Blast Off on the West Coast, Koonibba Makes History again!

Koonibba is now home to Australia’s first rocket launch from a commercial test site – becoming a part of history once more. The first attempt was on Tuesday 15 September 2020, but it was a misfire. Leaving a myriad of travelers and tourists keen to witness the historic moment disappointed. Four days later, however, another attempt was made, and this time it was a success.

Australia’s first commercial, space capable rocket blasted off from the Koonibba test range. Southern Launch, the company behind the rocket, aimed to launch the rocket 85km into space, which would make it the highest a commercial rocket had reached from Australian Soil.

The idea is that the rocket reaches space, and ejects a small payload, which then collects information with its built-in sensors on its journey back to earth to assist with the development of satellite technology. Once the payload and the rocket have fallen back to earth, a recovery effort to find them will be undertaken so the data can be used.

While the second launch attempt was a success, sadly, none of the 200 Koonibba community members were in attendance to watch the successful launch.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall was in attendance Tuesday, saying "All of the previous launches have been government launches, so it is a historic time and I think this is really a taste of what's to come in Australia".

Southern Launch has two sites across South Australia. The Koonibba site, and one on the other side of the Eyre Peninsula at Whalers Way.

Southern Launch is hoping to launch a rocket a couple of times a month, with the aim to increase that number as the industry in South Australia grows.

 

A little about Koonibba and its famous history

Koonibba was founded as an ''Aboriginal mission'' in 1901 on the West Coast of South Australia. It’s about a forty-kilometer drive from Ceduna and has become a part of history by having the oldest, still existing Australian Rules Football Club in Australia.

Koonibba is now a successful community near the traditional lands of the Wirangu, Kokatha and Mirning peoples. In 1906, the Koonibba Football Club was founded – and played against teams from Denial Bay, Charra, Penong and Ceduna.

Fun Fact! - Brownlow Medal winning Essendon and Port Adelaide great Gavin Wanganeen’s great, grandfather played for Koonibba.

Known as the Koonibba Roosters, the last decade has seen the team dominate the league in which they play, with Grand Final wins in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2017.

The club has been visited, written or spoken about by a host of sports stars and celebrities, with television presenter Shelley Ware writing about the club in her blog and popular TV presenter and actor, Ernie Dingo visiting the club in a segment of ‘Going Places with Ernie Dingo’.

Former Adelaide Crows star and Carlton star Eddie Betts has also visited the club, having personal connections to it.


Josh to Spearhead Inclusivity in the Hills

Josh Spier is the Adelaide Hills Council's new Community and Social Planning Officer. Josh explains his new role as “ensuring our district is accessible and inclusive for all people, a key step in strengthening community wellbeing.”

Josh grew up in Bridgewater, in the Adelaide hills. “Even when I moved to a high school in the CBD, I still spent every weekend playing basketball, cricket and music with my ‘Hills mates’” Josh recounts.

While he now lives in the Unley area with his wife and three children, the hills location was a factor when considering the new role. Josh says “what appealed to me most about the role was a desire to give back. I want to brew my background and training in community development and social research together to serve a community and environment I deeply care about.”

Josh taught Indigenous studies at Flinders University. One of his most important memories of this time is the “true collegiality I shared with Indigenous scholars at Flinders.” Josh was privileged enough to co-teach with members of the Unbound Collective, research and performance group.  He worked most closely with Associate Professor Simone Ulalka Tur, Pro Vice Chancellor (Indigenous).

Josh says that The Collective’s performances move through spaces that “have historically seen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians excluded and reduced to tell untold chapters of Australia’s true history”.

When Josh worked with Associate Professor Tur in 2018, he recalls that “she would spend all week teaching large courses and supporting Aboriginal students, go home and work on her PhD, perform with her activist-art Collective in the evening, and support her family and community. And then, over the weekend, she’d help lead a campaign against a nuclear waste dump in regional South Australia.”

Josh says that he learnt much from Associate Professor Tur. “From my friendship with Simone, I learnt so much about the importance of getting behind Aboriginal-led movements - and the vital role of Indigenous storytellers and activist-artists in achieving social change.”

