This report captures the voices of delegates at the 2017 Koorie Youth Summit (Summit). By drawing together young people's stories and ideas, this report is an important record to help communities and government understand Aboriginal young people's experiences and take action for change.
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The Koorie Youth Summit is held on the lands of the Wurundjeri people. KYC extends our deepest respect to the Wurundjeri Elders and all Elders of the Kulin Nations past, present and emerging. We give thanks to the Wurundjeri people and the Kulin Nations for continuing to support young people to grow on their Country.
Koorie Youth Council (KYC) would also like to acknowledge all of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who contributed to the Summit in 2017. KYC recognises the knowledge, cultures and continued history of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nations.
Koorie Youth Council
The Koorie Youth Council is the representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in Victoria. Led by an Executive of 15 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and our state-wide members, KYC values the diversity and strength of young people as decision-makers. KYC advocates to government and community to advance the rights and representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. By hosting events like the annual Koorie Youth Summit, KYC brings Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people together to amplify their voices for social change.
Aboriginal: We use Aboriginal as a term also inclusive of Torres Strait Islander people.
Delegates: Summit delegates are Aboriginal young people living in Victoria or bordering towns aged from 18 to 28.
Koorie: The Koorie Youth Council uses the term Koorie in our organisation’s title as inclusive of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people living in Victoria.
Lateral Violence: Often described as 'internalised colonisation', lateral violence is the result of discrimination and disadvantage by an oppressive majority. Lateral violence involves members of a marginalised group targeting frustrations and anger towards one another.
Our/We: The Koorie Youth Council and the Summit are run by and for Aboriginal young people. We refer to 'our Summit' and 'our community' to recognise that KYC walks with the delegates and community members that appear in this report.
Young people: The term ‘young people’ is used to refer to people aged between 12 and 28 years.
Koorie Youth Summit
The Koorie Youth Summit (Summit) is Victoria’s largest gathering created for and by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. The Summit is a place for us to gather from around the state to connect with each other, discuss what is important to us, be proud, learn, share and celebrate our culture. Young people account for 60 percent of our proud community and it is important that we have a place to gather, meet, empower and inspire.
This report brings together the events, speakers and opportunities for delegates with a focus on young people's goals for change. The Summit invited delegates to take part in yarning circles, cultural activities as well as connect with inspirational peers and Elders.
Essential to the Summit program were creative workshops led by peer facilitators. Workshop groups focussed on one of five topic areas that linked with our Summit theme. Delegates shared their insights into the topics and developed an expressive response that was presented to members of the Aboriginal community, stakeholders and Victorian Government. Presentations included: videos, dance, visual art, policy, storytelling and speeches.
Watch this video to see a snapshot of the 2017 Summit.
In each workshop young people shared their stories, experiences and visions for a better future. The actions expressed in each workshop are collated in this report to inform government and community about what young people need. Many of the actions were shared by multiple workshop groups, particularly the need for a sovereign treaty, culturally safe supports, a united Aboriginal community, the collection and sharing of culture, decolonising education and discourse about Aboriginal history and people.
Go to the 'Make It Happen' section to take action!
Our Identity, Our Resilience, Our Story.
In 2017 we selected a theme that demonstrates the power that young people express:
Our Identity - We celebrate our identity as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. We are diverse, deadly and inspired. Our culture is and always will be a part of our identity, our resilience and our story.
Creative Workshops: Cultural connection, Living in Two Worlds
Our Resilience - We recognise and value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people’s strength through their passion, energy and spirit. Our resilience is drawn from our ancestors, Elders and communities. Their ongoing love, guidance and legacies support us to continue the journey of our people.
Creative Workshops: Self determination, Potential and Inspiration
Our Story - We tell and listen to stories in order to connect with each other, our Elders, history and communities. As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people we are committed to telling the stories of our past, present and future.
Creative Workshop: Intergenerational Connection
Watch the video below to follow our delegates' Summit journey.
Strength in Participation and Diversity
True participation values the diversity of our Aboriginal community. KYC’s advocacy is committed to intersectionality and representation of voices that society silences. The Summit is an inclusive event that celebrates the range of identities and interests of Aboriginal young people. KYC particularly recognises the strengths of young people who face further discrimination in the form of ableism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia.
KYC’s commitment to a strengths-based model recognises that Aboriginal young people are experts in their own lives. Young people are best-placed to participate in KYC’s decision-making, particularly at our events. We practice participation at the Summit by employing young people to lead yarning circles, facilitate workshops, create art and make decisions about the Summit program. Young people were also encouraged to volunteer at the Summit and lead our stage and media engagements. While young people are our focus, we take a whole of community approach by involving Elders and other respected members of our community.
