Page 1754 - Week 06 - Thursday, 3 June 2021

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This year’s Reconciliation Week theme has been “More than a Word: Reconciliation Takes Action”. I hope that we are about to enter a new period of action, thanks to the push that is going on and some of the significant discussions, for example, at the moment around the importance of treaty, voice and truth telling, about how these processes mesh and about whether there is a clear order and time frame for each of them. These are important and challenging discussions and we must ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices are at the forefront of those discussions.

On Monday night I went to an event at Canberra Grammar School where they launched their reconciliation action plan and celebrated the young Indigenous students who are now being supported in the school through a dedicated scholarship program. It was a very interesting event because the school was very open about, in their minds, their poor track record at supporting Indigenous students and the challenge they are facing in bringing Indigenous students into the school and ensuring they are able to feel part of the school and supported.

It was also very inspiring to hear some of the young students who have succeeded speak, including a young woman who was one of the first to graduate from year 12 through the scholarship program and now is to become the first in her family to attend university.

I acknowledge the effort that is being made by the school to incorporate and give opportunity to young Indigenous students but also to particularly celebrate those young students who told their stories very openly and very honestly about how difficult it has been to come into an environment like that but also to celebrate the opportunity it has given them.

Last night I attended a fundraising event for BIG Sing, which is about sharing culture and song. It is about connection and bringing Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people together through a shared joy of singing and music. They screened a documentary called Teach a Man to Fish, a sort of biopic film by a Biripi man, Grant Saunders, who seeks to reconcile his heritage with the life that his parents have sought to put together for him and his exploration of the family’s tradition of fishing on the Manning River in Taree. If you have not seen the film, it is one worth watching to understand the challenges that some Indigenous people in modern Australia are facing.

Just finally, for those who have not seen it, I would encourage you to go on YouTube and watch the collaboration between Paul Kelly and a young Aboriginal artist called Ziggy Ramo and their rendition of From Big Things, Little Things Grow. It is a complete rewrite of the song. But again, it is, I guess, an insight into some of the challenges that Australia faces and the frustrations, the aspirations, the anger of Indigenous Australians about the plight they find themselves in in this country.

It is a powerful song. It is a powerful rendition of a well-known song. If you have not had the chance, I think it is something to do during Reconciliation Week as we all continue to learn more and seek to progress along the path of true reconciliation for this country.

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