Growing up in remote Western Australia, Joseph Yugumbari has lived and breathed many of the issues that are still being faced by Aboriginal people.
So, when the young leader had the opportunity to speak at a packed Richmond Football Club President’s Function on Saturday at the MCG, he both celebrated the country and KGI’s achievements in the reconciliation space and acknowledged the reasons further change was still needed.
Yugumbari spoke personally of the struggles faced in remote Aboriginal communities, such as in Balgo Hills, Western Australia, where his family and community have seen barriers in educational support.
“With low level education ranging from grade 1 to grade 5, Aboriginal youth are forced to board to receive an education, and unfortunately they experience the hardship of being away from country,” he said.
Yugumbari noted the power of voice as the best way to inspire such change.
“It inspires people, it inspires action,” he said.
“There have been so many sacrifices, so many negotiations, so many brave heroes that have put themselves out there to ensure that the future for young Aboriginal people is one where we can thrive.
Now involved in Youth Parliament, as a by-product of KGI programming, Yugumbari is leading the way to unite the nation as a member of what he described as the “generation for change”.
“I feel as a young Aboriginal person I have a duty to lead such change and to speak for those who need our support but aren’t necessarily heard,” he said.
Kayra Meric, who as a current KGI participant is at a different stage of his “journey”, said that KGI had given him a chance to connect to culture and community on a broader level.
“The Real Empowered program gives us (participants) a place to feel where we can belong and can feel safe and accepting of who we are deep down,” he said.
“The program is fostering the next generation of teenagers for our community and helping us achieve our potential and to be leaders.”
Olivia Bonano and Bek Lasky both spoke glowingly of the AFL’s Dreamtime at the ‘G game and the opportunity it gave Indigenous people to be represented.
“We have all come together to celebrate the world’s longest lasting Indigenous culture on a stage in front of 85,000 people, and broadcasted to millions across the country,” Bonano said.
“We acknowledge our stories, traditions and ancestors before tonight’s match through song and dance, and through amazing jumper artwork which has now become an annual staple for every AFL team.
“It goes to show the incredible unity that exists between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians.”
Lasky, who told the crowd of over 600 people she was proud to be involved with the Richmond Football Club through the KGI due to the Club’s strong Reconciliation Action Plan and initiatives, said that Richmond was helping to pave the way for all Victorian’s.
“It is so important we come together to recognise that we can achieve greater things,” she said.
“As Pastor Doug said- You can play a tune on the black notes of a piano and you can play a tune on the white notes of the piano, but to have harmony you must play with both.”
For more information on the Korin Gamadi Institute’s REAL Program visit https://www.kgi.org.au/programs/real-program/.