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.”

 


AVSA committee members ensure Aboriginal digger sacrifices are honoured

Covid-19 is known to have a prolific infection rate, but it has probably canceled just as many events as it has infected people, if not more, and, as such, ANZAC Day was particularly affected.

If not for the determination of Australian’s and New Zealander’s to keep the tradition of recognising the sacrifices made by the ANZACS alive, it would have been almost completely forgotten in 2020. Many of us lined up in our driveways, some with candles, others with poppy’s and wreaths, to pay tribute to ANZACs past and present. While all of the day's community events were canceled, there was still some public commemorations going on. The AFL organised for a single bugle player at the MCG, but back in Adelaide, at the Torrens Parade Ground at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander War Memorial, two Aboriginal Veterans of South Australia (AVSA) committee members were honouring the Aboriginal diggers, who were for a long time, overlooked.

AVSA committee member Simon Kelly and AVSA committee member and Peramangk/Kaurna man Ivan Tiwu-Copley were on site to provide a smoking ceremony. Reconciliation SA caught with both of these men to get their feelings about the day.

A smoking ceremony, as Tiwu-Copley explains, was put in place to

to ensure that this National Memorial in Adelaide was not left out of the 2020 ANZAC Day remembrance ceremony. To ensure that Aboriginal service Men & Women are given the grateful respect for their sacrifices for us all. Lest We Forget.”

To give context to the smoking ceremony, Tiwu-Copley says

“The Gum leaves and Rosemary placed around the Memorial are very significant. In Aboriginal Culture the Gum leaves are important for healing and a sign of respect to Gum tree and their association to human beings, in parallel to the Rosemary was in Remembrance to Gallipoli as it found all over the Gallipoli peninsula.”                                                                

Interestingly, Tiwu-Copley told us that while rosemary was used to remember Gallipoli in particular, due to growth on the Gallipoli peninsula, it also is used to improve brain function and memory.

Kelly, who was on-site to support Tiwu-Copley and place to place memorial crosses for South Australian Aboriginal servicemen and servicewomen who paid the ultimate sacrifice, to help record the event and to place a floral tribute. He said,

“Once we were there, just the two of us, under the scrutiny of the Memorial’s statues, we really sensed the responsibility of what we were about to do.”

The commemoration, which Kelly says

is not a formal ceremony as such but rather an opportunity for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to gather and reflect on the service and sacrifice of First Nations’ men and women in defence of the land we share.

The centre-point of the gathering is an address from a South Australian Aboriginal serving member, veteran or descendant of a South Australian Aboriginal service man or woman.”

On how it felt to attend the site and perform the ceremony, with only Kelly also in attendance, Tiwu-Copley says

“Growing up as a child and a young man, I experienced the mental and physical scars that were the result of these Wars on my Father, Grandfather, Mother and siblings. Much of life as a teenager was spent going to the Repat with my Father and spent time with the Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Vets receiving treatment and seeing firsthand the effect of the Wars on the Young and Old at that special place. So I can never forget that War didn’t discriminate! And just to be grateful for the massive sacrifice they all made and pay respect when possible”

Along the same note, Kelly felt

Like Ivan, I felt it was important to attend the Memorial, a sacred place, on Anzac Day. We placed crosses for the fourteen South Australian Aboriginal servicemen (known to date) – ten World War 1, three World War 2 and one Vietnam War – who died in service of their country. Ivan then performed the Smoking Ceremony after which I placed the floral tribute. It is always an emotional privilege to be on this site, because the descendants of many of these people list in the pavers I know, and it also includes many relatives including my Father and Grandfather and Great Uncles.

Kelly also placed a floral tribute on behalf of Aboriginal Veterans SA and 9 RAR Battalion Association, which was comprised of rosemary, wattle, and a single poppy. He says

“While I was placing it on behalf of those two groups of which I am a member, I felt it also carried the sentiments of all those who could not be there. I reflected on last year’s gathering of over 160 people, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, who gathered in friendship and were as one in commemoration.”

 While no one was in attendance during the smoking ceremony, Kelly recalls

“When I returned just before dusk to collect the crosses, I noticed another floral tribute placed next to one of the engraved pavers and a crocheted poppy in the lawn under the statues. A family was there, too, paying their respects. It is my belief that many more would have visited during the day.”

