Vicki Clark OAM

Vicki Clark has supported the Aboriginal community for decades.

Honour Roll

Vicki Clark is a descendant of the Mutthi Mutthi tribe of southwest New South Wales. Her home country is centred around Lake Mungo, New South Wales, and she is the proud mother of teenage daughter, Tamara. As the Co-ordinator of the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry Melbourne (ACMM) Vicki has worked tirelessly since 1988 for the rights of Indigenous people, in particular Indigenous Catholic people in Victoria.

In 2000, Vicki was elected as Chairperson of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) for a three-year period, the first woman to hold this position. This unique facility is so often a conduit for personal empowerment of Aboriginal peoples, Catholic and non-Catholic.

At the same time, she is able to facilitate communication between the 'official' Catholic church and its Aboriginal members and the wider community, in a way that would not otherwise be possible. By opening the avenues of communication, the hopes and ideals of all are able to be formed into a dialogue that both informs and creates action. Vicki's role over the past ten years has positioned her as a leader in the reconciliation process in Victoria. She was a member of Faith Advisory Group to the National Reconciliation Council.

However, it is her work in the local community especially in the field of education that has had a profound impact. Catholic schools - primary and secondary - throughout Victoria have benefited from Vicki's wise and passionate input in regard to Indigenous issues. Many, hundreds of Catholic students and staff members over the past ten years have been awakened to issues of justice for Indigenous peoples through Vicki's work - the flow-on from this work cannot be overestimated.

Vicki has been able to be an influential agent of change within the hierarchical levels of the Catholic church, winning many concessions that allow her people to worship and celebrate in ways that are culturally appropriate. St Patrick's Cathedral now acknowledges Indigenous presence and spirituality, by a mosaic presentation at the front of the Cathedral and by housing an Indigenous Message Stick within the building.

Both of these initiatives came about through Vicki's suggestion and action. Vicki's work is never confined to regular working hours. Her dedication to her work and willingness to be available to the community sets her apart from the ordinary. Her influence extends beyond the Catholic community of Victoria. For example, in 1999 and 2001 her work has been acknowledged by the Darebin City Council with Australia Day awards for work for reconciliation through community events programmed in 1998 and 2000.

Each of these events had a profound effect in raising awareness of the issues involved in reconciliation in the wider community. As Chairperson of NATSICC, Vicki's sphere of influence extends to a national level. NATSICC is the advisory body to the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and is responsible for keeping the Australian bishops abreast of Indigenous issues and ways of responding.

She is responsible for listening to and bringing together, the diversity of needs, ideals and vision of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic communities right across the nation - remote, rural and urban. This requires great skills in understanding, listening and communicating. These skills she has in abundance and they gain for her the respect of her own community and all in the wider community who are privileged to experience her work and her person.

Vicki's ever-widening experience and influence has included the curating of two travelling art exhibitions. Invisible No More (1997) and Dreaming in the City (1999-2001). These exhibitions travelled throughout Victoria and nationally. Invisible No More told the story of the development of the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, thus bringing it and its work to the attention of a national audience. Dreaming in the City is a vibrant exciting exhibition of Aboriginal urban religious art, that is providing Victorian religious communities with evidence of a living, growing Indigenous religious expression.

Throughout the past ten years, Vicki has brought about vital change within the Victorian Catholic church in regard to the acceptance of Indigenous faith expression and an awakening to issues of justice in regard to the wider issues of reconciliation, land rights and the stolen generation. In regard to this latter issue, Vicki was asked to become a member of a national working party of the Australian Leaders of Religious Institutes to examine the issues and to develop an appropriate response to the members of the Stolen Generation who had been affected within institutions under the control of these Religious Orders.

The result of this work was the production of a book - A Piece of the Story - which not only tells the story but is a tool to assisting members of the Stolen Generation in their search for their backgrounds and their families. There is no doubt that Vicki's work has had a profound effect within the community and one that has bought about institutional change and lasting benefits. Her work and her influence continues.