Alma Cabassi is a Sister of Saint Joseph currently living in Halls Creek, Western Australia. Her ministry for the last nine years has been living alongside our First Peoples, listening, reflecting and being with them.
My view is that the small contribution that I make is just one of the infinite number of steps in a very long and convoluted path to reconciliation.
My ministry involves managing the local Op Shop, a place where many come to get a bargain or to browse.
The funds generated by the sale of the goods donated to the Op Shop go directly back into community and support initiatives.
The Op Shop is a place where Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people meet and converse.
There is often lots of banter that goes on between the customers as they talk, laugh and move around the shop. As they engage in conversation, I often see and feel the tension slowly being released and there settles a sense of peace in them.
There is a network of volunteers and donors from across Australia who are involved with collecting and sending donations that is needed for the Op Shop. This network was formed through word of mouth.
I asked several members of the network why they do it and whether it helps move us toward Reconciliation.
The members of the network and I have a deep appreciation for the direct connection to the end recipients as opposed to dropping donations into a charity bin with an unknown end point.
The collaborative effort required, and the connections made during the collection of donations, adds another layer of reconciliation.
The connections shared during the process increases understanding of the needs of the communities and offers the opportunity for non-Aboriginal Australians to recognise their role in reconciliation.
The daughter of my sister’s friend desired to understand the need for reconciliation by undertaking a unit of study in Aboriginal Studies.
Her action is an example of a real connection with the people who fit into the ranks of the disadvantaged and has the potential to challenge our beliefs and highlight our lack of knowledge.
How can we take a further step into the world of Indigenous Australians by meeting and listening to them – one human being to another?
Why are we Australians so hung up on equality, and not so keen on ensuring equity? How many of us do not know the difference?
I encourage you to reflect on these questions and take small positive steps toward reconciliation which helps us to relate to, understand, and respect our First Peoples.