When it comes to reconciliation, Josh believes that it is about “building friendships”

“Friends listen to one another. Really listen. They laugh and cry together. They stand up for each other. They challenge each other and learn from each other. They work hard together toward shared interests and goals. They know each other.”

He says the words of Brooke Prentis, Waka Waka woman Aboriginal rights activist, express what reconciliation means better than he can:

“The gap is so wide because Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people don’t know each other. We don’t know each other therefore we can’t be friends and I think when you have friendship it’s about relationship and that’s when you get to know each other and you can see a different future, one that’s filled with hope and love … . When you look on an individual basis with your own friends, you would hope that there was truth and love between you. So, for me, we can’t have reconciliation without truth, and therefore we can’t have friendship without truth. With truth and understanding comes justice, and understanding our struggle for justice, and for non-Aboriginal people to come and walk alongside us in fighting for justice.”

Josh’s first priority with the Adelaide Hills Council will be “developing and coordinating the new AHC Disability Inclusion Plan 2020-24. The role is about making sure our community planning guides the hard work that Council need to keep doing – in collaboration with our community and partners - to create inclusive environments that enable health for all. I’ll also be co-designing better strategies to track community wellbeing/needs and the reach of our community services.”

To achieve parts of this, Josh is looking to work with First Nations leaders in the Adelaide Hills.  To explain how he feels about working toward helping others, he quotes Gangulu woman Lilla Watson comes to mind:

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Josh will be working with the Adelaide Hills Reconciliation Working Group (AHRWG) in his new role.  He explains that he sees his work as “aligning with AHC’s Reconciliation Action Plan moving forward. I also see the AHRWG being a resource and brains trust to provide feedback and guidance on all the planning projects I will be coordinating with respect to community wellbeing and inclusion.”

Josh would like to hear from any First Nations peoples who live with disability, and their families, who are interested in giving their feedback on our new Disability Inclusion Plan (DIP).

“We are currently preparing our draft DIP in consultation with staff, the community and the local disability sector. We want our DIP to encompass actions that will improve access and inclusion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability who live, visit or work in the Adelaide Hills.”

To share your thoughts and ideas, you can contact Josh at email jspier@ahc.sa.gov.au.


Constitutional Change for Reconciliation SA

On Tuesday 29 September 2020, Reconciliation SA held the first event at its new premises at Pitt Street Adelaide, in the form of a Special General Meeting, this meeting proposed a new Constitution for the organisation.

Reconciliation SA Board have been working hard for some time to look at how the 2011 Constitution was reflective of the work that is now being undertaken and asked of Reconciliation in 2020. With the assistance of Mr Kim Cheater, Partner and Co-Chair National Reconciliation Governance Committee, PricewaterhouseCoopers, the review was undertaken and a number of recommendations were made to contemporise this important document. In addition to the meeting being held on site, CoVid19 restrictions also called for the meeting to also be held live on-line via video conferencing.

Reconciliation SA Board Co-Chair Helen Connolly speaks about the process and this significant change:

Why did the Board ask members to adopt a new constitution for Reconciliation SA?

Over the past few years, the Reconciliation SA Board has embarked on a journey of modernising and professionalising the organisation.  This has included creating a new strategic directions plan, developing new sustainable sources of income, revamping operational practices, becoming more tech savvy and doing all we can to create a reconciliation movement in SA.

This has also required the Board to look at the way it does its work and identify any barriers to achieving our vision.  We identified that the Reconciliation SA Constitution was no longer facilitating or supporting our capacity to achieve our ambitious goals. We then embarked on a lengthy process of rethinking and rewriting the new Constitution supported by Greg Franks from the Board and Kim Cheater from PWC in a pro bono capacity.

What will the new constitution mean for Reconciliation SA and its work going forward?

The broad aim to modernise our governance arrangements included a capacity for a mix of elected and appointed Board members to bring together the best of both worlds, in terms of community connection and a skills mix.  We want to develop new membership opportunities to allow a range of groups and individuals to be part of the movement, rather than only those named in the Constitution.

We also wanted the principles that underpin our actions to be enshrined in our guiding documents in particular the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

What change/s are you most excited about and why?

