Wadda Mooli to Reconciliation Action Week

TorresStraitIslandersDance

People of all ages and from all walks of life gathered to recognise Reconciliation Action Week at James Cook University on Wednesday.

Amy Crawford

Firstly, JCNN would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the Townsville region, the Bindal and Wulgurukaba people. We also pay respect to Elders past, present and future.

Reconciliation Action Week is about uniting, celebrating, reflecting, respecting and learning about Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander culture and history.

The event was held at the Outdoor Indigenous Learning Space and hosted by the Student and Community Engagement staff, Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student Mentor Program, and the Student Mentor Program.

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Dorothy Savage, Student Engagement Officer and Bindal Elder, opened the presentation; which featured traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dances, a Kup-Murri lunch and a cultural walk of the JCU Townsville campus with ‘uncle’ Russell Butler.

“[Today] is about the history, the story and the future,” Dorothy said.

“Because if you don’t know our history, then how are you going to know your future? Because our history is the important part about this country.

“We are the First Nation’s people of this country.

“So when we have opportunities like Reconciliation Week, it’s wonderful to have so many people here… Because that’s the key, the education is the key to people knowing about our history.

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“It’s our history that’s going to make the future because we have so many inter-generational marriages, we have such a big multicultural society- but we have to acknowledge First People, our First Nation’s people.

“How important is our history? You need to know that in two days’ time [May 27], it will be the 49th birthday that we, my people, became citizens in our own country.

“Bit disgusting, isn’t it? 49 years that we were citizens in our own country.

“Prior to that we were on the Flora and Fauna Act- so we were counted as animals and trees and flowers.

“I’d like to think we’re still flowers and plants because we’re still growing.”

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Florence Onus, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student Transition Officer and Bindal Elder, continued the presentation by speaking about the importance of National Sorry Day (May 26).

“As we all know in 2008, Kevin Rudd, the former Prime Minister gave the national apology.

“That had a significant impact on the nation- particularly those survivors of the stolen generation and all their families.

“That’s been a part of our history where over 60,000 children were forcibly removed from their families [and] sent to institutions to be assimilated into mainstream society, where they were then fostered out to white families.

“It’s important to take the time out to reflect on the past, the history [and] where we are today, [because] many people suffered and died fighting for our basic human rights and social justice,” Florence said.

“More than ever we have the highest statistics of our children still being taken- forcibly removed from their families- through child protection policies.

“Our incarceration rates are still the highest per capita in the country, suicide rates, our health statistics, our low socio-economic situation… Our current position with education, employment, housing- all those issues are still very present here today.

“We are trying to address a lot of those issues, we’re closing the gap. It’s up to each and every one of us- black and white.

“That’s what reconciliation is about, it’s about working together to come up with some positive solutions- that’s been led and driven by our people, for our people.”

SeaOfHands

A special Sea of Hands activity was also provided by the Student Mentor Program, with the personalised messages showcasing community support for reconciliation, rights and respect.

The first Sea of Hands display was included within an Australian Reconciliation Convention on October 12 1997, in front of the Parliament House in Canberra.

To find out about James Cook University’s Reconciliation Action Plan, click here.

Eddie Koiki Mabo Library is currently showcasing the ‘Ad Wer: Story of the Stars from Eastern Torres Strait’ art exhibition.

The exhibition features local Torres Strait Islander Tommy Pau’s series of new linocuts, and will run until June 26.