By Mikayla van Loon
The Victorian Youth Parliament has just finished up for another year but a team of six young people from the Yarra Ranges haven’t quite finished campaigning for their Bill.
Gunai-Monaro woman Chloe Baulch and her team put forward the Mandatory Reconciliation Action Plans in Schools Bill to help bridge the gap between First Nations Peoples and non-First Nations Peoples.
“A Reconciliation Action Plan is basically a set out document that is used in any organisation, so that can be schools, workplaces, really anyone can set one up for their business,” she said.
“And it’s just a structure that’s set out to implement, help and also make First Nations Australians or anyone really just feel comfortable and welcomed in the environment that they’re in.”
While there are set guidelines for what needs to be included in a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), Ms Baulch said schools can adapt RAP’s to suit its individual needs and cohort.
“One thing they say is optional but in the RAP my team has created, if it was a school that was having a RAP, we believe that cultural connection to the land should be involved within the school.
“My team believes that having something where it acknowledges the land that we’re on, so for instance, for myself out in the Yarra Ranges on Wurundjeri land, all the schools out this way would have to have something to say, ‘we acknowledge that were on the Wurundjeri land’.
“And they would need to have it written or just said at the start of each session like you would in an acknowledgement of country.”
The majority of the Youth Parliament voted in favour of this Bill and it will now be placed in the hands of youth minister Ros Spence.
But for Ms Baulch and her team, the role they want to play in getting this Bill mandated by the State government is far from over.
“The really wonderful thing that I’ve seen from my other team members was as soon as we had finished the program, they all turned around and said, ‘we don’t want this to be the end’.
“So one of the ladies who was helping us from the Yarra Ranges Council, she actually said, ‘Okay, let’s just keep advocating this topic and trying to set up meetings’.”
Every Thursday evening the team meets with a representative from an organisation they believe will be able to help further their advocacy or who would be interested in learning more about an RAP.
“We had a meeting last week with Reconciliation Australia and they were really helpful with giving us tips and where to go from there and then they’ve set us up with a couple of ministers and people to talk to,” Ms Baulch said.
“So hopefully with us talking to them, they can get an understanding of why we want it before they actually read our Bill [in parliament].
“Hopefully it helps get them on the yes side of it so that it can become approved and then compulsory.”
Only 22 primary and secondary schools have already implemented an RAP in Victoria and Ms Baulch said she would like to think even if the Bill doesn’t get passed in parliament, that schools will begin adding it to the curriculum because of the advocacy work her team hopes to do.
Ms Baulch said schools like Mount Lilydale Mercy College have already reached out to herself and the team to talk about how the school can use the information provided in the RAP to address the upcoming compulsory teaching of cultural connection to the land in science.
“Having these RAP’s isn’t trying to tell anyone ‘you need to have indigenous people at your school’,” Ms Baulch said.
“It’s just to make people feel more accepted and welcomed and even for the non Indigenous students just to learn about the culture and actually have that mandatory for them to actually learn.”
To learn more about RAP’s and how to set one up, go to https://www.narragunnawali.org.au/raps/what-is-a-rap.