17 May 2024

Now More Than Ever it's important to continue the fight for reconciliation, walkers told

| Jen White
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Woman with a microphone in front of a banner.

Community elder Dr Joyce Donovan tells the gathering how important it is to continue to seek reconciliation. Photo: Jen White.

Hundreds of schoolchildren joined community members at Koonawarra Bay this week to hear a strong message that the First Nations’ fight for reconciliation is far from over.

The fourth Reconciliation Walk organised by CareWays at Koonawarra Community Centre started at a soggy Lakeside Reserve before community and civic leaders told the young crowd how important it was to continue to tackle the unfinished business of reconciliation.

The theme of this year’s Reconciliation Week (27 May – 3 June) is Now More Than Ever. The Week (NRW) is a time for Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how everyone can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.

Uncle Richard Davis gave the Welcome to Country, saying Reconciliation Week was a time to reflect on the past.

“It’s about time that we looked at the picture, spoke about Aboriginal culture, learned about Aboriginal culture and what happened in the past,” he said.

READ ALSO From activism to artistry: Machteld Hali’s journey from 1965 Freedom Ride to supporting First Nations art education

“We are a multicultural society; people from all parts of the world come here to make Australia their home, which is great.

“But always remember – Aboriginal land. Always was and always will be, so let’s learn about our history.

“It’s not just for Aboriginal people, it’s about Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people learning about our history, the good, the bad and the ugly so we can move forward and teach these young people here who are going to be our next generation of leaders. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

“We’re all human beings, so let’s respect and understand each other for who we are, where we come from, and make our society a better place for everyone. And that includes Aboriginal people.”

Community elder Dr Joyce Donovan spoke about the rich cultural history of the Kanahooka land on which they had gathered. She was one of the first Aboriginal people to be given a home in the area in 1976.

“I’d like to say how proud I am that I walk on an area where blood has been spilled, where my people have roamed, hunted and gathered all along this area.

“I’m very, very proud that I can say I’m still walking in the footprints, and my children, my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“A lot of Aboriginal people are born with a lot of grief and trauma that’s carried over from generation to generation. But we’re also born with a lot of courage, a lot of spirit and a lot of power.

“I believe we can’t give up reconciliation. We do need to be respectful of each other, regardless of your culture, what religion, what colour you are – just remember whose land you are on.”

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery shared with the crowd a story from his time living in a children’s home.

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“My experience of the Aboriginal community is because I was raised in a children’s home and for part of my stay there, I shared a bedroom with a guy by the name of Joe, an Aboriginal person from the Northern Territory,” he said.

“And one of the great pleasures I had in life was the fact that we didn’t see colour. We only saw that I had a brother.

“Every one of us needs to remember that the colour of our skin does not matter. It’s the content and the quality of our character that matters.

“We want to be a nation that’s united, recognising the diversity of people in this land and in this city. But more specifically, we want to celebrate that diversity and the incredible heritage that we have being Australians, with the Aboriginal cultures and Torres Strait Islander cultures going back tens of thousands of years. And that is such an incredible, rich treasure that we all need to celebrate.”

After a smoking ceremony, the large crowd walked to the Koonawarra Community Centre behind a banner made by Mt Brown Public School students and proudly carried by Zavier Morris, 11 and Alyzza Bennett, 10.

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