In keeping with my traditions, I wish to acknowledge our Elders both past, and present. I wish to acknowledge through their guidance and support my own cultural journey, which has been filled with memories, songs, dances and a variety of stories. Stories of cultural, historical, and contemporary significance to Australia's history and its people.
Through my learnings I now share a sense of connection with our cultural landscape, our astrological journeys, and the wealth of our waterways. I acknowledge and pay respect to significant knowledge holders and community members especially those who shared stories, and cultural practices and gave permission for me to share with others including the younger generations.
As a youngster growing up, I recall putting marshmallows on a stick poking it in the fire, listening with enthusiasm to my father talking about his daily fishing feats and the ones that slipped away. As I grew older and still today, I love to sit around the campfire listening to stories. I listen with great interest especially when our Elders share with us our creation stories, our dreaming. Enshrined with a variety of lessons embedded within, curious storylines, connections, a voice from the present linking us to our past.
Many stories have been lucky to survive, they exist from those brave enough to pass them from generation to generation. Some of the Aunties and Uncles could bring our stories alive as they illustrate the dreaming in the formations of the stars, or by imitating the sounds of animals and birds, and mimicking their unusual behaviours. Their expressions filled with excitement, and for some it was like they were channelled by our ancestors as they shared the stories of our past.
Their tears flowed like the rivers to the ocean, their expressions warm like sun rays heating the layers of our skin, and stories could turn like the weather resembling a mid-summer thunderstorm. Loud cries of laughter echoed like the kookaburra and their feet danced like a lyrebird, encouraging the younger children to dig into the story, to stomp and play as they listen and recreate, and nourish our world. Young and old mesmerised as we listened and learnt where we came from, how our laws were created and how our LORE evolved. Morals such as respect, responsibility and reciprocity enshrined in the stories taught by our Elders learned from the dreaming.
Those Elders that made up the Illawarra advancement league that established Aboriginal medical centres, Aboriginal land councils, and many Aboriginal corporations, are amongst many strong-willed custodians who wore clothes, who were forbidden to wear cloaks made from animal skins, nonetheless they were still draped in cultural traditions. A generation, armed with spiritual connection from the past, strength of their present, that joined unionists and like-minded people to evoke change.
Their feet danced a new rhythm as they marched for equity and equality. They chanted a new song for rights to employment, education, social justice and housing. They worked for less wages, some not being paid at all. They fought for opportunities for women, and the future of their children, marching to maintain the legacies, to save our lands from environmental ecological abuse and they stood alongside a great deal of non-Aboriginal people who helped form a banner of resistance.
New laws were established but the cultural LORE/laws have remained intact and young children continue to learn these through new stories and connecting to Country. Maintaining these continual pathways for our younger generation has been arduous, our people remained stoic. Storytelling, cultural activities, and language use has ensured transgenerational knowledges have continued - thus maintaining and strengthening our ecological knowledges. This continuation supports the growth of our young people's connection to Country and reconnection to their own identity.
However, there is one change that continues to expunge the forward momentum of the Australian story, the acknowledgement within the Constitution. The Constitution fails to acknowledge the Ancestors of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In this article I have shared a joint history that was a part of my lifetime. It is not my role to tell you how to vote, only to draw your attention to the connection of our Ancestors, yours and mine and for you to examine whether you would like to be a part of a new chapter in Australia's history. A new chapter in the Constitution, one that acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People as the first people of Australia.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.