Dea Delaney-Thiele is a very proud Dunghutti, Kamilaroi and Yuin Aboriginal woman and is the National Executive Director, Dhiiyaan Mirri, Bridging Cultures Unit at OzChild.
What part of your culture is most important to you?
Family is the most important thing to me. Our view of what makes a family is different to Western views. I also look forward to enlightening and educating our staff and other Australians about our culture and the important ‘moments in time’ that we as Peoples endured, and how we have survived on this Country for over 65,000 years. That’s got to mean something! It does to us!
With 2019 being the International Year of Indigenous Languages, how important is language to Aboriginal culture and how important is it to preserve Indigenous languages?
Preserving our languages is significantly important to our identity, our cultural identity our everyday lives, not only as a means of communication, development, education, and social interaction. Our language is also part of our connection to this land, which is held even today in the valuable sources of information about the history of the natural environment, the climate, the plants and the animals and used to name many places too.
Our dad says our Children were taught from a very young age how to be little botanists and astronomers by the time they were about 8. Despite all this, languages around the world are disappearing at alarming rates, that’s why the UN declared this year, 2019, the Year of Indigenous Languages to raise the awareness of this issue, not just to benefit the different peoples who speak different languages, but also for others to appreciate the important contribution they make to our worlds richness of cultural diversity. Each language that is lost, is tantamount to the loss of a cultural treasure.
What do you think is the key to being able to move toward Reconciliation as a country?
We need a deeper understanding, cooperation, reciprocity and reconciliation among different stakeholders through coordinated advocacy and awareness-raising strategies that are underpinned by the human right to keep our languages alive. Adequate resources need to be made available along with robust data through national statistics institutions, in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and other relevant UN instruments and strategies.
The true history of this country needs to be the norm in the curriculums of our education system, at all levels. I believe we are mature enough as a Nation to come out of the ‘cult of forgetfulness’ era. We need to embrace our history, it’s part of our shared journeys, it’s part of our heritage.
Regarding Reconciliation, where would you like to see Australia in 10 years’ time?
I’m not sure it will happen in my lifetime, but I would like to see formal Treaties between the Commonwealth of Australia and the First Nations Peoples. A Formal Treaty could then be actioned through legislation using a model such as the SAAMI have in place. It is a good model that we can embrace. I think there is much hesitance to move forward on the Treaty issue, it could be fear, too hard to approach, or just plain old ‘they should just get over it’. But let me say, there are structures in place in Australia that could provide the framework to establish a Treaty. They are the Native Title Prescribed Body Corporates, or the Local Aboriginal Land Councils. My preference would be through the PBSs as they start from a place with our Apical ancestors.
Treaty is ‘unfinished business’, as we have never ceded our sovereignty. I’m not sure many Aussies are aware, but Lieutenant Cook was given secret instructions by the British Admiralty which stated…’with consent of the Natives, take possession of Convenient Situations in the Country in the Name of the King of Great Britain’.
We all know consent was never sought nor provided. This issue causes so much trauma and angst amongst our People, which needs collective healing and action.
We need brave political champions to do the right thing by the most marginalised and sickest population group in this country. On every marker of disadvantage our People fare the worst. I have to say, the root of the marginalisation and poor outcomes is underpinned by our shared and sorry past.
We need other Aussies to be inquisitive, to gain a deeper understanding of the true history of this country, since settlement. We need other Aussies to stand up to our politicians and say enough is enough, stop wasting our vital tax payer dollars on ‘business as usual programs’ that have little impact.
Why?! It’s the right and most humanistic thing to do. We need to be active participants in the solutions that are within the Communities, and we need to move forward together.
I absolutely love the NAIDOC theme of Voice, Treaty & Truth for this year. After all our histories are interwoven with other Australians, but sadly, even today, we still have a cult of forgetfulness which is practiced on a national scale.
We need our Voices privileged. We need a Treaty as it would help to close off unfinished business and hopefully bring about systemic change and improved outcomes. Finally, we need all Aussies to help us change the story underpinned by the Truth!
What is the best thing about working at OzChild?
The culture of the organisation is amazing where staff bring their values to work. I work with the most amazing, authentic thought leaders who are very caring for the welfare of children. It fills my heart with much joy to see they are on the same page as I am. Their desire for improved outcomes for families facing vulnerable times ‘matches’ mine. ‘We get things done’…together! It’s a great recipe for change! At the end of the day they are all dedicated in working hard to put a smile on a child’s face. I love that!
What are some of the biggest challenges about your role?
Navigating two worlds but I do it so our Children of today, can lead us to a better tomorrow. I want to be part of the solution to the ever-growing numbers of our Children in Out-of-Home-Care, which is unconscionable. As a society we should hold our heads in shame with the appalling statistics. At OzChild we work tirelessly in the child welfare space, and I am really heartened at the evidence-based models that are working to strengthen families and keep children away from Out-of-Home Care.
Finally, what are you most proud of when it comes to your people?
The pride, resilience and tolerance of our people and our ongoing connection to this country that we have called home for over 65,000 years. How special is that! I just wish the majority of Aussies would embrace that as well.