Last week was National Reconciliation Week and here at Arc, we were lucky enough to have the occasion marked by a heart rendering speech delivered by Senior Walama Muru Volunteer, Ammbi Muir.
Do yourself a favour and take a moment to take in the words of this proud Ngalia woman.
Statement of intent: I would like the audience to respect the indigenous culture that was lost and damaged. I would also like to offer an insight as to how important change is in order to achieve equality and recognition of the traditional custodians of this land.
I belong to the Ngalia tribe, the desert people, also known as Wangkatha. We are based in the Goldfields which is near the Kalgoorlie, Esperance region. From the moment we are born, we are given a totem or dreaming of flora or fauna which we protect as it represents a spirit animal. Usually a dreaming is given to you by an elder after birth based on an number of substantial events and features. My story is when my parents and grandparents went out bush. My grandfather found a nest of emu eggs and stepped on one, which turned out to be me. My job as well as many with totems is to protect their dreaming from any harm and to prevent extinction.
Today I am here to address the significance of Australia’s past and why we as Australian’s must respect Australia’s past in order to move forward towards equality.
Who are we as a nation? Language, land and family are some of the many things that are significant to Indigenous people. As well as any other culture language is important for communication both with sign language and speaking. The connection with land and people is strong, I believe if you look after the land, then the land will after you. For 60 000 years or more the land has provided food, shelter, water and tools which are some of the essentials for survival. As well as land our country is a core part of who we are. Country being a certain area where your mob is from. Land is specifically the environment. Having a strong connection and relationship with family creates a sense of belonging. These relationships are the sun which illuminates who you are and who your people are.
If I were to ask you who first “found” Australia? Your first response would most likely be Captain Cook, right? But this land was never lost in the first place for it to be found. The declaration of, “nobodies land” cast a shadow over our people. Terra Nullius silenced our people’s histories, songs and stories. Terra Nullius pushed our people into the darkness. During the settlement. Terra Nullius poisoned the water and stole the land.
The stolen generation was inflicted upon Indigenous Australians from 1910-1970. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were removed from their homes. Children were taken away from their family by the Australian Government and placed into church missionaries in hopes to outbreed Indigenous people and silence Indigenous culture. One of the many results of this period to this day negatively impacted young Indigenous Australians in the sense of not being in tune with their culture.
Imagine returning home from work tonight and there’s a heavy knock at the door, you see two men in uniform who barge in. Rip your children away from you. Without justification, without justice as if you weren’t important enough to have your say. In that moment what have they stolen? The culture, memories, hopes and traditions of your people.
What did the declaration of Terra Nullius and violations such as the Stolen Generation damage? These policies damaged Aboriginal countries and spiritual homes, connections with traditions and people, shared stories, complex familial and kinship systems and they damaged Aboriginal languages and ultimately peoples’ sense of identity.
In our nation, today we have two fires. One of destruction and loss. And the other of healing and cleansing. The first fire is fuelled by stereotypes, racism and addictions. Each day Indigenous Australians are burnt by racism when catching the bus, shopping and walking down the street. They are burnt by the names they encounter, they are burnt by the gestures they receive and they are burnt by being silenced. The fire of addictions burns communities due to intergenerational trauma and the damage that came with the stolen generations.
But a second fire burns in our nation and that is the fire of healing and cleansing which will clear the path towards equality. This fire burns in the tent embassy.
To keep this fire burning we need dialogue between non-Indigenous and Indigenous people to clear the right track. A track towards healing and equality. This track will provide Indigenous Australians with opportunities to heal, to rebuild communities, to lead and to follow in the track of their elders.
Ammbi is a Senior Volunteer for Arc’s Walama Muru program. The program partners with Nura Gili (UNSW Indigenous Studies Unit) to bridge the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in a small step towards Reconciliation. For more info on the programs fundraising efforts -https://www.givenow.com.au/wal...