaacs pinpoints Aboriginal struggles during 2021 Nulungu Reconciliation lecture

  • 31 August 2021

Aboriginal Elder Dr Robert Isaacs AM OAM, CM, JP, PHD (Hon) presented the 2021 Nulungu Reconciliation lecture on 26 August, held each year by Notre Dame University.

During his speech, Dr Robert (pictured here with his daughter at the 2021 Australian of the Year Awards) acknowledged the positive changes for Aboriginal people in Australia, such as local businesses participating in the construction of the Broome Cape-Leveque Road; but also noted that, for some, the gap is in fact widening.

He highlighted the concern for Aboriginal youth, with violence and gang culture as influences, resulting in a low school attendance and a high rate of suicide. To combat this, he credited programs such as Olabud Doogethu, which focuses on prevention, diversion activities and the creation of job pathways to avoid youths from entering a life of crime and violence and, inevitably, the prison system.

Businesses also have a key role in reconciliation, according to Dr Robert. He gave Sheffield Resources Limited as an example, for pledging to increase Aboriginal workplace participation to 40% within the first eight years of operation, while the Shire of Halls Creek awarded 11 paid traineeships to senior high school graduates.

During the lecture, he told the story of his own 10-step journey to reconciliation, from his upbringing as a child of the Stolen Generation, knowing nothing about his mother and being raised in tough institutions; through to developing a determination to not become a poverty-stricken victim of alcoholism that he witnessed as a young adult, and recognising that reconciliation will continue throughout his lifetime and beyond.

Dr Robert closed his lecture with the subject of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on Aboriginal communities, including the higher rates of infection and hospital admissions during the NSW lockdown, influenced by a lack of housing in some areas. He urged Aboriginal people to play their role in the fight against COVID.

“If you take away any message from this presentation, it is that Aboriginal people are standing in the shadow of a new crisis.”

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