The new Constitution will support us to achieve these endeavours.  We have had positive feedback already on the changes, particularly from people in regional SA who are keen to be part of our work.

I am looking forward to revamping our membership model more broadly and looking at really creating a movement of organisations and individuals united under a reconciliation banner.

Did you learn any lessons from the process of constitutional change?

The process of changing the old Constitution was not easy with 75% of all members needing to be present and 75% of those present voting in favour.   If not for COVID-19, and the capacity to move to an online meeting, it is unlikely to have ever achieved the changes, so as strange as it sounds COVID was good for this process.  The individual calls to members to explain the significance of the changes was also a massive effort.  This engagement was incredibly important.

The new constitution is the last major plank in our future proofing strategy, and I am excited about the next part of the Reconciliation SA journey.

 


Artwork brings Ridgehaven Primary School Students Together

Reconciliation SA’s, Education Project Officer – Natalie Gentle’s trip to Ridgehaven Primary School

 

The August 2020, Reconciliation SA National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Children’s Art Competition provided many students and schools across South Australia an opportunity to explore children’s voices and their connections to their Elders and their role in communities. The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day  is a time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities and all Australians, celebrate the strengths and culture of children. It is an opportunity for all of the Australian Community to show support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, as well as learn about the crucial impact that culture, family and community play in the life of every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child.

Reconciliation SA were overwhelmed by the response to this competition with hundreds of entries that provided a very difficult job for judges.

Artworks submitted spoke to both the theme of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day ” We are Elders of tomorrow, hear our voice”  and demonstrated artistic skills of each of the individual students.

In the hundreds of entries, one piece caught the eye of our judges and team here at Reconciliation SA, however, it fell outside the criteria of ‘Individual Works’ as their submission was a group effort. 

However, the voices of children need to be heard and it was with great pleasure that Reconciliation SA took a trip out to Ridgehaven Primary School to listen too and hear from the students themselves about their art work and what it meant for them.

Throughout the year, Ridgehaven Primary School have been supporting students to research and explore First Nation culture through artistic forms.

During term two a group of children worked on the collaborative art project which brought together their interests, ideas, and understanding of each others cultural similarities and differences. Students explained that they were each given a small part of the canvas each, where they were encouraged to make their mark and share their voice by painting something that was special to them. Students researched different methods of Aboriginal painting, use of symbols and used these ideas to inspire their own painting. The result was a painting that visibly shows each child and their unique connection and contribution to their school and community.

Lawson at just 6 years old, painted a star fish that sat in a clear blue ocean. He said that he

“we need to keep the ocean clean, to make the starfish alive…not putting rubbish in the ocean or food.”

Lawson was very interested in starfish, and especially the fact that starfish can grow their limbs back. It was important to him that these animals were cared for, and that the ocean was a place where some of his favourite animals could thrive.

Charlie, 12 years old, was proud of the work achieved by his peers. “When you look at it from far away, it looks perfect”. Charlie chose to paint a snake

“there are so many things a snake can do – it sheds, it’s a hunter, its very fierce for something so small… because I’m not that big, but I like to be in rough things, I think the snake represents me a lot.”

Charlie was most excited that he got to see the end product before anyone else.

Jashyamae 13 years old, wanted to pay tribute to her late brother, and chose to paint a lizard.

“His favourite animal was a lizard. He always had like 6 of them as pets.”

A group of siblings contributed to the painting together, and this gesture was important to all of them.

Other children used the painting as a way of connecting to their Aboriginal culture. Jeramiah 13 years old chose a boomerang, as he enjoyed connecting with his family when they showed him how to use one, and how to hunt with one.

The younger children used the painting to connect with each other, with sisters Jazmia and Hannah Rose painting handprints that were next to each other on the painting. Jazmia was thrilled that her ideas were heard, when she decided last minute to change the way she was painting the handprint.

“It was a really funny story. I told Ms Bruer that I actually have a different idea, and that I wanted to paint my hand and press it on the painting. Ms Bruer got so excited and it made me laugh for the rest of the day.”

