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Trilogy Care employee celebrating National Reconciliation Week 2024 with the hashtag #NRW2024.

Reflections on Reconciliation: A story of identity and culture

National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is a time for all Australians to come together to reflect on the shared history and cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians.  

Held annually from May 27 to June 3 , these dates mark two significant milestones in Australia’s reconciliation journey. May 27   is the anniversary of the 1967 referendum, in which over 90% of Australians voted to remove discriminatory clauses from the Australian Constitution and recognise Indigenous Australians as equal citizens. June 3 is the anniversary of the High Court’s landmark 1992 Mabo decision, which recognised the rights of Indigenous peoples to their land and paved the way for Native Title legislation. 

Although reconciliation recognises the resilience and strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and cultures, everyone’s experience and connection with National Reconciliation Week and what it means to them is unique. 

For Warren Peisker (they/them), a valued team member at Trilogy Care, reconciliation is a time to reflect on their own journey of self-discovery, to connect with their family, culture, and ancestry, and to recognise the struggles and successes of preserving Indigenous culture in a modern society.  

Born to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mother and an Australian father with Polish and Italian heritage, Warren grew up with a deep respect for diversity and an understanding of their cultural heritage. However, a pivotal moment in Warren’s childhood led to the realisation that others viewed them as different. When they were in the third grade, Warren’s then best friend targeted them because of their skin colour. “I remember going home and I looked in the mirror for the first time and saw I was different. And then I had all these questions. Why am I different? Why do I have to be different? 

As Warren grew up, they observed that society often equated beauty with characteristics like fair skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes, which didn’t align with their appearance.  

“Society has these projections and you do internalise that. You develop a sort of internal racism. You’re constantly reminded by society that you’re different. And you can also be reminded by your own family. 

I’ve got aunties, uncles, and cousins that are up in the Cook Islands, and they’re immersed in the culture, some of them are even artists, and they live and breathe the culture. And then there are others in my family who don’t like being differentiated. They see themselves as equal, probably as an Australian who just happens to have a different background like anyone else that’s migrated here or is culturally diverse.” 

Warren’s grandmother was part of the stolen generation, which has meant that many traditions have unfortunately been lost. Even though some traditions couldn’t be passed down, Warren is devoted to learning about and protecting their ancestry. I’m finding things out, not just about my own culture but even my family history. My grandma, she’s 83 years old now. Probably within the last 20 years, she found her sister. So, they’ve rekindled their relationship.” 

Dreamtime stories shared throughout their life by aunties and uncles have helped them connect with their past and culture.

“When I was a kid, I remember asking ‘Can you tell us a story?’ and aunties and uncles would share stories about the bunya or the rainbow serpent, and sometimes I’m sure they even made-up stories. But I’ve found elements of their stories over the years when I’ve been reading or immersing myself in my culture, and other cultures.” 

Even though their family relates to culture in different ways, Warren acknowledges that their upbringing has shaped them into someone who embraces their identity. 

“The person that I am today, is someone that accepts to a degree who I am, but I’m also constantly reminded that I’m in the minority. I’m on my own journey to work out what it means to live my authenticity.”

As Warren continues their journey of self-discovery and learning about their culture and history, they also navigate the challenges of being a minority in the workplace.  

“If no one has met me before, there’s often a predetermined view of who they’re going to meet. My last name is Polish/German, and then they’re faced with myself and it’s like ‘Oh! That’s not who I thought you’d be.’ So, yeah. It’s definitely not easy.” 

Since starting with Trilogy Care, initially as a care partner and now as a care inclusion and resolution specialist, Warren seamlessly fit into the culture and community.  

“There are not many workplaces out there where I’ve been able to say ‘yes, this is a workplace that’s inclusive and I feel like I can be myself’. I think that’s the one thing I’ve been searching for in a workplace. So, stepping into Trilogy Care, I believe we’re an extension of the community; we have a workforce that’s very open. There’s culture here. There’s a sense of community. And yeah, I’m excited to see where that goes because it can only lead to success.” 

As an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Warren recognises the significance of providing accessibility for individuals who may not have encountered someone from their community before, especially in the workplace. They aim to dispel negative stereotypes and foster a cultural understanding.  

“Irrespective of the workplace or environment I’m in, it’s about showcasing the best version of myself. Letting my effort and work speak for who I am. But also, openly communicating and sharing where I can – my story, my culture, my background. To proudly share the perspective of an Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander.”

National Reconciliation Week in Australia serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of acknowledging, understanding, and celebrating the history and culture of Indigenous Australians. It provides an opportunity for all Australians to come together, reflect on the past, and work towards a shared future based on mutual respect, understanding, and recognition. By participating in events, discussions, and acts of reconciliation, we can all contribute to building a more inclusive and harmonious society for generations to come. Let us continue to strive for reconciliation and unity, both during this dedicated week and throughout the year. 

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