Tiwu-Copley gave his overall feeling for the occasion

“Being able to provide a smoking Ceremony for cleansing and healing on this sacred place and to be able to say words in Kaurna is nothing short of being a great honour. To place, the little Crosses just reminded me of the ultimate sacrifice and seeing the names of people that were the great-grandfathers of people I call friends today, is something that hits you in the stomach and brings Goosebumps every time I even think of it. This place touches my spirit in many ways that can’t be placed into words, especially with the loss of my Father in 2019 and the passing of my dear friend /mate Geoffrey Vincent COOPER (Coops) early this year cuts deep. But the rocks that are there come from Peramangk Warta (Country) and placed on Kaurna Yerta (Country) mean so much to me. Being a descendant of the Peramangk and Kaurna Nations through my Father and mother's side. It feels such an inclusive, familiar, welcoming, and peaceful place to be upon and I feel quite at peace when I leave. 

The beautiful gesture by Simon and Uncle Ivan was sadly only able to be appreciated, and sadly not experienced, by the many that would have attended if COVID-19 had not hit our shores, which makes the gesture all the more important. But, photos of the event have been shared with Reconciliation SA, see below.

The team at Reconciliation SA would also, once again, like to thank the serviceman and women that have made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our safety.

 

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

 

 

 

 


For Love of Country preview: Veteran Profile of Leigh Elijah Herewane MM (1895-1956)

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this blog will contain images and names of people who have passed away

 

Aboriginal Veterans of South Australia (AVSA) co-chair Ian Smith is researching Aboriginal Veterans from South Australia, and those with links to South Australia and will be releasing a book, complete with Veteran profiles in the future, titled 'For Love of Country'.

Reconciliation SA has been granted permission to share the profile of one of the Veterans from the book; that Veteran is Leigh Elijah Herewane MM. Poetically, Leigh Elijah Herewane MM is a perfect choice to share on Anzac Day, as he is of Maori, and Aboriginal descent. Leigh Elijah Herewane MM fully represents what ANZAC Day is celebrating.

Elijah Lyttleton Herewane was born on 25 October 1895 at Rosaville near Mount Gambier to Stephen Herewane, a Maori, and Jane Ralston, an Aboriginal woman. On 8 August 1896, Stephen and Jane were charged at the Mount Gambier Police Court with having no visible means of support. The charges were withdrawn, but instead their children were charged with being “destitute”. The children were Joseph, Stephen, Eleazar, Isaiah, Mary Jane, and Elijah, all ten years of age or younger. The court allowed the parents to keep their three younger children, including Elijah, but the three older boys were sent to the Industrial School at Magill in Adelaide.  Sadly, later that year, Stephen drowned in the South Para River while swimming. In March 1907, Elijah was himself admitted to the Industrial School, thus losing connection to his family. His older sister Mary Jane had also been admitted to the Industrial School the year before. It appears that Elijah started to use a different name, as in 1914, a Leigh Elijah Herewane was charged with burglary at Murray Bridge. He pleaded guilty and stated that he had come to Australia from New Zealand as an infant and did not remember his parents. He was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment.

He enlisted at Keswick on 13 July 1915 giving his age as 21, using the name Leigh Elijah Herewane and an address in Richmond, Victoria. He also gave his place of birth as Wanganui, New Zealand. Prior to his enlistment he had been working as a labourer. He was allocated to the 9th reinforcements to the 16th Battalion. After initial training at the Mitcham Camp, he embarked aboard the Star of England at Adelaide on 21 September. He arrived in the Middle East a month later, and after a brief stint in hospital with jaundice, was briefly transferred to the 48th Battalion before being posted to the 4th Pioneer Battalion in mid-March 1916. After further training his unit embarked for Marseilles in southern France in early June. Soon after his arrival in France he was charged with a disciplinary offence and was awarded 28 days Field Punishment No. 1, which involved being shackled to a post for several hours a day and undergoing hard labour. This was a common punishment for disciplinary infractions by soldiers during the First World War. He continued to serve with his battalion throughout 1916 and early 1917 before spending two weeks in rest and convalescence camps with lumbago in May. He rejoined his unit in June, but was arrested by the military police for being absent without leave for two hours. His punishment was seven days of Field Punishment No.2, which was similar to No. 1, but did not involve being shackled to a post. He was also docked two weeks pay.