While the painting was an opportunity to express their individuality, the children also got to use it as an opportunity to share their identity. Jeramiah was more excited to share the artwork of his peers, and how they were all connected as a group. He explained that at the top of the painting was a meeting between all the older kids, and then a river flowed down the middle of the painting to a meeting of the younger children.

Charmaine Bruer has been the Aboriginal Education Teacher at Ridgehaven Primary School for 8 years and has appreciated the opportunity to build relationships with the students and watch them grow. This art project has been a culmination of that time, as several students are moving on to secondary school next year, and have spent their entire primary school lives visiting Ms Bruer’s office, and working with her to be prepared for their next schooling step.

One of Charmaine’s priorities has been to support conversations, research and narratives about heritage and ancestry. Creating artwork has been a way to build relationships with the children, and to appreciate different forms of Aboriginal artwork. What has resulted is a group of children that are proud of their Aboriginal identity, and are keen to learn more about themselves. Harmony has developed a sense of pride, saying “I used to be really shy, but I learned to build up my courage.”

As a final question, I asked the students about what they thought this years theme “We are the elders of the future, hear our voice” meant to them, and could mean to other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. With a new focus on closing the gap initiatives, and a particular focus on school performance, now more than ever it is important to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in decisions that will ultimately impact their lives, and allow them to share ideas that will improve their schooling lives.

Jashyamae reflected that focusing on Aboriginal children’s voices is

“a good thing, because not many Aboriginal voices are heard. I feel happy and proud that people want to hear our voice and hear what we have to say. It is important to listen to the younger generation.”

If we can take anything from this group work, it is that children need an opportunity to express their opinions and share them with adults who can influence decisions for them. This does not always need to be conversation, as allowing children to explore meaning through visual art is a powerful way for them to share their identity and explore who they are.

 

Reconciliation SA would like to acknowledge that this competition could only be made possible with sponsorship of the Department for Child Protection.


Looky Looky Here Comes Cooky brings Steven Oliver to Raukkan, South Australia

Reconciliation SA’s Productions and Events Coordinator Travis Akbar’s reflections on ‘Looky Looky, Here comes Cooky”.

 

For a long while now, Steven Oliver has been a regular on Australian TV screens in one way or another. Be it Black Comedy or Faboriginal, the wordsmith is captivating at all times, and that quality does not waver in new documentary, Looky Looky, Here comes Cooky.

Directed by Steven McGregor, whose credits include, Sweet Country, Black Comedy, Mystery Road and the Croker Island Exodus, this new take on James Cooke’s arrival, is a great excuse to sit down in front of the tube.

It is an ever-appropriate year for such a production, as 2020 marks the 250th anniversary to James Cook’s arrival, but is his arrival told the way it happened, or was some of the story cooked? Or as we like to term ”Truth Telling”.

This is the question asked by Looky Looky Here Comes Cooky, but in a very Steven Oliver way. What Oliver attempts to do throughout the film, is create a modern-day song line, Oliver says “Songlines should be a part of ‘Australian’ history as they’re taught in school”. A songline, as Oliver put’s it “details the creation of this land, and all that’s upon it”.

Oliver does this by working with renowned First Nations artists and musicians to craft modern songlines. A songline for the 21st century that can speak to the First Nations perspective behind James Cook’s arrival.

One of the musicians in particular that Oliver speaks and collaborates with is Daniel Rankine whom to some is better known by his rap moniker, Trials MC, from the Funkoars and A.B. Original.

For Rankine, this project is about the “continuation of knowledge. How we survived, and who we are”. He also discusses the history of the pre-colonial, and current home of Ngarrindjeri – Raukken – which is 150km East of Adelaide. Raukken is a beautiful place, and holds a lot of history, which Rankine speaks of with passion. He also recounts racist experiences as a youngster, at friend’s houses.

Oliver’s experience with Rankine is only one of several. He speaks with other artists, and musicians, Birdz (Butchulla Nation), Mo’Ju (Wiradjuri Nation), Alice Skye (Wergaia Nation),  Mau Power (Torres Strait islander Dhoebaw man of the Guda Malullgal Nations) and Uncle Kev Carmody (Bundjulung/Lama Nations) before each of them lend their musical talents to the film with a song. Oliver also interviews Elders, historians and more throughout the film, creating not only a beautiful film, but an informative one too.

