In partnership with Central Queensland University, Reconciliation Queensland Incorporated (RQI) visited Cairns, Townsville and Mackay before the Yarnin’ Together Brisbane forum brought the first phase of its 2018 Reconciliation Series regional tour to a close on May 2.
What does Reconciliation mean to You?
The tour brought regional communities together to engage them in Q&A-style panel discussions about reconciliation and what it means to them. Those who couldn’t attend in person could view the events on Facebook Live.
RQI’s Acting Co-Chair Uncle Bill Buchanan participated in all but the Yarnin’ Together Brisbane forum, speaking about the five dimensions of reconciliation, truth-telling in Australian history and RQI’s vision for a reconciled Queensland.
“From the very beginning it was clear that very little would be off-topic in this community conversation,” Uncle Bill said.
“Reconciliation is not seen simply as a matter between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, but also as something which needs to be worked through at a deeper level between Australia’s First Nations,” he said.
Uncle Bill said the need for community to have conversations about the meaning of important issues like reconciliation was not without precedent.
“The last widespread consultation through regional Queensland was undertaken by the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation in the 1990s,” Uncle Bill said.
“Most recently, a series of First Nations Regional Dialogues held around the country showed that constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was never a forgone conclusion.
“When the people spoke, the result was the Uluru Statement from the Heart. This result was quite different from what the government was expecting, but it showed that our people should not be taken for granted.
“The Uluru Statement represents one important, as yet unrealised, milestone on the road to reconciliation. But our goal was to cast the net wider, to reveal the individual experiences and ideas which continue to shape reconciliation as a concept.
“After unearthing those ideas and experiences on our regional tour, we could then show how they fit into the five dimensions of reconciliation: race relations, equality and equity, institutional integrity, historical acceptance, and unity.
“The aim is to have people carry on these conversations in their own communities and become more active in the promotion of reconciliation,” Uncle Bill said.
Yarnin’ Together Brisbane
As with the other regional forums, the Yarnin’ Together Brisbane event featured First Nations panel members selected from the local community with very diverse lived experiences.
First Nations panellists included Turrbal Elder Uncle Joe Kirk, ACTU Indigenous Officer Lara Watson, Carly Wallace of CJay’s Vines, 98.9FM and BIMA Projects CEO Kaava Watson and Torres Strait Islander Elder Uncle Bill Lowah. They were joined by Queensland Greens Senator Andrew Bartlett.
Acknowledgement of Country was offered separately on behalf of the Turrbal people and the Yuggera people, before CQ University’s Associate Vice Chancellor for the South East Queensland Graham Black welcomed everyone to uni campus for the event.
Also present at the Brisbane event was RQI Co-Chair Maurice Serico (pictured left), who had stepped aside from his role due to health reasons (but wasn’t going to let that make him miss the occasion) and he spoke as the event closed.
“One of the things that I’d noticed in our panel discussion tonight is that although we had very different stories, very different and strong narratives, there is a very strong theme of injustice coming through in all the discussion and it stemmed all the way back to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody,” he said.
Maurice said the Royal Commission’s report recommendations and priorities “melded” into the five dimensions of reconciliation that were discussed during the forum, “so there’s a kind of continuity there, but still underneath all of that, there is a sense of injustice, a prevailing injustice that needs to be dealt with”.
Sincere thanks to all panel members
Vibrant and robust conversations were had at each of the regional forums. RQI would like to thank all those who participated and especially our panellists mentioned below.
- Cairns: Hon Curtis Pitt MP, Associate Professor Henrietta Marrie, Yodie Batzke, Jesse Martin and Torres Webb
- Townsville: Scott Stewart MP, Florence Onus, Muriel Bin Dol, Will Griffin and Mathai Joshi
- Mackay: Hon Julieanne Gilbert MP, Uncle Philip Kemp, Cindy Willett and Uncle John Kennell
- Brisbane: Uncle Joe Kirk, Lara Watson, Carly Wallace, Kaava Watson, Uncle Bill Lowah and Senator Andrew Bartlett.
The 2018 Yarnin’ Together Reconciliation Series was made possible thanks to funding from the Queensland Government Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships.