Communities the length and breadth of Queensland came out in force to show their support for NRW2018, which resonated at every level with the theme: ‘Don’t Keep History a Mystery’.
Reconciliation Australia’s flagship event, National Reconciliation Week (27 May – June 3) invited Australians to learn, share, and grow by exploring our past, learning more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, and developing a deeper understanding of our national story.
Travelling throughout regional areas, Reconciliation Queensland supported local reconciliation group activities, community, local government, church and business sponsored events, and the Queensland Government’s NRW2018 agenda. Read about those activities here.
Lead up to NRW2018
A signature Queensland event, now in its fifth year, was the Ration Shed Museum‘s annual reconciliation fun run (and walk) from Murgon to Cherbourg on May 20.
This year, RQI partnered with the Parents and Citizens (P&C) Association at Mabel Park State High School in the Logan area to sponsor a group of students to participate in the event.
It was fitting then that the Queensland Reconciliation Awards, held later in the month on May 30 in Cairns, recognised both these organisations. The Cherbourg Historical Precinct Group won the community category award for the fun run, while Mabel Park State High School was awarded in the education category for its Miracles at Mabel program.
The South Burnett Times covered the event and published some great photos, available here.
Sorry Day in Brisbane
Numerous events were held around the State to commemorate Sorry Day (May 26), the anniversary of the tabling in the Australian Parliament in 1997 of the historic Bringing Them Home report.
Among these events, the Teralba Park Stolen Generations Support Group held a ceremony in Brisbane that also marked the unveiling of a plaque honouring the Stolen Generations on the first Sorry Day exactly twenty years ago.
This free public event heard from many guest speakers, including stolen generations survivors, the clergy, school children and politicians.
Of note, LNP Member for Everton and Deputy Opposition Leader Tim Mander recited Kevin Rudd’s Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples, word for word.
Palaszczuk Government ministers Mark Furner and Dr Anthony Lynham were also in attendance and joined Mr Mander in laying wreaths at the plaque.
Among other dignitaries present was Aunty Flo Watson OAM, who said during her closing remarks that she was honoured to be the Chair of the Teralba Park Stolen Generations Support Group.
“We have a dedicated and very committed team, and they work very hard to make sure we never forget what we’re all about,” Aunty Flo said.
Aunty Flo thanked the event’s supporters and performers, and paid tribute in particular to Elders who had publicly shared the trauma of losing their families.
“Aboriginal history was never recorded, and we remember through dance, singing and storytelling. And today, we have in some way told our story through dance, music, art and storytelling,” Aunty Flo said.
“The many issues that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people cannot be addressed unless the whole community listens with an open heart and mind to the stories of what happened, and having listened and understood, commits itself to the true spirit of reconciliation.
“We stand on the shoulders of giants,” she said.
Queensland Government RAP launched
Deputy Premier, Treasurer and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Jackie Trad hosted the launch of a whole-of-government Reconciliation Action Plan for the Queensland Government during NRW2018 at the State Library.
“Our Reconciliation Action Plan is the Palaszczuk Government’s collaborative, living and breathing commitment towards Closing the Gap,” Ms Trad said in a statement.
“It will be delivered in partnership with Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples, service providers, peak bodies and industry leaders including Reconciliation Australia and Reconciliation Queensland Incorporated.
“The plan acknowledges historic injustices as part of healing in the spirit of reconciliation,” she said.
Also in attendance was the State’s first Aboriginal woman elected to the Queensland Parliament Leeanne Enoch, who currently holds the Environment and Great Barrier Reef, Science and Arts ministerial portfolios, and Reconciliation Australia’s Chief Executive Officer Karen Mundine.
Ms Mundine said the Reconciliation Action Plan was a vital driver for meaningful social change through strong relationships and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
“The Queensland Government’s Reconciliation Action Plan signals a genuine commitment by all government departments to play a role in reconciliation by influencing long-term change and embedding reconciliation initiatives to become their ‘business as usual,” Ms Mundine said.
“Positive flow on effects from genuine uptake of this plan are significant, and can lead to stronger families, communities, and cultures, better health and education outcomes, increased employment and more business opportunities for First Nations people,” she said.
Among those invited to speak at the RAP launch was Lane Brookes, a young Madandanji man from the south west Queensland town of Roma.
In a speech punctuated with self-deprecating humour, Mr Brookes spoke candidly about life growing up in a rural area, his achievements, family and culture.
“Before I got to know anything in an academic field, community and sports level, I knew of culture,” Mr Brookes said.
“My reason and purpose growing up was learning as much as I could from remaining Elders and family members and once I was strong in culture, nothing could bring me down,” he said.
Now employed in the delivery of mental health workshops for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in rural and remote areas, Mr Brookes said he was grateful to be working in an area “that affects so many Australians and our mob”.
“”I know that they just need to be shown how to tap into that resilience themselves,” he said.
Distant cousins? RQI Treasurer Simon Brooks with Lane Brookes at the QLD Government RAP launch.
While working in healthcare, Mr Brookes was selected for the Queensland Indigenous Youth Leadership Program and would later go on to participate as one of six Queensland representatives in the National Indigenous Youth Parliament.
He won the Australia Day Roma Citizen of the Year Award at just 18 years of age, making him the youngest person and also the first Aboriginal person to receive this award.
But he added, “I don’t do my work and my volunteering for awards. I do that because I love my people, I love my community, I love my state and my country, and if I can inspire one person, young or old, a day, then that’ll put a smile on my face and keeping making sure that I move forward on my journey”.
On NRW2018 and the theme ‘Don’t Keep History a Mystery’, Mr Brookes said Aboriginal history had been swept under the carpet for too long.
“However, the time for change is now. When we educate each other and non-Indigenous Australians we will see that understanding will translate into something more special than any reconciliation act had ever done,” Mr Brookes said.
Nevertheless, he recognised that Queensland Government RAP represented a “giant step forward” and acknowledged reconciliation as a collaborative effort, “and that’s what makes action plans, programs, resources and opportunities effective for young and old everywhere”.
The Queensland Government had also supported many ‘grass roots’ events around the State for NRW2018, funded through the its Celebrating Reconciliation Small Grants Program. A list of those events is available here.
NRW2018 officially ended with Mabo Day on June 3 and this year was the 26th anniversary of the High Court’s landmark decision in 1992 that overturned the principle of ‘terra nullius’ or ‘vacant land’ as claimed by the British when they first arrived in this country.
This legally recognised that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a special relationship to the land—a relationship that existed prior to colonisation and still exists today. This recognition paved the way for land rights or Native Title.
Brisbane’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community gathered in Kurilpa (West End) to commemorate 12 months since the passing of the last of the original five Mabo plaintiffs, David Passi.
Among the VIPs in attendance was Eddie Koiki Mabo’s daughter Celuia Mabo and Deputy Premier Jackie Trad, who were kept company by Elders and other senior community members throughout the proceedings.
Performers included the Nunukul Yuggera Aboriginal Dance Company, who also performed a traditional smoking ceremony, several Torres Strait Islander dance troupes, and award-winning singer songwriter Getano Bann.