The drone cinematography of Looky Looky Here Comes Cooky is also beautiful. Long sweeping shots of the coastlines, and landscapes by Leuke Marriot and Owen Andrews really enhance the films appearance.

Direction from Steven McGregor is also great. He is able to create a positive, and relaxed atmosphere, making this part-comedy, part-history documentary a joy to watch.

Looky Looky Here Comes Cooky is available to watch for free via the SBS On Demand streaming app.


Stepping it up for Reconciliation – Celebrating the Wins

In a few years from now, we will look back on 2020 and remember how challenging it was. Bushfires raged at the beginning of the year, leaning into flooding in parts of the country, and droughts in other parts. Then the pandemic struck, and with that came disease, panic, isolation, mass job losses and the most open racism to be seen in a long time. The year of 2020 seems almost hopeless.

In times like these it is important to reflect on the little wins.

For Reconciliation SA, we were extremely happy to have the oppurtunity re-design our National Reconciliation Week plans (as well as grow our online presence via several webinars). A large-scale walk and a community concert were in the works, but isolation forced us to re-think.

Thus, our Stepping it up for Reconciliation competition was born. To emulate the famous year 2000 bridge walks, the concept involved participants registering and over the course of Reconciliation Week, walking each day and logging their distance. The end goal was to walk at least, the distance of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

While we view Stepping it up for Reconciliation as one or wins of a torrid 2020, we would also like to extend a big congratulations to the competition winners.

Congratulations to:

Snowtown Primary School for the most group kilometres.

Mr. Daniel Casement for the most Individual kilometres

And last but, not least,

Ms. Ashleigh Schrader for most referrals.

But also, a big thank you to everyone who participated. Together, everyone involved walked, ran or rode an exception 11,785 kilometres during Reconciliation Week. Your support demonstrates that we are truly “In This Together”.

Speaking with the Snowtown Primary School Principal, Trish Boschetti spoke to Reconciliation SA about their winning efforts, Boschetti say “With all of our steps combined we walked the full length of the Kaurna country from Cape Jervis to Crystal Brook.  Being out in nature was very important to us.  Some things in our lives have changed but we can still all walk outside and everyone appreciated the opportunity to be outside and talk to different people along the walk.”

Inspired by the theme of ‘In This Together’, the Snowtown Primary School, came together to build mutual respect and understanding and walk together to create a brighter future.

Boschetti says that “this has been an unusual year with many people staying at home more than ever before due to restrictions, cancellation of sporting events, an inability to physically connect with family and friends due to restrictions and a loss of some of our regular daily activities.”

Upon finding out about Reconciliation SA’s Stepping it up for Reconciliation competition, Boschetti says that “we knew this was how we wanted to celebrate Reconciliation Week this year.  We walked an equivalent distance as the length of the Sydney Harbour Bridge to recreate the 2000 Corroboree Walk.  We walked to the Golf Club and back and had a different theme each day.  We met as a group each day prior to the walk to talk about the theme and share some history.”

In talking about the theme, and history, Snowtown Primary School on one walk carried the Aboriginal and Australian Flags and discussed the features of both flags and the R/1/2 class then made their own flag.

Boschetti says they also “listened to ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’ as we walked and talked about the Wave Hill Walk Off and some of the historical events that happened after that.  We talked out the importance of Elders in Aboriginal culture and walked with a partner from a different age group having a ‘yarn’ along the way.  We looked at the Acknowledgement of Country and did that in some different ways as we visualised ‘country’ and while we were walking, we looked around and appreciated our environment and even saw a kangaroo that day.”

School aged children joined the walks, as the site was 100% committed to reconciliation. But the school is aware that reconciliation is not a one-week commitment, with Boschetti saying that

“Reconciliation is more than one single event; it is about how we respectfully work together each and every day of the year.  Our small everyday actions, our commitment to talking about the past, present and future and our cultural educational activities and practices all contribute to us walking together as equal partners to create a positive shared future.”


