We started our long weekend of looking for alternatives to Australia’s increased militarisation to achieve security for all by listening to First Nations perspectives, taking in the Frontier Wars, Aboriginal Diggers, Blackbirding and the impacts of violence on the Gadigal people.
The Gadigal of the Eora Nation and their neighbouring clans were the first to be hit by the devastating effects of colonisation. So many place names, stories, and the testament of the land itself have been erased but the Gadigal people live on, carrying their history and trauma, but also their hopes, with them. Our weekend was opened by Aunty Rhonda Dixon-Grovenor opened the weekend by Welcoming us all to Country and speaking of her experience as a Gadigal/Bidgigal/Yuin Elder and Traditional Descendant from the Sydney (Warrane) and saltwater basin and the South Coast of NSW.
Violent conflict between Aboriginal people and the settler colonists over 140 years is estimated to have cost many more Aboriginal lives than the loss of Australian lives in WW1 (62,300). This raises many issues, not the least of which is the still inadequate acknowledgement of Australia’s truthful historical context. Emeritus Professor Henry Reynolds, who has spent more than four decades researching the real Australian story, discussed this and its relevance for future generations. Peter Griffin, a Raising Peace organiser, introduced us to the University of Newcastle’s online map of the Frontier Massacres.
First Nations people from this continent were not the only ones affected by coloniser violence. South Sea Islanders from across Melanesia were brought to the colonies as indentured labour for decades under the infamous Blackbirding scheme. Their descendants live on in Australia, their contribution to our history only now starting to be recogised. Councillor (Waskam) Emelda Davis, a descendant of labourers from Tanna, told us of the Blackbirding story and the efforts and progress towards justice and recognition for Australian South Sea Islanders
Aboriginal soldiers were dedicated and skilled soldiers who fought in the defence of Australia in both World Wars but their stories are not well known and they were not treated equally with their comrades on coming home. What are the issues that Aboriginal soldiers experienced that should be aired publicly in the name of justice? Pastor Ray Minniecon introduced this topic.
The panel presented their views and expectations in the light of both our past and future journey toward a realistic and substantial reconciliation process.