Supporting First Nations Peoples

reconciliation 2

1.  Acknowledgement of Country

SWAN acknowledges the Bunurong / Boon Wurrung people, the Traditional Custodians of these lands and waters where we meet. We pay our respects to Elders, past and present. In line with our commitment to social justice, SWAN unequivocally supports First Nations People in their campaigns for sovereignty, self-determination, treaties and truth-telling. 

2.  Supporting First Nations (SFN) group

The Supporting First Nations (SFN) group was established in March 2020 to enhance SWAN’s capacity to:

  1. Engage with local Indigenous communities, especially women;

  2. Advocate for social justice in support of First Nations peoples; and

  3. Raise awareness amongst SWAN members and within our local community about past and ongoing injustices experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The paper, Reasons for SWAN becoming an Indigenous Ally, approved by the SWAN Committee, outlines the rationale for SWAN becoming an Indigenous Ally.   

Priority is given to engaging with local Indigenous organisations to:

i)  learn about their work, achievements so far and the challenges that they face; and

ii) determine how SWAN might best support them in their endeavours and campaigns.

SFN provides SWAN members with information and resources about how they can learn more about the historic and current day issues faced by our First Nations peoples, including in our local area. SFN newsletter May and July 2020     SFN newsletters 2021

Examples of actions undertaken by SFN during 2021 and 2020 include:

  • Liaison with MPSC Warringinee Group in response to specific requests for support and on how SWAN can help to achieve the outcomes in the Shire’s Reconciliation Action Plan.

  • Participating in ‘Change the Date’ events held by Willum Warrain Aboriginal Gathering Place and Nairm Marr Djambana Aboriginal Gathering Place in conjunction with Our Songlines over the 26 January weekend.

  • Lobbying politicians and local councillors in support of the three pillars of The Statement: Voice, Treaty and Truth-telling in follow-up to SWAN’s NAIDOC week events, 2021 (with local Elder, Aunty Helen Bnads) and 2020 (with guest speaker Teela Reid).

  • Building alliances with MPSC women councillors in support of First Nations concerns.

  • Writing letters to the Editor of MP News to support truth-telling about our colonial past.

  • Developing the SWAN Truth-Telling Resource to support our members to share information about our colonial history, current injustices faced Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to advocate against racism.   This resource can be accessed from the right hand top of this page.

  •  Submitting a written response to Government’s Indigenous Voice Co-design process:   Swan Submission on Indigenous Voice Co-Design Process

  • Lobbying politicians to hold a referendum to enable the Australian people to vote to enshrine an Indigenous Voice to Parliament and to conduct a bipartisan community education campaign guided by First Nations people about a) why a referendum is being held; b) why this constitutional change is necessary; and c) what it will mean.

  • Supporting local campaigns that led to MPSC a) naming the new aquatic centre in Rosebud: ‘Yawa’, the local Indigenous word for ‘swim’, thereby acknowledging a language over 40,000 years old; and b) agreeing to replace the derogatory term ‘Blacks Camp’ on a road, preschool and bushland reserve in Somerville.

  • Advocacy with MP Shire Council on cultural heritage, signage and information.

  • Advocacy for the protection of remote communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Writing letters of protest to the Government and media concerning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Deaths in Custody, Black Lives Matter and age of incarceration.

  • Providing written input for the Willum Warrain Masterplan.

  • Canvasing the views of candidates in the MPSC elections on First Nations issues.

 NAIDOC Week Events

Each year SWAN invites a First Nations woman to address our NAIDOC meeting. NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. Its origins can be traced to the emergence of Aboriginal groups in the 1920′s that sought to increase awareness in the wider community of the status and treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

In July 2022 we will hear about the First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria which is working on negotiations for a Treaty or Treaties expected to be implemented in 2023.


In July 2021, highly respected, local First Nations Elder, Aunty Helen Bnads, spoke on the NAIDOC theme: ‘Heal Country’. Her moving address centred on the Uluru Statement From the Heart, integrating the eloquent words of this historic statement with the harsh realities of life experienced by First Nations people today. She asked for our support to ensure that the Federal Government calls a referendum to allow the Australian people to vote on the constitutional enshrinement of an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

Our NAIDOC 2020 address on the theme: ‘Always was, Always will be’ was given by Teela Reid, a proud Wiradjuri and Wailwan woman, criminal defence lawyer and a passionate advocate for enshrining a First Nations Voice to Parliament in the Constitution and a Makarrata Commission to enable Treaty and Truth- telling. For further information follow this link:  Why Constitutional Enshrinement is Crucial to Australia’s Future

Following each of these events a series of actions were undertaken to express solidarity with our First Nations peoples in their quest for sovereignty and self-determination; and to support members to participate in truth-telling activities. This included a letter to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Aboriginal Australians asking the Government to hold a referendum to enable the Australian people to enshrine a Indigenous Voice.          

3.   Building connections with local First Nations organisations

‘The First People of what is now known as the Mornington Peninsula, the Bunurong/Boon Wurrung People of the Kulin Nation, have a rich history of living on this Country, dating back over 40,000 years. Today, the Peninsula has a fast growing Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander population, including Traditional Owners and other Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples with diverse cultures, identities, and stories’ (MPSC Mayor and CEO, 2020).

The Shire Council is committed to playing its part to promote and celebrate Aboriginal cultural heritage, art and cultures. It has produced a Factsheet about the First Peoples who inhabited the Mornington Peninsula:

 A brief history of the Boon Wurrung / Bunurong People

It has also developed a Calendar of culturally significant dates for First Nations communities.    Calendar of culturally significant dates for First Nations communities  .

Importantly, in November 2020 the Shire published its first Reconciliation Action Plan.  MPSC Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) 2020 - 22

SFN members engage with several local First Nations groups and communities, including:

Some useful resources

SFN has compiled a list of books and resources that you may find useful:  List of books and resources

Another link that readers might find useful is:    Know Your Country       Supporting employment of First Nations Cultural Educators in every Primary School. 

How to find out more or become involved 

SWAN warmly welcomes all those who would like further information about our engagement with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to contact our Supporting First Nations group: Email: Maureen Donelly: or call: 0423 806 525.

Updated: Diane McDonald, 29 July, 2021