Reconciliation in Early Childhood Education a Good Start

Education is often stated as one of the key factors in defeating racism and creating a reconciled society. Gamilaraay woman, and Elizabeth Vale Goodstart director, Nykita Gibbs, has taken up the challenge of putting this notion into action, and spoke to Reconciliation SA about their progressNykita, whose been the director of the Goodstart at Elizabeth Vale for the last two years after thirteen years in the early childhood sector, describes herself as very passionate about reconciliation and working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and children. 

 In the spirit of Reconciliation Week, Nykita says that “reconciliation is about respectful relationships between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”, and believes that “building positive relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and children and providing a learning environment where their culture is respected and embedded in everyday practice” is key.  

Nykita is ensuring that Goodstart Early Learning, Elizabeth Vale endeavours to motivate children and families, saying that great things can be achieved by “teamwork, communication, educational programs, purposeful experiences and ongoing support.”  

Along with Nykita, the team at Goodstart aim to provide a culturally safe environment where everyone feels welcome. They have developed and continue to foster respectful relationships with our local Aboriginal community in order to provide children with a greater knowledge and understanding of Australia's First Peoples. 

At Elizabeth Vale, we have created a community where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families feel welcomed and respected in an inclusive environment which celebrates and encourages all families to share their knowledge and experiences”, Nykita explains, “this practice, which is collaborative, embodies the culture of our centre and enables families to be active partners with educators in their child’s learning journey.” 

Explaining why education is an important step in reconciliation, Nykita says that “Children are central to everything we do; it is important to give children the opportunity to explore and learn about our First Nations People. It is also important that our families feel safe secure and supported knowing they can be proud of their culture and respected in our community.”  

But it has been a challenging task, especially with Covid-19. A particularly successful part of what Nykita has been trying to do is ‘Nunga playgroup’. This has been running since term 2, 2018. “This group helps to support our Aboriginal families in partnership with our local Aboriginal health service and local elders. From creating this playgroup, we have fostered relationships with families and were lucky enough to have a high percentage of families enrol their children in the centre.” With Covid-19, the playgroup has moved online, “where educators connect with families to check in and also give families ideas for fun educational experiences at home.”  

 Nykita, explains that “the educators underpin their programs and experiences with Aboriginal perspectives. Educators and children do an Acknowledgement of country every morning showing their respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.”  The method of teaching used at Goodstart helps to support the children gain an understanding of Aboriginal people, their culture, and their history.  

Goodstart, which has its own Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), which the development of, came with its own issues, “At the start of our reconciliation journey, it was important for us to understand and be accepting of everyone’s varying knowledge and experience with reconciliation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.”, Nykita explains, and that, “together we worked to create and change our practice and pedagogy which advocates for reconciliation and is underpinned by our educators’ skills and knowledge.” 

Nykita and her team also believe that by developing the team’s knowledge, they were able to “move forward positively and create a vision in which our team is inspired to promote in all areas of their educational programs.”  

 Finally, Nykita shares that “we provide experiences for children to explore different aspects of Aboriginal cultures through loose parts play. Our nursery children enjoy sensory experiences. I would like to share a beautiful set up created for our babies to explore different textures and materials with some aboriginal perspectives. I have also completed a large welcome sign for the centre with help from the educators and children for our entrance. To show we respect and acknowledge the Kaurna people as the traditional owners of the land we learn and play on."

To read Nykita's full interview, click here.

(artwork created by Nykita Gibbs)  


BGR Chair Allen Edwards talks History, Education, and Reconciliation

Reconciliation isn’t about talking the talk. It’s about making positive change for Aboriginal people, creating safer workplaces, classrooms and more. And proud Kaurna/Kokatha (Adelaide Plains/West Coast of SA) man, and Blackwood Reconciliation Group chair is doing just that, figuratively, and literally, he’s walking the walk. From the Blackwood Reconciliation Walk to walking into class rooms and educating.

The Blackwood Reconciliation group began in 1994 when a group of local Blackwood residents got together to hold a study circle on reconciliation for an eight weeks course and when they finished, they wanted to continue with reconciliation, so they formed the Blackwood Reconciliation Group.

Mr. Edwards told Reconciliation SA that the “BRG being a local group, they knew of the Colebrook Home in Eden Hills, and that nothing was being done with it, and they decided to focus on that site and build a memorial, so that eventually became known as Colebrook Blackwood Reconciliation Park”.