On the night of 24 September 1917 he was a stretcher-bearer with his company when they were caught in a very heavy artillery barrage. For his actions that night he was recommended for the Military Medal for bravery in the field:

'He was a stretcher bearer with his company proceeding to work on the Westhoek-Zonnebeke Road. Just as they reached the road, they were suddenly caught in a very heavy barrage lasting about 30 minutes and suffered many casualties. Throughout this period, he moved among his company attending the wounded and never attempted to take cover himself. It was mainly due to his gallant conduct and absolute disregard for his personal safety that the wounded were removed to a place of safety thereby saving many of their lives.'

His award was posted in the London Gazette of 14 December 1917 and the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette of 2 May 1918.

He was hospitalised with a fever in mid-October 1917. In late November he was disciplined for creating a disturbance and lost his lance-corporal stripe. There is no record of when he had been appointed as a lance-corporal, but it may have occurred at the time he was awarded the Military Medal. He rejoined his unit at the end of November, and was given two weeks leave in the United Kingdom in January 1918. In February he was admitted to hospital with an irregular heartbeat, and after recovering he was posted to the Australian Veterinary Hospital at Coquelles. He got into strife at this unit on several occasions, and was sentenced to several more stints of Field Punishment No. 2. He was subsequently posted back to the 4th Pioneer Battalion in June 1918. No sooner had he rejoined his old unit, than he was in trouble again. Another 28 days of Field Punishment No. 2 followed. In early September 1918 he was admitted to hospital for a couple of weeks, again with heart problems, and this recurred in October. He was then posted back to the Australian Veterinary Hospital, but the decision was taken to return him to Australia for medical discharge.

He returned to Australia aboard the Morvada, embarking on 4 January 1919 and disembarking at Adelaide on 18 February. His pending arrival was noted in the Daily Herald of 8 February. On 27 February, he was feted at a welcome home social held at the Truro Institute. He was medically discharged on 13 April. On 4 July, Leigh was presented with his Military Medal by the Governor of South Australia, Sir Henry Galway, at Keswick Barracks. In addition to his Military Medal for bravery, he was also issued with the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, and the Victory Medal for his service. His older brother Joseph served with the 5th Field Artillery Brigade and survived the war.

He was living in Renmark when he received his British War Medal in October 1921. He applied for a war pension while living in Adelaide in 1924, but his claim was rejected as he did not attend a medical review. In 1927, he was involved in advocating for builders’ labourers by speaking at the Botanic Park, Adelaide, and was prosecuted for speaking there without a permit. He married Hellene Richardson Jennings at Wayville on 11 September 1929. He was also a notable advocate for unemployed returned soldiers during the Depression in the early 1930s, and was involved in trying to change the administration of the South Australian Soldiers’ Fund so that it would better help unemployed soldiers and their families. In about 1934, tired of trying to keep one step ahead of the bailiffs in rented accommodation, Leigh and his family moved to the Semaphore Esplanade sandhills where he built a series of wood and iron buildings to house the family. In about 1939 the local council forced them to move, and they went to Barmera, where Leigh built a series of similar huts on the shores of Lake Bonney. During World War II, Leigh briefly enlisted in the Army as a private with the 4th Garrison Battalion in mid-1940, but was discharged after two weeks. By 1945 the family were living at Burra. Two of his sons served in World War II, Alexander James, and Edward Elijah Lyttleton.

Leigh died on 26 January 1956 at Burra, aged 60, and was buried at the Burra Cemetery. His name is inscribed on the path of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander War Memorial at the Torrens Parade Ground, Adelaide.

This profile sheds a bit of light on who Leigh Elijah Herewane MM was. At times a bit of a rascal, but when lives were at stake, he was a courageous and dependable man whose actions were vital in saving many lives. He is just one of many soldiers who, in the face of intense scrutiny because his heritage, put his life on the line regardless.

 

Researched and written by Ian Smith, Aboriginal Veterans South Australia (AVSA). For more information on sources, please see below.

