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Indigenous voices amplified

Written by Michael Cummings
on June 02, 2023

This National Reconciliation Week Ryman Healthcare has brought together Indigenous voices from Australia and New Zealand for a uniquely trans-Tasman conversation about the road to reconciliation in each country.

A moderated discussion with Deborah Cheetham AO and Irihapeti Bullmore, Ryman’s Taha Māori Kaitiaki (cultural navigator), was the centrepiece of the event, held at the MCG earlier this week.

Introducing the panel discussion, the executive lead for Ryman’s indigenous engagement program, Mary-Anne Stone, said their reconciliation journey was central to the trans-Tasman company’s purpose.


“It is only from a foundation of respect and reconciliation that we can be certain that the care we deliver will be good enough for all our elders and their families, whanau, mob, and all the communities we serve, now and into the future,” Mary-Anne said.

“We are focussed on having the right conversations and elevating more of our First Nations voices through this process. We are encouraged that this event today is about starting those conversations, how we learn from them and how it helps to steer us in the right direction.”


Deborah Cheetham AO (left) and Ryman Healthcare Taha Māori Educator Leisa Aumua hongi.


Deborah and Irihapeti shared their unique perspectives on the long road to reconciliation in each country, and set out a path towards healing, understanding and unity.

“The most fundamental thing we can empower Australians with is knowledge,
and beyond knowledge is understanding,” Deborah said.

“Don't be scared of not knowing something, don't be afraid of not knowing – be afraid of being too lazy to find out.”


Deborah declared her support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament ahead of the referendum later this year, but “it isn't the model that I would have written”.

“It's not the path that I would have chosen. I would have had this Australia, this
incredible nation, this 21st century group of people who identify as
Australian, I would have had them write their own constitution.”

Irihapeti spoke of the need for Indigenous people to have a real seat at the decision-making table, noting that New Zealand’s parliament includes five seats reserved for Māori representatives.

“Having a voice in parliament was a key movement in our community and
meant we had a voice to get the job done and get it done right and it’s
helped get us to where we are.”

But progress for Māori has never come easy, Irihapeti said.

“There were many obstacles over the hundreds of years. We fought against
the Government… We protested and we didn't lose our voice.

“So, it's beautiful. This conference and time of reconciliation is about
the voice of generations.”

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