Our facilitation training prepared young people with the skills and confidence to lead workshops at the Summit. Led by Benson Saulo and attended by KYC Executive and their peers, the training focussed on culturally-informed group work and drew on participants’ own strengths and experiences in workshops. Watch the video below to get a glimpse of our facilitator training session.
Our Voice was created to capture the voice of Summit delegates and their goals for social and political change. Our Voice is built on the symbol of Bunjil, the creator spirit. In Kulin Nations culture and stories, Bunjil is the creator of land and waters.
Our Voice is a political artwork that brings together spirituality and young Aboriginal voices. Created by Aboriginal artist, Indianna Hunt, Our Voice asked young people how they will use their voice to achieve their goals for change. Delegates shared deeply personal and political sentiments that demonstrate their energy for structural change, cultural connection and strong communities. Delegates’ contributions to Our Voice demonstrate the need for change in the non-Aboriginal community to shift racist perceptions and ignorance. Other key themes included cultural connection, policy change and intergenerational connection. Watch the video below to see more of Our Voice and Indianna Hunt.
If you are interested in purchasing or commissioning work from Indianna, please contact the Koorie Youth Council
The Lunchtime Expo aimed to link delegates with opportunities, training and organisations. Exhibitors included:
- SEED http://www.seedmob.org.au/
- Wayapa http://wayapa.com/
- VAHS Healthy Lifestyles team http://www.vahs.org.au
- Orygen Youth Health http://oyh.org.au/
- Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria http://www.disputes.vic.gov.au/
- Victorian Student Representative Council http://www.vicsrc.org.au/
- Youth Disability Advocacy Service http://www.ydas.org.au/
- YACVic Rural https://www.yacvic.org.au/about-us/yacvic-rural
- Ask Izzy https://askizzy.org.au/
- Australian Red Cross http://www.redcross.org.au/
- Amnesty International https://www.amnesty.org.au
- Ambulance Victoria https://www.ambulance.vic.gov.au/
Our Identity: Cultural Connection
Creative workshop facilitated by Megan Solomon and Will Austin
“Culture helps people connect with each other, heal and build relationships.” - Delegate
This group shared the importance of cultural connection in their lives and their vision for a culturally connected future. Culture is central to young people’s lives and understanding of the world. Young people shared their experiences of culture as a powerful driver of their identity and choices:
Cultural knowledge helps young people connect with family, friends and broader communities. This group recognised culture as a protective factor in family displacement and other adversities.
“The way I connect to culture is being spiritually aware and that people have gone before us and always around us. They’re always guiding us. Here to help us on our journeys.” - Delegate
Delegates noted that cultural connections empower young people to achieve better health, education and standards of living. Delegates identified two significant barriers to cultural connection,
- Access to cultural knowledge in some communities
- Ignorance of culture in the non-Aboriginal community.
“Culture fills the void of belonging and connects me with my spirit.” - Delegate
Actions for a culturally connected future: How can government and community support us to get there?
Action One: Provide spaces for young people to connect with culture.
- Set up cultural centres where young people can learn about their culture including clan-based knowledge.
- Provide more gathering spaces for Aboriginal young people to connect with each other, their Elders, family and culture.
- Facilitate opportunities for cultural camps and clan gatherings.
Action Two: Collect and share cultural knowledge with a focus on educating the upcoming generation of Aboriginal young people.
- Provide language programs for Aboriginal young people.
- Promote a culture of sharing knowledge, values, lore and culture in the Victorian Aboriginal community.
- Provide formal and informal opportunities for Aboriginal young people to yarn with Elders.
Action Three: Decolonise education and discourse in the non-Aboriginal community to enable understanding and respect for Aboriginal culture and people.
- Create cultural awareness among the non-Aboriginal community by teaching the Aboriginal history of Australia including genocide and ongoing injustices.
- Fund Aboriginal organisations and programs sustainably.
- Increase Aboriginal representation in government and other decision-making positions.
- Promote healing and respect for land and culture.
Delegates produced the video below to capture their workshop.
Our Identity: Living in Two Worlds
Creative workshop facilitated by Bonnie Dukakis and Dylan Murphy
"If I had a dream, it is for our young generation to have no shame." - Delegate
The Living in Two Worlds group connected by sharing their experiences of negotiating the non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal worlds. The difficulty of this experience is compounded as young people are in a formative stage, discovering their identities. The group unpacked the pressures experienced in both worlds where Aboriginal young people are stereotyped, questioned and silenced, with a particular focus on the institutional racism of non-Aboriginal Australia. Young people expressed the difficulty of maintaining their connection to culture in a western society. Many feel stuck between contradictory worlds and become exhausted by constantly ‘switching codes’ to fit in different cultural contexts.
“They ask me, 'So what part of you is Aboriginal?'...'My big toe' I reply." - Delegate
The Two Worlds group chose to express their findings through storytelling, panel discussion and painting. Stories demonstrated the way young people’s identities and Aboriginality are consistently questioned, revealing widespread stereotypes among the population. Members of the group told personal stories that relayed the resilience of delegates as well as the isolating impact of discrimination, ignorance and racism.
“There’s no exit. I’m too black to be white and too white to be black. I’m used. I’m token.” - Delegate
“There’s so much ignorance and questioning sometimes it is easier for me not to identify [as Aboriginal].” - Delegate
Delegates formed a panel discussion that celebrated diversity
by expressing a range of identities and expressions of Aboriginality. This group emphasised
an intersectional approach, acknowledging the added discrimination experienced
by diverse community members. The panel addressed the negative impact of
stereotypes as non-Aboriginal people make assumptions about their views,
experiences and lives. This widespread ignorance makes young people feel as
though they must justify their place in communities and society.
“You don’t get to pick and choose the worlds you live in. You just have to find a balance.” - Delegate
Finding a path through two worlds: How can government and community support Aboriginal young people?
Action One: Close the gap between two worlds through awareness and education of non-Aboriginal society.
- Create cultural awareness among the non-Aboriginal community by embedding culture and Aboriginal history (including genocide and ongoing injustices) in school curricula.
- Make non-Aboriginal institutions safe for Aboriginal people by breaking down the stigma and stereotypes associated with the Aboriginal community.
- Challenge assumptions about Aboriginal identity by promoting diverse representations of Aboriginal young people in the media, community and politics.
Action Two: Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities support Aboriginal young people to express their identities.
- Train education providers to be culturally safe and support Aboriginal young people to participate.
- Give Aboriginal young people access to culturally safe programs that support their identities including diverse genders, sexualities and people with a disability.
- Educate communities to stop questioning young people’s identities and Aboriginality.
- Provide safe spaces for Aboriginal young people to gather and support each other, including physical spaces and events such as the Koorie Youth Summit and national equivalents.
Delegates contributed to a painting led by Matthew Atkinson. The image represents "...coming together as Aboriginal people and creating that connection to continue our culture; that’s why we combined the two flags. The hands represent each person, who they are, their people and their connection to their country. The lines and dots are our journeys as we work towards uniting as one and creating a stronger connection to each other, continuing our culture together." - Matthew Atkinson, artist
Our Resilience: Self Determination
Creative workshop facilitated by Tarneen Onus-Williams and Marayne Muller
"Self determination means true freedom without grief, tension and racism." - Delegate
This group recognised self-determination as an essential catalyst for the empowerment of Aboriginal young people. Sharing their visions for a self-determined future, delegates expressed the need for self-determination to create the systemic change required to achieve equity for Aboriginal people. For these delegates, self-determination means the decolonisation of institutions and genuine voice and control for Aboriginal people. The accountability of non-Aboriginal Australia and the inclusion of young people in decision-making are integral to the efficacy of a sovereign treaty. On a community and individual level, self-determination is key to improving outcomes in all areas, in particular: social and emotional wellbeing, employment, education, culture and justice.
"What is being taught about my culture makes me feel angry and uncomfortable." - Delegate
Demands for Self Determination
"We demand full and total control of our own affairs, future, communities and lives without government intervention.
We demand more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander run allied health clinics that are more accessible to our mob, that move away from westernised institutions and are more culturally based and appropriate.
We demand a platform different to the westernised school curriculum.
We demand the right to fit in our own standards of certification.
We demand validation and respect of our knowledge.
We demand legitimacy of our knowledge as a separate body of expertise instead of tokenism in our current education system.
We demand that non-Indigenous Australia respect our traditional laws and customs.
When equity is achieved we can have TRUE reconciliation in Australia. We want sovereignty now.
We demand justice under our own lore. How can we have justice in an unjust system?
Sovereignty has never ceded, we demand the right to govern our own affairs, a sovereign treaty now. Heal our past, build our future.
We demand full and total control of our own affairs, future, communities and lives without government intervention." - Self determination workshop participants
Delegates produced the video below to capture their workshop.
Our Resilience: Potential and Inspiration
Creative workshop facilitated by Andrew Harrison and Mikaela Egan
“[Potential and inspiration] gives a sense of direction and purpose.” - Delegate
The potential and inspiration workshop group discussed the importance of empowering Aboriginal young people to make decisions for their futures. Through sharing stories of their own lives, the group recognised the barriers that prevent young people from meeting their goals. Trauma, violence and discrimination continue to disempower Aboriginal young people, affecting their positivity and sense of control over their lives. Delegates’ stories revealed the hope that mentors, role models and other inspirations give young people in difficult situations.
