Reflect. Respect. Celebrate.

Words by Aunty Patricia Walker – Introduction by Zacharey Jane

We live in community with each other, yet each of us holds our own understanding of how things are and should be. How do we make all our different points of view work together so that we can form a happy community, a prosperous, generous and caring community, that honours our ancestors and makes our descendants proud?

For Aboriginal Australians, the 26th of January is symbolic of the day in 1788 when their peoples came in contact with colonial England. Colonisation changed their way of life forever and forced them to survive multiple injustices throughout the following centuries. Yet the oldest human culture in the world lives on, embracing 21st century life with spirit, generously sharing their knowledge of this land with all who live here.

We would like to pay our respects to Aboriginal Elders, past present and future, particularly those of the Gumbaynggirr, Bundjalung, Dunghutti and Biripi Nations, traditional custodians of the lands that Coastbeat calls home, and share with you the wisdom of Aunty Patricia Walker, Manager of the MiiMi Aboriginal Corporation in Bowraville:

Aunty Patricia Walker

‘When I first considered the issues around celebrating Australia Day, I got annoyed and started responding with passion and a little anger. Then I thought to myself, take a breath and step back and remember to answer with your truth, integrity and honesty.’

My Truth

I can easily reflect on the past injustices to my people, but what about reflecting on Aboriginal knowledge and traditions that can be instilled in all our children and their future carriage in a right for justice and caring for country.

I can easily reflect about the loss of many Aboriginal languages in this country but how about today we reflect on the resurgence of Aboriginal languages and the young and old embracing this resurgence with pride and passion.

I can easily reflect on a failed education system about Aboriginal history not being taught in schools but how about today we reflect on teaching our children the importance of inclusiveness and unity and build a better educational system for Aboriginal Australia.

I can easily reflect on the loss of country for my people but how about today we reflect on the Welcoming To Country and Acknowledgment of Country which is now part of Australian official ceremonies, sporting fixtures, celebrations, amongst others.

As I reflect on what my parents’ experiences were, the stories are scary and real, but that did not stop them from instilling in myself and my siblings a respect given to them exclusively, respect given to family, respect given to others (in that very order). Maybe we as a nation need to reflect on building foundations that our children need so they can create and build positive change to walk hand in hand with each other for a respectful community?

If you ever find yourself reflecting on today’s event, remember one thing “We are all in this together”.

Read about the new Gumbaynggirr Giingana Freedom School set to open in Coffs Harbour in February.