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(L-R) Lisa O'Grady, Agnes Donovan, Veronica Bird and Luke Daniels will take part in Shellharbour's Close the Gap day. Picture: Christopher Chan


Messages of reconciliation will be shared as part of a special National Close the Gap day event to be held at Killalea State Park on Thursday.

The day is a chance to celebrate the cultural heritage of the Aboriginal community and share knowledge with the broader community.

It is also an opportunity to connect the community to relevant agencies that provide services and support across a range of areas, Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba says.

The day’s program kicks off at 3pm and runs until 9pm.

Shellharbour City Council Aboriginal community liaison officer Veronica Bird said local people would be present to give their views on how issues of inequality could be addressed.

"There will be weaving workshops, spear-making, entertainment, interactive storytelling, activities with language and traditional dance, stall holders and health service providers conducting health checks," Mrs Bird said.

Between 5pm and 6pm, a sausage sizzle will be held along with a showcase of Aboriginal vocalists.

At 6pm an official ceremony will begin, including the celebration of the relocation of the Scarred Tree from Dunmore Quarries to Killalea.

Uncle Reuben Brown will be present to explain the significance of preserving the Scarred Tree.

An outdoor screening of Jimmy Little’s tribute at the Opera House will be shown at 7pm to wrap up the day of entertainment.

Mrs Bird said the event followed the release of the seventh annual Closing the Gap report which flagged few gains in indigenous health and education since 2008 when the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) set annual targets to address Aboriginal disadvantage.

"From a local perspective, and certainly from my observations, it’s still a very sad state of affairs in overcoming the high disadvantage facing indigenous community members," Mrs Bird said.

"The Close the Gap report looks pretty grim in relation to indigenous people across Australia."

The event is being hosted by the council in partnership with Killalea State Park, Barnardos, Grand Pacific Health, Shellharbour Aboriginal Community Youth Association (SACYA) and Illawarra-Wingecarribee Local Decision Making.


(This article was first published on 16 March, 2015 and was written by Alex Arnold for the Illawarra Mercury.)