Youth Spotlight: Nelson Aldridge

Nelson Aldridge stands in front of a tree in Healesville. His t-shirt reads

“I would define reconciliation as acknowledging and accepting the past to move forward and progress in unity as one nation.”

My name is Nelson and I’m a proud Taungurung man. I’m 23 and live in Healesville, and I work for the Yarra Ranges Council as the Indigenous Development Trainee. As part of the indigenous team, I work on things like reconciliation, NAIDOC Week, and cultural awareness training. I also work closely with the Youth Development team where I get to do things like give talks at high schools.

Reconciliation Week means a lot to me. Reconciliation is huge. I like to think it’s huge not just for Aboriginal people, but for non-Indigenous people, too. Reconciliation is about getting together, acknowledging past and moving forward. It’s about looking at how to move forward as one and put aside our differences to get the best outcome possible for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. It’s a very significant week for aboriginal people in the calendar. At Council we prioritise our Reconciliation Week event, bringing it to life and trying to hit the hearts of people in the Yarra Ranges. It’s also starting to get bigger than just our community with the event being live-streamed at Federation Square.

Looking at how people can incorporate reconciliation into everyday practice is a good question, and it’s one that doesn’t have an easy fix or an easy answer. It’s something that has to be practiced. I know that schools are starting to get culture into day-to-day life, whether that’s a bit of language or learning about Aboriginal culture. All these things go into reconciliation, a bit like the Māori people in New Zealand. For me, reconciliation will be achieved when it’s embedded into everyday life in Australia and we don’t have to think about it anymore. Even just acknowledging the past and that there is a better way forward makes a difference. I think we’re on the right path, but we’re still taking baby steps. Reconciliation is acknowledging the past to move forward and progress in unity as one nation.

I got involved with Council after coming across an advertisement for the Indigenous Development Trainee with a Certificate III in Business Management through AFL Sports Ready. I’ve since completed my Certificate III and one of my goals for this year is to complete my Certificate IV. I also want to land a full-time role, and it would be great if that was with Yarra Ranges Council!

My advice to young people who want to get involved is to get on the front foot and get out there. Get yourself known, contact organisations, and be accepting of everyone. Have a positive attitude and know that not everything will be a success. But when you do fail, it’s about how you use that experience to shape your path going forward.

I think it’s important that young people have a voice because ultimately, we are the future. One day we’ll be politicians and business owners, Councillors or Mayors. We could be anything. We are shaping the future. People in power now need young voices to start shaping and moulding them for our future, as opposed to throwing us in the deep-end and telling us to swim. I think young people are also crying out for what they want their future to be. Take climate change for example; young people are screaming out that they want change because, ultimately, they’re the ones who will be around to see the effects of decisions made today. We are the future.