Proud Menang Gnudju Noongar woman and WesCEF’s Aboriginal Employment Advisor, Emma Castle, recently joined with thousands of others in walks for reconciliation, as part of Reconciliation Week.
Reconciliation WA’s Walk for Reconciliation coincided with Mabo Day on Thursday, 3 June. The walk was a public demonstration of leadership, support and solidarity with the reconciliation movement.
Reflecting on this year’s theme “More than a word. Reconciliation takes action” Emma notes that this year’s walk is the biggest that she’s ever seen.
“The whole week of events, culminating with around 3,000 people taking part in this walk, was a great time of reflection and acknowledgement of Aboriginal people, culture and community and the path towards reconciliation,” Emma said.
Emma was also fortunate enough to be one of more than 6,000 people taking part in The Long Walk, as part of the AFL’s Dreamtime Game at Optus Stadium.
“I have to admit, I did worry at one stage whether the Matagarup Bridge was going to be able to hold everyone who was taking part in the Long Walk! It was a truly special event to be part of and one that was filled with so much love, pride and respect,” Emma said.
The Long Walk was started by former Essendon football player, Michael Long, in 2004 as a way to elevate the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and advocate for improved health and education outcomes for Indigenous people.
“I have never experienced so much unity and such a real, strong sense of reconciliation amongst people from all ages and backgrounds,” Emma said.
“Whether you were Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal, the Premier of Western Australia or a 2-year old on your Dad’s shoulders, everyone was walking together as one.”
Emma puts the large numbers and unity down to greater awareness, understanding and recognition of Aboriginal history, culture and the issues still facing many Indigenous people today.
“I definitely think there is now a greater awareness and support for reconciliation. In the past, I think people have wanted to do better but didn’t necessarily know how to. With greater awareness, people now recognise that taking part in these events and standing in solidarity with Aboriginal people will help us achieve the goal of having a just, equitable and reconciled Australia – which benefits everyone.”
As a WesCEF employee, Emma is grateful and proud of the opportunity to take part in these events and connect with her culture, family and community.
“Our whole focus at WesCEF is on building relationships and respect and creating opportunities for Aboriginal engagement and employment. For me, being able to participate in these types of events not only builds me up spiritually, it also gives me a great chance to really connect with lots of people,” Emma said.
“In my role, being able to connect with others and build strong networks and relationships allows me to identify potential candidates and put forward better strategies for employing, engaging and retaining Aboriginal people, so that we can further improve Aboriginal representation within the business.”
With NAIDOC Week coming up in July, Emma notes that there will be a number of opportunities for WesCEF employees to get out into the community to celebrate Aboriginal culture and success and connect with others across the business.
“NAIDOC Week will be a great opportunity to acknowledge our diverse, respectful and inclusive workforce and continue to build on the relationships we have with each other. I really encourage not only our Aboriginal employees, but everyone in the business to take up the opportunity to get involved.”