In early August, a group of 12 participants gathered in Dubbo to being their Let’s Talk EREA Immersion experience. This Aboriginal immersion into Northern NSW explores the cultures, histories and spiritualities of the Traditional Owners of the area. It supports the participants in grappling with a shared history of hurt and trauma than continues to be experienced today. However, it also provides participants with vision of hope for a reconciled future through listening and dialogue.
Cassandra Gibbs and her family, and Br Pat Lynch lead and support the group, on behalf of the Edmund Rice Centre, through a range of powerful encounters and experiences.
Below are some reflections from 2019 participants:
Neil Kelly, Marlene Moore Flexible Learning Network, QLD
On arrival at Dubbo we drove straight out of town to a remote property and met Fleur, Lockie and Uncle Pete, a Wiradjuri Elder who initiated our group in a traditional Welcome to Country. The ceremony included a long walk around a waterhole as Lockie explained how, traditionally a group crossing recognised territorial boundaries might announce themselves. We then learnt about the significance of the negotiation and parlay of greetings/warnings between mobs and how message sticks would be exchanged to enhance communication between peoples who might not have spoken the same language. Young men from local families played various roles in re-enacting the story and their involvement brought the past into the present. After being cleansed by Uncle Pete in the healing power of the smoking ceremony, we were invited into the bora ring to hear story, be initiated into skin or clan groups and to participate in dancing and singing. The sun set and the temperature dropped but our hearts were aflame with the deeply spiritual and generous welcome by traditional owners to their country.
What I learnt?
The past informs the present – the ripple and rebounding effect of trauma from the past still plays out in the lives of Aboriginal communities today. Unconscious bias by the dominant culture, that is still yet to grapple with and accommodate the truth of our settler history, entrenches disadvantage and intolerance.
Our history has been hidden – the three generations of current Australia are largely ignorant of the truth of the past and the mistreatment of Aboriginal Australians continues while this history remains buried, literally and unconsciously. Our sphere of influence as educators provides an opportunity to unearth these stories and share the past with our young people and colleagues in the expectation that knowledge has the power to build understanding, acceptance, tolerance, forgiveness and finally inclusion.
Generosity and presence (relationship) transcends trauma- we can by our own little steps, work in partnership to empower the powerless and give hope for a better and more equal future. We have so much to learn from First Nations people and that working together can promote and enact healing.
What I hope to contribute to my learning community?
Continue to promote and advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education in our schools. To encourage and support our school leaders to adopt best practice in embracing ATSI culture, knowledge, partnerships and community connections. Also intend to enhance approaches to Learning Choices in our schools to privilege Aboriginal and Torres Strait perspectives in all course work and in every opportunity to foreground and highlight local cultural knowledge and practices.
Charles Brauer, St Joseph’s Gregory Terrace, QLD
Two days into the EREA Let’s Talk immersion to north-west NSW I had plenty of evidence to suggest the program be changed to Let’s Listen. Read More… (Scroll down to Charles’ article of this newsletter https://www.terrace.qld.edu.au/newsletters/15-august
Sean Brannan, St Pius X College, NSW
A people steeped in a culture, wisdom, human dignity and attitude to life, and the environment, which is timeless and epically in tune with a spirit of communion with the universe. An understanding that you can’t hurry the sun or control the planets, but you can develop a personal relationship with everything which has been created and everything which comes into your sphere of existence by being inclusive and keeping an open mindset to the possibilities.
The statement: “They didn’t listen and didn’t understand”
Brad Steadman telling us: “We are the journey…we are the road. Be the way and the road for others.”
I felt ...
Humbled by the way in which we were welcomed to country at every point in our journey regardless of the circumstances and situation.
Brooke Sullivan, St Bernard’s College, Vic
What I want to take away is…
Teaching/ Learning indigenous culture in History is a real injustice to the live culture of indigenous people today. We continue to encourage the thinking that Aboriginals ‘did’ live here and they ‘did’ have a connection to the land, instead of ‘do’.
Everything we do in the classroom should emphasise WE – that we as non indigenous people are also connected to the land and the history of Australia that predates 1770. It’s not US and THEM, but WE.
Below: Aunty Noelene Briggs-Smith OAM at Moree Aboriginal Burial Ground