NAIDOC Week runs from July 2 to 9 and has the theme “Our Language Matters”. The emphasis of this week is to celebrate the unique role language plays in linking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to their cultural identity, land and people.
Today only around 120 of some 250 distinct indigenous languages are still spoken, with many at risk of being lost. Youth Off The Streets is trying fix this. Youth Off the Streets has specific programs that are run to connect our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people to their culture, and I believe that this is one of the best ways to help our young people make positive choices and achieve their full potential. The unfortunate truth is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians make up around 27 per cent of our prison population, have high suicide rates, and an overall lower life expectancy.
We cannot sit idly while these issues are still faced by Australians, we need to take action. Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities has been a privilege. I’ve seen so many young people turn their lives around through simply connecting with their culture, land and people.
We know that connecting young indigenous people with Aboriginal Elders and our own Aboriginal youth workers ensures that they have cultural guidance in their most formative years. In some cases, all our troubled young people need is kindness and guidance from cultural leaders to turn their lives around.
This NAIDOC Week, I implore you to take part in your local NAIDOC Week events. Join me in encouraging our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people to connect with their community and history and achieve greatness.
Father Chris Riley
Chief Executive Officer and Founder, YOTS