The Colebrook Blackwood Reconciliation Park is a memorial park dedicated to the children of the Stolen Generations, who’d been taken to the ‘Colebrook Training Home’ after being taken from their families.

Through the efforts of the Colebrook Tjitji Tjuta, the Blackwood Reconciliation Group, the Aboriginal Lands Trust and others, ‘The Fountain of Tears’ (1998), and the ‘Grieving Mother’ (1999) statues were erected to help remember the Stolen Generations that were held there. The statues were sculpted by Silvio Apponi.

In 2019, the group celebrated its 25th Anniversary, and as well as being the longest running reconciliation group in South Australia, is also possibly the longest running reconciliation group in Australia. The group still has up to six of the original members attend the meetings and event, of which Mr. Edwards speaks of highly, saying that “you just got to meet them, and you see why it’s been going so long.” But he also highlighted the renaissance the group has felt in the last few years, saying “But we’ve had younger people interested in the group, coming along and joining up as members.”

It’s fair to say that the successful local group is well supported, an Annual General Meeting held when Mr. Edwards was voted in as Chair, was the biggest the group had seen. That occasion was made even more special because Mr. Edwards, who’d been on and off as an active group member, became the group’s first Aboriginal Chair.

Over the last few years, Mr. Edwards tells, “we’ve worked on a number of other projects, for the 2019 reconciliation walk, we unveiled ‘listening posts’ which tell the stories of the former residents, and we unveiled a mosaic around the campfire, and we are working on a number of other projects”.

The Blackwood Reconciliation Group is still in “full swing” according to Mr. Edwards, and could last another 25 years at least. “That’s just the sort of people we have in there, they’re committed to reconciliation, they’re committed to Colebrook and the Colebrook kids, they’re so committed to Colebrook and the Tjitji Tjuta, which is the Colebrook children, are in BRG’s constitution, to look after the site, and look after the children.”

While the Colebrook Blackwood Reconciliation Park is a large focus of the BRG, they are still involved in other events to do with reconciliation. In 2019 the group held a forum on the Uluru Statement from the Heart and had 80 chairs available for attendees. However, 80 was not nearly enough. Mr. Edwards reveals the number was closer to 400. “The chairs were full, people were standing up on the sides, and even poking their heads through doors”, he exclaims with a grin. He also says that the group is well known partly because they work closely with the community. The Mitcham City council is a close collaborator, as is the local RSL, as well as Schools, Universities and other local organisations.

Mr. Edwards himself, is thoroughly enjoying his role as Chair, as the opportunities that come with it are too good to pass up. One such opportunity (thanks to Covid-19) is the chance to host a lunchtime webinar via the Zoom platform. Mr. Edwards with speak about topics of Reconciliation, the Stolen Generation, Colebrook Reconciliation Park and the Blackwood Reconciliation Group.

Mr. Edwards believes reconciliation is “coming together to achieve a common goal and having an awareness of other people’s cultures. You don’t have to agree on everything but have an awareness and just get along.”

But what he truly relishes, is being able to teach students, and the general population, about the history of Australia’s treatment towards Aboriginal people. He says that “in the past, it wasn’t spoken of. It wasn’t heard of. But truth-telling is what it’s all about now. Through my mother, I am part of the Stolen Generations, but I didn’t know about the Stolen Generations until later in life, because it wasn’t spoken about. We didn’t have people coming to our schools speaking about reconciliation or the Stolen Generations, deaths in custody, we had nothing like that.” Edwards continues with “We have Reconciliation Week, but for me, it’s 12 months of the year, and people are willing to listen, so it’s my goal to get the message out.”

To sit in on Allen Edwards “Lunch with a local Webinar”, click here.

 

 


Uncle John Browne discusses his Journey of Healing, and National Sorry Day

Uncle John Browne at a Sorry Day Event held in Adelaide

In 1997, the Bringing them Home Report, the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families was released. The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, who tabled the report to parliament said,

"This report is a tribute to the strength and struggles of many thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by forcible removal. We acknowledge the hardships they endured and the sacrifices they made. We remember and lament all the children who will never come home."

