Barnardos Australia has reaffirmed its commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians at its 2015 Annual General Meeting held Tuesday the 24th of November.

Barnardos staff member Heidi Bradshaw received the first Louise Voigt Award, a scholarship for Indigenous staff members established to honour the legacy of retired CEO Louise Voigt. The AGM also saw the launch of Barnardos Reconciliation Plan with Aboriginal Australian The Honourable Linda Burney MP in attendance, who is the NSW Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Minister for Education and Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

The meeting began with a Welcome to Country, welcoming attendees to the land of the Eora people on behalf of the Gadigal clan, performed by Ray Davison of the Metro Aboriginal Land Council. The afternoon also featured a traditional performance from the children of Barnardos Yurungai Learning Centre.

Retired CEO Louise Voigt spoke on the importance of a scholarship for Indigenous staff members, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds themselves.

“They are not isolated from these situations and most particularly being Aboriginal people they are especially committed to support to their own family and their extended kin network,” said Ms Voigt.

Award recipient Heidi Bradshaw, Program Manager at Narang Bir-rong, gave special thanks to her co-workers and senior staff at Barnardos. Ms Bradshaw will be using the scholarship to study a Bachelor of Laws at Macquarie University.

“I want to acknowledge the strong women that I work under as a young Aboriginal woman, Louise, Rosemary, Liz, Deidre, thank you for being such great role models for young women and hopefully with this I can do the same,” Ms Bradshaw said.

The launch of Barnardos Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) also formed an important part of the meeting.

Barnardos Chair Gabrielle Trainor believes the RAP is an important step in continuing the organisation’s work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“This is a framework that enacts our commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians through practical steps,” said Ms Trainor. “Through it, we can try and realise our vision for the kind of Australia we would like to be. Inclusive, just and not only celebrating our first people and building trusting relationships with them but actively creating opportunity.”

The Honourable Linda Burney MP, the first Aboriginal person to serve in NSW Parliament, commended Barnardos on the launch of the RAP.

“The founding principle of Barnardos was one of inclusivity. In the mid-1800s following the death of a child who had been turned away from his shelter, Thomas Barnardo hung a sign outside that read “no destitute child will ever be refused admission”, said Ms Burney.

“And like Thomas Barnardo over 200 years ago, your organisation is putting out that sign today ‘no community is excluded’. It is extremely heartening and very inspirational to see. Having read your RAP, I’m really excited to see that these are the commitments your organization is making.”