 

References:
1896 'Mount Gambier Police Court', Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 - 1954), 12 August, p. 2. , viewed 21 Oct 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77537095
1896 'Drowning Case At Gawler', South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), 27 October, p. 7. , viewed 21 Oct 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article54468642
1914 'Criminal Court', The Express and Telegraph (Adelaide, SA : 1867 - 1922), 31 August, p. 4. (4 O'CLOCK WAR EDITION), viewed 21 Oct 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article210133023
1919 'Returning Soldiers', Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA : 1910 - 1924), 8 February, p. 7. , viewed 21 Oct 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article106538471
1919 'The Country', The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), 4 March, p. 6. , viewed 21 Oct 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60906413
1919 'Presentation Of Medals', The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), 3 July, p. 6. , viewed 21 Oct 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article62314236
1927 'In The Courts', The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), 9 December, p. 14. , viewed 21 Oct 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article54942307
1933 'Winding Up Of Fund Urged', News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 - 1954), 8 August, p. 3. , viewed 22 Oct 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article128427465
1933 'Move To Alter Fund Control', News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 - 1954), 29 August, p. 1. , viewed 22 Oct 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article128427894
1936 'Charge Withdrawn', The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), 14 January, p. 19. , viewed 22 Oct 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article36210906
1938 'Barmera Police Court', Murray Pioneer and Australian River Record (Renmark, SA : 1913 - 1942), 1 September, p. 4. , viewed 22 Oct 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article109243565
1945 'New Pupils Total 28 At Burra Primary School', Burra Record (SA : 1878 - 1954), 20 February, p. 1. , viewed 22 Oct 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article36155199
Summers, Viona June & Murphy, Catherine & Ward, Edna, 1924- & Broadbent, Bertha, 1930- 1990, Interview with Viona June Summers, Edna Ward and Bertha Broadbent, State Library of South Australia
State Records of South Australia, GRG27/5/00000/7 Ledgers of children boarded out - Destitute Board, later State Children's Department (172f, 187f)
State Records of South Australia, GRG27/9/00000/3 Register of admissions - Industrial School, Magill and Edwardstown (1907/125)
National Archives of Australia: B2455, HEREWANE L E 3801

Hear from AVSA Co-Chairs Uncle Frank Lampard OAM and Ian Smith

Aboriginal Veterans South Australia (AVSA), as explained by co-chair Ian Smith

"is a group of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people that want to make sure that the service and sacrifice of Aboriginal people for country is recognised."

AVSA grew out of the work of the Aboriginal Independents’ Project in the early 2000’s, this project aimed to encourage Aboriginal veterans and their families to access unclaimed entitlements and medals. Over the years this group was a staunch advocate and working body for the erection of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander War Memorial and the Register of Aboriginal Veterans in SA project here in South Australia.

But, Ian Smith clarifies that the group still do a lot of work, saying

"We engage in a lot of different activities to do that. We support the national ANZAC service each year, we are involved in a number of grave re-dedications, taking Aboriginal veterans back to country that were buried away from country. We support programs that are being run by other organisations, and we have been involved with Country Arts on a project for the last 3 years, it's been fantastic, it’s covered all conflicts."

AVSA also plays a key role in the organising an ANZAC Day Gathering and an Aboriginal Commemoration Service each year, both events being held at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander War Memorial, Torrens Parade Ground.

The ANZAC Day gathering, which has been cancelled, as Aboriginal co-chair Uncle Frank Lampard OAM explains it is

"a casual gathering at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander War Memorial, to relate the cultural elements to ANZAC Day for our mob.  The ANZAC Day Gathering goes from about 8am – 8:45am and now attracts about 150-200 people, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal.  It is a very casual affair with the only formalities including an MC, keynote speech and smoking ceremony. The only formal invitees are the Premier and Leader of the Opposition.  Non-Aboriginal people really love the gathering too as they are able to learn more about history and in many cases re-connect with people they haven’t seen in years.  They might be served in a battalion with an Aboriginal person but not kept in touch, and this gathering allows a chance to reconnect.

This Gathering generally provides an opportunity for AVSA to promote recognition and acknowledgement of Aboriginal peoples participation in all wars and peacekeeping missions from the Boer War until today. It also provides the opportunity for an Aboriginal Veterans to tell us their service story. This year AVSA planned to hear Flight Lieutenant Steven Warrior.

Uncle Frank Lampard OAM, speaking to Reconciliation SA of ANZAC Day, says

“the first thoughts that come to my head on ANZAC Day is family and with that, thoughts about Veterans generally.... because I think about my younger brother Laurie and his Service in Vietnam because shortly after he came home from Vietnam he was killed.”

Uncle Frank, who also acknowledges his uncles and cousins who served in WW1, WW2, Korea and Vietnam says,

“Last year I missed ANZAC DAY here because I was away in France, Belgium and the UK on a trip with Connecting Spirits Community Tour run by Julie Reece Tours.

I was able to visit the Battle Fields of WW1 and many of the Memorials that had the names of Uncles, like Private Arthur Walker, Private Frances Alban Varcoe, Private Cyril Spurgeon Rigney, his brother Private Rufus Gordon Rigney and Private Walter Gollan.”

Speaking of his travels last April, Uncle Frank said

“I presented the ODE at the Menin Gate in Ypres in Belgium and placed a Tribute on ANZAC DAY at Codford Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in memory of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans.”

So on ANZAC Day this year, Uncle Frank shared with Reconciliation SA his plans on how to commemorate this day and reflect on Aboriginal servicemen and servicewomen's sacrifice

“I'll be doing a driveway Candlelight Minutes Silence, then Saying the ODE and listening to the ABC NATIONAL ANZAC DAY BROADCAST. I'll also be thinking of all of you who are doing something similar and wish you a safe, healthy and OK day. As always a special thank you to RSL SA for your commitment, leadership and guidance for us to be able do something on our ANZAC Day.”

 

Reconciliation SA would like to thank Uncle Frank Lampard for sharing this story and his work as Co-Chair of AVSA.

 


Please feel free to share with Reconciliation SA how you commemorated ANZAC Day and remembered Aboriginal servicemen and servicewomen on this day, photos are welcomed please load here, and we will collate and share.


 

 

 

 

 

 


AVSA Keynote Speaker Steven Warrior talks Family Legacy, Military and ANZAC Day

Each year Aboriginal Veterans of South Australia (AVSA) hosts an ANZAC Day Gathering at the Aboriginal War Memorial, Torrens Parade Ground. As like many other events, the current COVID-19 social gathering restrictions have halted this very important annual event.

This year, AVSA had approached Mr Steven Warrior, Narungga, Kokatha and Kaurna man, Flight Lieutenant, and Indigenous Liaison Officer at the Air Force, to be the keynote speaker at the ANZAC Day Gathering.

Reconciliation SA caught up with Steven Warrior, in lieu of not being able to hear his keynote this weekend.

 Can you tell us a little bit about your background and where you grew up?

I am a Narungga, Kokatha and Kaurna custodian. I was born in Adelaide but moved to the Yorke Peninsula at the age of 5. When I completed year 12 I decided to move back to Adelaide to pursue a career in Aboriginal Affairs and Education.

 What kind of previous working experiences did you have prior to joining the Air Force, and has that helped you in your role now?

Prior to working in Air Force I worked in Aboriginal Education for 8 years. Initially I began my career as a mentor supporting Aboriginal students with their literacy, numeracy and wellbeing. After 12 months I was offered a role as an Aboriginal Community Engagement Officer. The primary duties of this role was to implement cultural programs and initiatives to increase Aboriginal engagement, immerse Aboriginal culture and provide support to Aboriginal families. I fulfilled this role for over 7 years which empowered my passion for my culture and to provide opportunities for our people. I gained experience in implementing cultural initiatives and advocating on behalf of Aboriginal people which has assisted in being successful in my current role.

Photo by Sergeant Bill Solomou

What family connections and history do you have in the Defence Force?  Do you think this influenced your decision to join the Air Force? As an Aboriginal man working in the Defence, what does ANZAC day mean to you?

My great-great Grandfather Private Ernest Warrior served in the Australian Army and was enlisted in Infantry on August 22nd 1916, where he then served for 3 years. He embarked for France on the 7th of November 1916 and did not return to Australia until 7th of February 1919. A man who was not acknowledged as a citizen yet risked his life to serve for our country. This resonates with me deeply along with all Indigenous men and women that had served prior to the 1967 Referendum which is why Anzac Day has such significance to me as an Aboriginal man in Defence. The courage and sacrifice of those that served to ensure the survival of our people. Our culture and our country is an ongoing reminder that we must not take what was given to us for granted.

