Jan was always interested in Aboriginal history and art as she was growing up. She found that her interest in art inspired her to understand more about Aboriginal people and culture. At the time she found it challenging to find information because, in those years, Aboriginal education wasn’t compulsory in schools, she knew nothing about it at all. Aboriginal culture may as well have not existed had it not been for my interest in art.
She went to a speech night at the local church when Elaine and John Telford spoke of the unjust treatment of Aboriginal people and the appalling housing conditions they were living under. At the time, Elaine and John were living in a remote Aboriginal community. When they spoke, Jan was shocked to hear of the distrust that was there, and of the delivery of alcohol in the back of cars/trucks sold at ridiculous prices.
From then on, Jan decided to find out more and educate herself further on how she can help wherever possible. Jan’s goal was to spread the word of what was really happening to Aboriginal people and to inform others of the injustices that they were exposed to.
It wasn’t too long after initially meeting Elaine and John that WRN was founded, she joined shortly after. Joining the WRN put her in touch with likeminded people, she found that there was a lot of goodwill in the community and made connections to other people who want to educate the wider society. After joining, Jan had a passion for knowledge and decided she had to educate herself as much as possible to find out exactly what the situation looks like. She was horrified. And still is horrified at the mistreatment of Indigenous people in society.
Jan feels that the most significant challenges to reconciliation in Australia are that Aboriginal people need to be listened to and taken seriously. She believes that government and solicitations need to tell people the truth and inform them of what is really happening to Aboriginal people.
Most importantly, Jan feels that there needs to be more education, it needs to be more exposed. Jan recalls a time when she was travelling and an individual was discussing the “boat people” coming to Australia. Jan said to him – “Yes, It all started in 1770” – and his face just went blank.
In the future, Jan hopes that we can focus on past mistakes and do something to improve the future of Aboriginal communities as this is way overdue. She believes that consultation and collaboration with Aboriginal people in Australia is a brilliant aspiration, and hopes that with the combination of education, consultation and acknowledgement, we can start to build a better relationship between First Nations Peoples and Australia’s settler communities.