The Jewish community is engaging with First Nations communities in a range of ways, but there is more that could be done.
Those are the findings of a comprehensive research report completed by the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV)’s Walk Together Project team.
The team – working together with Karen Milward, Aboriginal cultural consultant and Yorta Yorta woman – sought to find out about current activities involving local Jewish and First Nations organisations and then provide recommendations on how the Victorian Jewish community could take steps towards reconciliation with First Nations Victorians.
JCCV president Daniel Aghion said, “I am very pleased to learn that there are 19 JCCV affiliate organisations – including Jewish schools, museums, synagogues and others – engaged in activities to build connections between Jewish and First Nations people.”
He added that it is also positive that “many are seeking to do more in this space, to learn from local elders, to create reconciliation action plans and to build ongoing relationships”.
The Walk Together Project team – led by Miriam Bass, Lee Ann Basser and Joy Lobo – undertook a survey of JCCV affiliates to find out what activities they were currently undertaking with First Nations. These surveys were followed by consultations with both the survey respondents and local First Nations organisations.
Findings of the survey indicated that there was great enthusiasm for engagement that is culturally sensitive, particularly among Jewish youth, but also, that some Jewish organisations see First Nations engagement as outside their purpose.
“In receiving this report, on behalf of the JCCV, I note that one of the findings is that meaningful engagement with First Nations communities takes time. One-off connections, such as getting an Indigenous leader to speak at an event, is not enough to progress relationships between Jewish and First Nations Victorians,” Aghion told The AJN.
In the report the “main learning” from the project is noted as being the importance of “real” engagement with the First Nations community rather than “tokenistic gesture[s] just to obtain funding for an event or activity”.
Aghion explained that the JCCV executive will be considering the findings from this report and “developing actions in response”.
Referencing the upcoming referendum on a First Nations Voice to Parliament, Aghion said, “As we progress towards the referendum later this year … there is much we can do.
“It is a real resource that will be of great use to our community as we play our role in reconciliation,” he said.