“[Potential and inspiration] motivates us to not fall victim to things that stop our people from succeeding.” - Delegate
Delegates recognised the debilitating stigma around Aboriginal people that can affect their self-esteem and ability to live happy, healthy lives. The group wanted to see more representation of ‘what’s right’ rather than ‘what’s wrong’ with Aboriginal people. Delegates identified positive representations of their peers as key to building a more diverse understanding of Aboriginal people in society. As discrimination becomes internalised at a young age, breaking down stigma assists young people’s ability to recognise their own strengths, empowering them to be hopeful for their futures.
“I think it’s important for us to change the perception that non-Indigenous people have of Indigenous people to move it from something negative to something positive. It’s time to celebrate it, share it and show them we're not what they think of us, we're so much more than that.” - Delegate
Spaces for empowerment: How can government and community support young people?
Action One: Young people feel supported and confident to take opportunities and fulfil their potential and live happy, healthy lives.
- Provide young people culturally safe spaces such as youth hubs with a social and emotional wellbeing focus, cultural programs, drug intervention and rehabilitation, homelessness services.
- Provide mentoring and community cohesion initiatives that are sustainably funded to give young people role models who support them to take up opportunities.
Action Two: Government, media and community change the narrative about Aboriginal young people to include diversity and positive celebrations of culture and survival.
- Support Aboriginal young people to have a voice in their communities and society, to represent their diverse identities and shape the discourse about their community.
- Government and media outlets embed a strategy to diversify their representation of Aboriginal people to reduce stigma and stereotypes.
- Make Aboriginal studies (including culture, genocide and ongoing injustices) a compulsory subject for all Australians and is offered as a VCE subject.
- Take action to end lateral violence and family violence that affects the Aboriginal community.
Delegates produced the video below to capture their workshop.
Our Story: Intergenerational Connection
Creative workshop facilitated by Rose de Jong and Lily Graham
“Intergenerational connection to me is knowing where you come from to understand where you belong, where you’re going and what you will to pass onto future generations.” - Delegate
This group shared the importance of intergenerational connection in their communities. Delegates consider Elders a vital link to the culture and history of Aboriginal people. Connecting with language, ceremony and Country through Elders gives young people pride in their identity and roles in community.
“I feel like our people are all on the same page, feel the same frustrations, hurt, trauma from our history, but at the time you’re the only one that feels it. I feel like reaching out to each other like we do at the Koorie Youth Summit brings everyone together and makes everyone realise and remember that we all in it together. We are the same and we can together move on and become better, stronger people." - Delegate
Delegates viewed intergenerational connection as key to community cohesion. Connecting young people and Elders increases pride and solidarity within community and helps heal divisions. Intergenerational connection also enables upcoming generations to continue the legacies of their ancestors, ensuring community strength into the future.
Making strong connections: How can government and community support young people?
Action One: All Aboriginal young people have access to their culture and community.
- Support Elders to be an essential part of cultural programs, particularly in schools and out of home care.
- Sustainably fund for cultural programs and community events that provide young people a range of ways to connect with culture and Elders such as dance, yarning spaces, cultural celebrations and initiation.
- Increase accessibility and funding to programs that connect families and trace ancestors, particularly for members of the stolen generations and out of home care clients.
- Facilitate more spaces such as the Koorie Youth Summit where young people connect with Elders.
Action Two: Victoria’s Aboriginal community is united, diverse and representative.
- Support young people to be active participants in community decision-making.
- Aboriginal community is unified and respects differences.
- Facilitate Aboriginal young people’s access to Elders as mentors.
Action Three: Cultural knowledge is collected and shared.
- Fund comprehensive collection of Elders’ stories, ideas, knowledge and languages to be shared with communities.
- Teach all Victorians the Aboriginal culture of the land on which they live.
Delegates produced the video below to capture their workshop.
Make It Happen
You can help make the 2017 Koorie Youth Summit actions a reality by sharing them with state and local representatives.
List of Victorian state MPs
List of local councils
Here's an idea for you to copy and paste in your Tweet or email. Don't forget to tag KYC and the MP you are addressing.
"Hi [@Natalie], Aboriginal young ppl spoke up at #OurSummit17. Will you listen and take action on [your topic]? @KYC_Vic"
Young people and community members who contributed to the 2017 Koorie Youth Summit:
Victorian State Government, Department Health and Human Services - Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Branch, Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, Aboriginal Victoria, Commission for Children and Young People, Department of Justice and Regulation - Koori Justice Unit, REX Regional Express, RMIT - Ngarara Willim Centre, Victorian Equal Opportunities and Human Rights Commission, Mantra Bell City, Youth Affairs Council Victoria.
Anna Cerreto, Policy and Research Officer firstname.lastname@example.org
Koorie Youth Summit Project Manager:
Cienan Muir, Senior Project Officer email@example.com