Latest news

Celebrating National Reconciliation Week 2024 at Ozanam House

Ozanam House honors National Reconciliation Week with a heartfelt "Welcome to Country" by Elder Uncle Shane Charles

A moving and thoughtful “Welcome to Country” led by Elder Uncle Shane Charles brought together clients and staff of Ozanam House in North Melbourne to honour and celebrate National Reconciliation Week 2024. Following last year’s referendum, the theme for this year’s Reconciliation Week is “Now More Than Ever.”

During his presentation, Uncle Shane passionately spoke about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ connection to the land they have maintained for tens of thousands of years – a connection that is integral to their identity and well-being.

“We have no story of migration, but stories of creation,” he shared. Reminding everyone that his culture is tens of thousands of years older than the pyramids or places such as Stonehenge, Uncle Shaun remarked that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are still fighting the fight for sovereignty and to be accepted as Australia’s first peoples.

At the same time, he said that reconciliation is not only about First Nations People but for all Australians: “You are on my country, and it is my responsibility to look after you. It is my responsibility to teach you, to give you that understanding that you belong here, and have the opportunity to share the beautiful morals and values of all the cultures we share.”

The Yorta Yorta/Wurundjeri/Been Wurrung Elder also shared personal reflections, noting the importance of caring – caring for a healthy relationship with one’s own spirit and also taking care of one’s immediate and extended family.

“We live in a world where so many people are lost for many reasons. But there is always hope. We are in a place that cares,” he said, referring to Ozanam House and VincentCare as part of the St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria Group. “I know what this organisation does, they care for you – that is why you are here. That care is always there. This is how it works with my family, my extended family,” Uncle Shane said before lighting the fire and inviting everyone to walk through the smoke and participate in the ceremony.

The ceremony concluded with the official installation of an artwork by Rickie Martin, a First Nations glass artist of both Yorta Yorta and Pairrebeenne/Trawlwoolway clan and former resident of Ozanam House. Titled “The Sovereign Nations of Victoria,” the piece depicts the various Aboriginal Nations of pre-colonial Victoria. It features images of thumbprints in the glass to represent the DNA of the Aboriginal people.

Rickie’s journey from Ozanam House resident to an award-winning glass artist is a testament to the power of creativity and community support. His artwork, now displayed prominently in the reception area, represents a symbol of resilience. It was purchased by VincentCare during one of his recent exhibitions.

National Reconciliation Week at Ozanam House was a powerful reminder of the importance of coming together to learn, respect, and celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Australia’s First Peoples.

Uncle Shane’s words and Rickie Martin’s artwork highlight the ongoing journey towards reconciliation and the vital role that understanding and respect play in this process that St Vincent de Paul Society Group Victoria is committed to.

As Uncle Shane eloquently said, “Reconciliation is not just about First Nations people; it is about reconciling as a nation. We can do better together.”

National Reconciliation Week is an opportunity for all Australians to learn about shared histories, cultures and achievements to explore how we all can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.

Fill 1 Copy 3 Created with Sketch.