International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples
August 9 marks the twenty fourth annual celebration of the diversity of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and their cultures, customs and survival.
The United Nations established the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples in 1994 to commemorate the first meeting of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations, as part of their work on the promotion and protection of Human Rights.
The day is focused on protecting the rights of the World’s Indigenous population as well as recognising their cultures and the contributions they make to the global society, particularly on issues such as environmental protection.
It is estimated that there are 370 million Indigenous people in around 90 countries across the globe. Many still practise their unique customs and live culturally distinct lives from other citizens of their respective countries.
In Australia, the day serves as an opportunity for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to hear about what other communities are achieving, to demand more and grow their strength nationwide.
Despite decades of policy interventions by Australian governments, Indigenous Australians continue to experience disproportionate levels of educational, employment, health and social disadvantage.
Over the years, Mercy Works has been involved in a number of different programs supporting Indigenous Australians. Our current projects focus on education as despite increased access, there are still significant gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students in terms of retention and graduation rates.
The Mercy Works Family Engagement Program at the Pwakayini Pre-School in Bathurst Island (80kms north of Darwin) assists parents in child management practices such as preparing nutritious meals, food handling skills and functional literacy. This in turn has a flow-on effect to the pre-schoolers who benefit from their parents’ involvement. Indeed, the whole community benefits from families who are engaged in the education process as many parents, many of whom are very young themselves, develop a more secure attachment with their children through our program.
There are currently 30 students enrolled in the pre-school and very few of them have access to books or developmental toys at home. Within the year however, the students become avid readers and adept at creative play. The educators work very hard to ensure the curriculum is tailored to ensure it is culturally inclusive and appropriate for the families.
The same can be said of our Mercy Access project which trains volunteers to mentor Aboriginal students in the Sandhurst Diocese of Victoria. Our hard-working volunteers (most of whom are retired schoolteachers) are trained for method, cultural and spiritual input which helps them to better support the primary-aged schoolchildren in the classroom as well as at after-school programs.
Our newest program, The Honey Ants Children’s Club is an active Indigenous academic and recreational after-school program catering for Aboriginal children between the ages of three and fifteen from the Davenport Community in South Australia. The children who participate in the program come from a low economic family background and benefit from a specialised program that cultivates skills in language learning, science, maths, reading, health, hygiene and creative writing.
Mercy Works has long recognised that optimising the early years of Aboriginal children’s lives by ensuring they have the right stimulation and nurturing, is the best investment our society can make in ensuring its future success and breaking the cycle of poverty and marginalisation.
If you would like to learn more about our Indigenous projects, please like and follow our Facebook page for regular updates. www.facebook.com/MercyWorksLtd
Messages to: Maria Rallis, Mercy Works