One of the recommendations was a National Apology, which the then Prime Minister John Howard did not provide (eventually the National Apology was provided by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on 13 February 2008), despite this in 1998 on the 26 of May, the first National Sorry Day was held.

Since then, National Sorry Day has been an annual event, to help raise awareness about the Stolen Generation, the Bringing Them Home Report and community events that are often held to support the community. One such event is held by the Journey of Healing SA Inc., which is chaired by Larrakia man Uncle John Browne, who was sent from Darwin under the Assimilation Program of the 1960s to go to school in Adelaide.

Mr. Browne says he

“was born in Alice Springs although my Mother came from Darwin. I am one of the Aboriginal Stolen Generations from the Northern Territory”, telling Reconciliation SA that he has “since established myself permanently in Adelaide”.

Mr. Browne, the eldest of 9 brothers and 4 sisters, has a varied, yet impressive work history which includes a stint working for well-known Aboriginal activist “Charlie Perkins, among working for the Government and the University of South Australia”.

His education is just as impressive, with Mr. Browne possessing a Master’s Degree in Social Work and a Postgraduate in Management. A great achievement considering he has his own, large family, revealing that he has four daughters all born in Adelaide, all with their own impressive work histories as a nurse, another a lawyer, another a real estate agent, and one a flight attendant.

Uncle John explains that he joined the Journey of Healing SA Inc, “because I feel for the Stolen Generation, I feel their hurt and their Loss from their families”. He explains that the event that the Journey of Healing SA Inc., would normally plan, but cannot in 2020 due to the pandemic, “presents performances and various stalls showcasing what we mean by Sorry Day, to exhibit the continuing effects of removal on Aboriginal families.” The event also brings “people together who have been stolen to meet with the public to bring healing.”

Members of the Stolen Generation also share their stories with the wider community so that the public can empathize with some of the pain and suffering, other community members will also recount various Homes in SA to which Indigenous children were removed from their families.

Mr. Browne says that on National Sorry Day, the Indigenous Elders of the Stolen Generations “will be given special treatment with a tent of their own, but the Indigenous community and other Stolen Generation members will have tents to display their wares, commodities, old photos, posters and other items.”

The successful event has had 28 stalls in the last five years that provide free services to the Stolen Generations of South Australia at the National event in Victoria Square.

Mr. Browne, recounting the establishment of National Sorry Day, says,

“the actual event was forecasted in the ‘Bringing them Home Report’ of 1997, recommendations, where it was handed down from Federal Parliament. The National Sorry Day in the early days was a National Sorry Day Organisation.  South Australia has carried the traditions since. Most states still have a National Sorry Day each year.”

But continuing the tradition of commemorating National Sorry Day is not the sole purpose of Journey of Healing SA Inc., Mr. Browne, sharing it is other functions, says, that the organisation also helps:

  • Assist the Stolen Generation to come to terms with their grief and hurt through various programs and support counseling.
  • The Stolen Generation in South Australia to reconnect their Cultural identity.
  • Educate the young Aboriginal people to understand what has been happening in their own families.

And,

  • Attempts to dissipate the effects of a powerless people who suffer from degradation, forceful removal of families, and Hurt and assist with rebuilding their cultural identity, their history, and their freedom.

As Chairman of the Journey of Healing SA Inc., Uncle John explains that there are also other achievements that are being pursued. The journey of Healing SA Inc. encourages “Aboriginal people to achieve stability in the Aboriginal community which has been torn apart by the Authorities, forcefully removing Aboriginal Children for their families with little or consultation or advice.” The journey of Healing SA Inc. also wants to tackle the effects of that removal in order to bring peace to the community.

An impassioned Mr. Browne declares that at the Journey of Healing

"we encourage Aboriginal people to work together and go through a healing process so that they can be healed and move on in their lives eventually. This is a long process and the track is tough going for many of us.”

Mr. Browne says that

“the Journey of healing SA Inc., has many facets, but it is important to realize that the removal caused and destroyed the Aboriginal community and widened the gap between the Majority race in Australia to the point of blatant racism in this country and the horrendous effects of that.”