 What are your future aspirations in the Air Force?

My aspirations in Air Force is to immerse local Aboriginal culture into everything we do and provide opportunities to our next generation of Aboriginal leaders. I would then like to remain in the Air Force after my 3-year posting and become a Pilot flying the P-8A Poseidon.

How will you be commemorating ANZAC Day this year given the current restrictions?

It will be a slightly different ANZAC Day given no marches or mass gatherings at the Dawn Service or 11AM service which is a great shame.  But at same time, it will certainly be special in its own way and it is great to see the innovative approaches being adopted such as the stand out on your driveway at 6am initiative that is being promoted through social media.  I am also planning on going down to the very special Aboriginal Veterans Memorial at Torrens Parade Ground in uniform on ANZAC Day at some time and laying a wreath by myself to acknowledge the service and sacrifice of those who have gone before us laying the legacy and current serving members like me I have inherited and now nurture for the future.

As the keynote speaker for the ANZAC Day Gathering, what is the key message you would like to share this ANZAC Day?

Although our Country are is going through a tough time, at the going down of the sun and in the morning ‘We will still remember them, despite COVID 19. The sacrifice and service of those who have gone before us should be remembered and I encourage us all to take a moment this Anzac Day to reflect on those that made the ultimate sacrifice.

Reconciliation SA would like to thank Steven Warrior and AVSA for being so willing to talk and share with us. We would like to wish everyone well during their own private commemorations on ANZAC Day.

 


Reconciliation SA: Reconciliation Week Breakfast

RECONCILIATION WEEK BREAKFAST……BOOK NOW!!!!

Join us for Reconciliation South Australia’s, National Reconciliation Week Breakfast.

This Breakfast launches South Australia’s Reconciliation Week and is a premier event to attend. This years theme is “Grounded in Truth: Walk together in courage”.

This event is a great opportunity for all our reconciliation partners to gather, celebrate and network about the work each of you are doing to support the reconciliation movement here in South Australia.

The breakfast will be held at 7am (arrive at 6.45am) on Monday, 27th  May at the Adelaide Convention Centre.

As with previous years, we’re expecting this event to sell out fast so make sure you secure your tickets today. We’ve been working hard behind the scenes to pull together an exceptional program and we can’t wait to share it with you in the coming weeks.

You can go directly to the booking page by trybookings


Statement to the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition

Reconciliation SA presented both a written and verbal statement to the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition Relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. You can read to written Submission below:

Constitutional Recognition Submission


Remembering 80 Years

In honour of the 80th Anniversary of the "Day of Mourning and Protest", Reconciliation SA State Manager, Mark Waters has written an opinion piece about continuing the national conversation to acknowledge the truths of our shared history.

Read the opinion piece below:

Day of Mourning


Finalists Australian Human Rights Commission 'Racism. It Stops With Me' Award

Reconciliation SA has committed itself to improving race relations across all of its focus areas. One such program, “Generation of Change”, which empowers students to challenge and prevent racism in the school community and that has been developed and delivered in partnership with ActNow Theatre for the last four years.

An now it is exciting to announce that we are a finalist in the Australian Human Rights Commission ‘2017 Racism. It Stops With Me’ Award. We are among five deserving finalists for the ‘Racism. It Stops With Me’ category, including:

  • Clinton Pryor, whose trans-continental walk from Perth to Canberra created significant public interest in issues facing remote and regional communities and culminated in meetings with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.
  • Sean Gordon, who has been recognised for his work empowering Aboriginal communities on the NSW Central Coast and throughout Australia.
  • The Cohealth Arts Generator Sisters and Brothers program which is tackling racism in Victoria with a school leadership and vocational program that encourages bystanders to take action when they witness racism, and that builds confidence and resilience.
  • The Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra and Why Documentaries who have produce of a series of documentaries that bring to life authentic stories of friendships between people of different backgrounds living in the Illawarra region.

Reconciliation SA and ActNow Theatre are proud to receive such a recognition from the Australian Human Rights Commission and to be named among such an inspiring list of people and organisations working on the front line of reconciliation.

The Australian Human Rights Commission will announce the winner of this award at its annual Human Rights Awards at the Westin Hotel in Sydney on 8 December 2017.

More information: http://hrawards.humanrights.gov.au