Collaboration of culture and respect at popular First Nations forum
  • Friday 19 August 2022

Priorities, aspirations and challenges were the central themes which emerged from the second annual First Nations Self-Determination, Representation and Wellbeing Forum at Twin Waters this month (8-9 August), attended by more than 200 people from Queensland, Northern Territory and New South Wales.

The forum coincided with a significant milestone to raise awareness and protect the rights of the global First Nations population: International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

It featured community delegation workshops around social connections and community values, justice and recidivism, health and wellbeing, housing, industry and business, cultural tourism and environmental management.

Sunshine Coast Council Acting Mayor Rick Baberowski said the forum was a key opportunity to unite First Nations communities and engage in discussions about self-determination and wellbeing.

“Sunshine Coast Council is committed to growing a strong community including long term and meaningful engagement with Traditional Custodians and First Nations communities,” Acting Mayor Baberowski said.

“The forum created an opportunity and space for First Nations peoples to come together, make connections and learn from one another.

“Conversations around First Nations priorities, aspirations and achievable actions will continue over the next 12 months, setting the platform for next year’s event.”

Sunshine Coast Council Community Portfolio Councillor David Law said the forum provided an opportunity for First Nations’ voices to come together and learn.

“We recognised the First Nations community as part of International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples to nurture our relationships,” Cr Law said.

“Under the Sunshine Coast Reconciliation Action Plan council is committed to growing a strong community and providing an encouraging and supportive framework that facilitates First Nations partnerships on the Sunshine Coast.

“The speakers had such powerful messages to share with attendees and provided an update on best practices and case studies.

Sunshine Coast Council Senior First Nations Advisor Stephen Mam said the strong turnout made for constructive and robust discussions.

“Bringing the community together, on a day of recognition, helps to foster intrinsic and benevolent relationships, as a foundation to growing strong, sustainable and empowering outcomes.

“Last year’s forum focused on National Policy and this year we listened to local First Nations communities on what issues were their priority, what were their aspirations and understanding the challenges for First Nations peoples.

“We heard from First Nations allies, non-First Nations people, who have rallied to the cause and are standing up in good will to support First Nations people on the fundamental basis of protecting everybody’s human rights.

“The forum had a great representation from not only local communities on the Sunshine Coast, but also from other parts in Queensland, the Northern Territory and New South Wales.”

Northern Territory’s Vincent Forrester, a Luritja Arrernte Elder, said he heard some good stories from the last forum and travelled to the Sunshine Coast to network with a variety of people.

“I’d like to thank the Sunshine Coast Council for their initiative of bringing people together, to have a yarn about important issues as we go forward as a nation,” Mr Forrester said.

“By communicating you can overcome a lot of the problems, and information needs to go both ways.

“Bringing all people together is what it’s all about and we have things to offer the non-Aboriginal people of Australia because we have a history that goes back many millennia and we may be able to share this.”

First Nations man Wayne Levy, Sunshine Coast Council’s Lakes and Wetlands Project Officer, said the First Nations Forum was a special event for the Sunshine Coast.

“We had prominent leaders at the forum who spoke, and that network keeps thriving with up and coming younger leaders and it’s bound to continue and improve now,” Mr Levy said.

“We want to engage with the great Australian people to have them learn from us as the oldest living people on the continent and start to draw more on ancient knowledge, learn from our past and move forward in a better way and create a better country.” 

Keep an eye out for the First Nations Supplier Day, in October this year, celebrating Indigenous Business Month.

The day is a platform to showcase local First Nations businesses and their ongoing contributions to the economic sustainability of the Sunshine Coast region.