On the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum, a dedicated group of around 80 campaigners gathered on Saturday, May 27, for their annual Defying Boundaries Reconciliation Walk between Brisbane’s Boundary Streets.
These streets, in Spring Hill and West End, formed the boundaries of exclusion that were enforced on Indigenous peoples from dusk until dawn during the 19th Century.
The mood among the walkers was upbeat as they joined together in solidarity for National Reconciliation Week to advocate for understanding and to remember past injustices.
Uncle Joe Kirk welcomes the walkers
Turrbal elder Uncle Joe Kirk offered an Acknowledgement of Country in his native tongue, then translated it to English, before the walkers set off on their trek.
“Welcome. May the spirit of Turrbul, the ancestors of the land, be with you forever and during this walk,” Uncle Joe said.
He also said it was rewarding to see Indigenous and non-Indigenous people come together as “one mob” in the name of reconciliation.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags were held aloft during the walk alongside Australia’s national flag as a mark of respect.
Campaigners share their stories
Kris from Bardon (left) participated in the walk with some fellow social work students from the University of Queensland.
“We’re coming together to have more of a conversation about what we can do as individuals to contribute to reconciliation, from a grassroots level, to see what else we can do to contribute to the community,” she said.
Jacqueline Sandy (below right) and her husband James, both from Redcliffe, shared one very personal reason for joining the Defying Boundaries walk.
“My husband is 54 years old and for four years of his life he was recognised officially in Australia as flora and fauna,” Ms Sandy said.
“And seeing as this is the fiftieth year celebration of the referendum, I think I wanted to get more involved and also walk with my husband in support of him and his family,” she said.
When asked why he was walking, James Sandy echoed his wife’s sentiment: “It’s a reconciliation walk, fifty years. Myself, I’m born before ’67 and so, part of my life I was counted as a koala bear or Cooktown Orchid.”
“I’m from a family of eleven. There’s only me and my younger sister left, so I’m walking for all my older siblings who never got that privilege…because for most their lives they weren’t counted as citizens,” Mr Sandy said.
The Defying Boundaries Reconciliation Walk received funding support from Brisbane City Council through the Black Diamonds Community Partnership Scheme.
Footnote: While it is often said Indigenous peoples were classified as fauna prior to the 1967 Referendum, this is a common misunderstanding that arose from the failure of the state to properly count these peoples in the census, as they were required to do. They were just not to be included in the official population count, that is until the highest ever referendum vote changed the Constitution. This SBS News report explains further.