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Interview with Shirli Congoo

Shirli is based in Townsville and is of Aboriginal and Southsea Islander heritage.

What is your current role in the Australia Eastern Territory?

My current role is: Territorial Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Ministry Coordinator

What is the purpose of this ministry?

The purpose of the role is to assist the Eastern Territory social programs and mission to engage with the local Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander community and to build their cultural competence and capacity.

In what ways do you see this being achieved?

A few ways that this is achieved is through working with different social programs and mission teams:

  • Providing information and feedback into policies with regards to working with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander clients.
  • Assisting with local community engagement e.g Churches working together to celebrate Reconciliation Week & NAIDOC Week, initiating contact with Traditional Owners, guest speakers for Junior Soldiers etc
  • Program specific training e.g. Working in Remote communities in Recovery Services.
  • Hosting conferences for TSA staff, volunteers and officers with regards to community engagement, ministry in a cultural context and bringing an awareness of policies etc
  • Working with different programs with regards to Traditional naming of rooms, services and making our programs culturally safe places.
  • Partnering with local services and the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander community to respond to youth suicide through a leadership & resilience program.

What is one of the most significant impacts that this ministry has had?

Our team is relatively new being only about 5 years old. We have been guided significantly by TSA National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Reference Group who identified 8 Key National Priorities which include:

  1. Implementation of the National Policy Statement Minute on Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peoples Ministry.
  2. Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).
  3. Appointment Procedures.
  4. Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Inclusion in Territorial, Divisional, Social Programs & Corps Reviews.
  5. Developing Cultural Competence across TSA.
  6. Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Leadership Development.
  7. Strengthen key areas of Ministry where there is an indigenous presence.
  8. Social Justice Issues.

The AUE Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Team has work plans that focus on the priorities and all our work is ongoing and evolving. Key areas we have really progressed in are:

  • Final stages of an online cultural competence training being completed.
  • AUE RAP was launched in August 2015.
  • Internal engagement with programs and mission with regards to policies, community engagement and how to localise RAPS.

 

What are some of the most significant needs being addressed through this ministry?

The most significant need is being met through our team working with social programs and mission teams to be culturally safe places and to build their cultural capacity and competence to work and minister to Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people.

English is a 2nd or 3rd language in some Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander communities. I have had the pleasure of working with Doorways staff and rethinking how we service these communities in the new contract awarded. The outcome is a type of subcontracting in the Torres Strait Islands and Cooktown with two .5 workers in each area.

Another key area our team see as a priority is through Recovery Services, we believe if we are able to have culturally safe services this will encourage our people to enter our services to address their drug and alcohol issues and to work towards addressing the underlying issues and give them a new hope for healing and a brighter future. We believe this will ultimately lower incarceration rates, domestic violence, child removals, homelessness etc.

What is your vision for the future of this ministry?

My hope is for the truth of Australian history and the contemporary impacts on our First Nations People to be heard, and acknowledged for our nation to move to a place of healing, peace and unity. I want to see intentional engagement with First Nations people to hear the voices of wisdom and knowledge to transform the ongoing state of poverty and injustice, incarceration, child removals, poor health outcomes, low educational outcomes, homelessness etc. Through this my hope is for The Salvation Army to walk alongside First Nations people so we all experience finding freedom through community, freedom through action, which hopefully leads to a revival to finding freedom through faith in Jesus.