PASSIONATE Aboriginal equality and justice champions Ted Lovett and Karen Heap say their biggest hope is for the "path finders".
Uncle Ted Lovett and Ms Heap say what matters most in a pivotal time for Aboriginal rights, spurred on in the latest moves towards treaty, are the actions of emerging, young leaders in Victorian communities.
Each outspoken and fiercely determined, Ballarat's Uncle Ted and Ms Heap have been inducted into Victoria's Aboriginal Honour Roll for their tireless work in creating change. Humbled, they say their work is to help advance opportunities and inclusion for Aboriginal people and such recognition is for their community.
"The main thing I hope is for someone coming up behind me and that I can teach someone things," Mr Lovett said.
"I call them the path finders: young leaders and people coming up and carrying on from us. To give those younger ones a path to follow from a path we start - they can look at all our mistakes and decide how to go forward."
The main thing I hope is for someone coming up behind me and that I can teach someone things.- Uncle Edward 'Ted' Lovett
Uncle Ted Lovett is a Gunditjmara/Djabwurrung senior elder and highly respected for his work across all sections of the community to promote unity. The honour roll recognises his life-long work as an advocate for the Stolen Generations, Aboriginal youth and Aboriginal health in Victoria.
Mr Lovett has long played an instrumental role in getting Aboriginal youngsters out of children's homes and into care so no child need experience the "unjust and inhumane" treatment he did in homes during his childhood.
Well-known for football, Mr Lovett played for Fitzroy in what is now the AFL. In his time with North Ballarat, Mr Lovett became the first player to twice win the Henderson Medal, Ballarat Football League's highest individual honour, and has been relentless in campaigning to stamp out racism on and off the field.
Mr Lovett has also championed for better healthcare for Aboriginal people. He has worked alongside renowned eye doctor Fred Hollows, lobbied for cultural awareness in healthcare and played a key role in setting up Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative, which specialises in Aboriginal health, welfare and community development.
Fifteen years ago, Mr Lovett helped bring Ms Heap, a Yorta Yorta woman, back to Ballarat as BADAC chief executive officer. This was a role her mother Valmai Heap held in the early 1980s.
Building on extensive work in Aboriginal services, Ms Heap has been recognised for her leadership and vision to develop health and well-being services in Ballarat. This includes the new $6 million medical facility, officially opened last week.
Ms Heap has also been involved in state and national work to shape policy and programs in Close the Gap.
"I do see change for our community and I do see a level playing field for Aboriginal people in the future," Ms Heap said.
"But we need to make sure Aboriginal people have employment and proper jobs, to ensure they can buy houses like everyone else does, to ensure Aboriginal people are not in prison in disproportionate numbers."
I do see change for our community and I do see a level playing field for Aboriginal people in the future.- Karen Heap
Elected representatives to Victoria's historic First People's Assembly were announced earlier this month, including Ballarat's Sissy Austin, a Gunditjmara woman, in the next steps towards treaty in this state. The assembly will work to guide the state government in the next phrase of treaty negotiations with Aboriginal clans and nations.
For Mr Lovett, true treaty was about compensation for Aboriginal people for all that was taken on their lands. But, he said ultimately treaty was about a future for generations to come. He hoped they would get the chance to experience the benefits in education, employment and health.
Ms Heap hoped treaty would be about Aboriginal and non-indigenous people walking together for justice and equality in a culturally appropriate way.
"Treaty for me is such a good thing. I hope we can all get behind this," Ms Heap said.
"There is nothing definitive about what treaty will be and that leaves it open to ideas for what treaty could be."
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