Believe it or not, one of the benefits of retirement is being able to watch National Press Club addresses. If you watched Australian of the Year, Mick Dodson's speech today and didn't ask what you could do to help meet his simple but seemly unattainable goals then you're reading the wrong blog:
I’d like to see every Australian child next Australia Day geared up for the start of the 2010 school year.To take up the challenge, Mick suggested actions we can all take:
And I want to be confident that those children are going to get the best education this country can give them. I want it for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and I want it for other children who aren’t getting it now because of where they live, because of poverty and because we’ve failed them.
If like me you believe education is the principle pathway to reconciliation, you need to act on that belief.If you're not on this list, don't worry. I'm sure you'll think of something.
Indigenous or not, if you are a parent you need to value your kids’ education – get them to school, take an interest in what they’re learning.
If you are non-Indigenous parent, find out how many Indigenous kids are at your children’s school and whether your kids learn about their history and culture. Do you know enough about local Indigenous history and culture to help your kids learn?
If you’re a teacher, demand only the best, of yourself and your pupils.
If you’re a government official working in an education department, ask yourself what are you doing to support schools that achieve great results? What are you doing about those that are failing?
What do you do about schools with poor attendance records or poor literacy outcomes? What did you do this week? Last week? What problem will you fix before you go home?
If you’re a university lecturer what do you teach the next generation? Do you know why there are so few Indigenous students at your university? What are you doing about getting them there?
If you are an employer, do you offer opportunities for Aboriginal trainees, hope for students that their education will lead to work that values and respects them for who they are? Do you hesitate because of stereotypes?
Are you the kind of employer who, given a lucrative government contract for a job in an Aboriginal community, puts a fence around the site and employs not a single Indigenous person, and trains no one?
If you’re someone with skills looking for something fulfilling, have you considered taking them where they are needed?
These are questions we need to be asking if we want better outcomes for Indigenous kids. But we need to ask the same or very similar questions for all disadvantaged kids who are not getting a decent education.
You can download the full text of his speech at Reconciliation Australia.