Tag Archive: land

Just in case you missed it – the Sovereignty exhibition at ACCA was stunning.

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We need to keep leaning into the truth that colonisation isn’t a “once upon a time…” story of something that happened long ago and far away but is still happening here and now. On land that was never ceded – what does being “Australian” look like or mean? You see in the piece by Clinton Nain Water Bottle Bags something beautiful made of found objects: plastic bottles, emu eggs, emu feathers, electrical cable, wire, string… a mix of  what is natural and man-made, a mix of traditional and contemporary.  What does it mean that the contemporary is waste, or is it in the hands of the custodians? What does traditionally acquired knowledge – a different understanding of the world and how to engage it have to teach us? This exhibition provoked this reflection and many more. See more photos and read the (highly recommended!) Sovereignty publication on the ACCA website:


To be sovereign is in fact to act with love and
resistance simultaneously. Uncle Banjo Clarke, the
late Gunditjmara statesman, said we must ‘fight
hate with love.’2 If there is a thread that connects
all the artists across the wide diversity of practices
represented in Sovereignty it is this deep love for
family, for truth telling and for beauty.

– Paola Balla –


ACCA is proud to present Sovereignty, an exhibition focusing upon contemporary art of First Nations peoples of South East Australia, alongside keynote historical works, to explore culturally and linguistically diverse narratives of self-determination, identity, sovereignty and resistance.

Taking the example of Ngurungaeta (Elder) and Wurundjeri leader William Barak (c.1824–1903) as a model – in particular Barak’s role as an artist, activist, leader, diplomat and translator – the exhibition presents the vibrant and diverse visual art and culture of the continuous and distinct nations, language groups and communities of Victoria’s sovereign, Indigenous peoples.

Bringing together new commissions, recent and historical works by over thirty artists, Sovereignty is structured around a set of practices and relationships in which art and society, community and family, history and politics are inextricably connected. A diverse range of discursive and thematic contexts are elaborated: the celebration and assertion of cultural identity and resistance; the significance and inter-connectedness of Country, people and place; the renewal and re-inscription of cultural languages and practices; the importance of matriarchal culture and wisdom; the dynamic relations between activism and aesthetics; and a playfulness with language and signs in contemporary society.

Sovereignty provides an opportunity to engage with critical historical and contemporary issues in Australian society. The exhibition takes place against a backdrop of cultural, political and historical debates related to questions of colonialism and de-colonisation, constitutional recognition, sovereignty and treaty.

Paola Balla and Max Delany



Brook Andrew
William Barak
Lisa Bellear
Jim Berg
Trevor Turbo Brown
Amiel Courtin-Wilson / Uncle Jack Charles
Maree Clark
Vicky Couzens
Destiny Deacon & Virginia Fraser
Marlene Gilson
Korin Gamadji Institute
Brian Martin
Kent MorrisIMG_4420
Clinton Nain
Glenda Nicholls
Bill Onus
Steaphan Paton
Bronwyn Razem
Reko Rennie
Steven Rhall
Yhonnie Scarce
Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance (WAR)
Peter Waples-Crowe
Lucy Williams-Connelly

On the weekend of 24-25 September Whitley College hosted a conference called Constitutions and Treaties: Law, Justice, Spirituality – these are notes from session 8 of 9. We acknowledge that this gathering, listening and learning occurred of the land of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nations and offer our respects to their elders past and present, and all visiting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island visitors present.

Terrific to be part of the Minutes of Evidence project – collaborative performance sparking conversations about structural justice.

British colonisers ran a “Paper Empire” – numbers, counting surveillance… combined with counter-archives (other ways of knowing) can be used to create sources/proofs. Presumption of colonisation (denial of sovereignty) complicit and absolutely imbued in statutes and policies.






“…powerfully committed to hunting grounds” the Committee couldn’t break or deny this connection to Country… this is why the regional system of Missions was put in place.  The testimony of these men changed the political “solution”/outcomes. Although 50 years later the missions were closed after all and people were centralised.




On the subject of children being taken away, missionaries testified that:   Those on the Missions knew of all the children in their District when a white couple adopted a girl then no longer wanted her – they were going to send her to Sydney, the Aboriginal people on the Mission appealed to take her in. There is no such things as orphans… every child had two parents. 100s of letters written by Aboriginals exist speaking to self-determination, religious freedom and for rights.


Political activism was happening pre-1920s.  Is it racial prejudice that dismisses testimony of “pining away” or “affection” for the land as irrational/emotional but this speaks to the depth of feeling of cultural belief/commitment, assertion of rights, sovereignty and justice.  Not able to recognise the implications of what you ‘see’ in front of you but providing testimony of it jsut the same.

On the weekend of 24-25 September Whitley College hosted a conference called Constitutions and Treaties: Law, Justice, Spirituality – these are notes from session 7 of 9. We acknowledge that this gathering, listening and learning occurred of the land of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nations and offer our respects to their elders past and present, and all visiting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island visitors present.

Provide space for another person to find their own lifestyle (not adapt to that of the host) – this might be called a fearful emptiness.











Moved – relocated – dislocated – dispossessed… went from hosts to guests.

Mamaa – places where the Creator Spirit brings Christ and Wanjina together.

Our first learning: How to wait.

There’s a time to move.  Can’t go at our speed but the speed the people decide.

Leaves crackle when you burn them, this announces that guests are coming.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples need to be affirmed and respected as hosts of their own country.







Proud of my aboriginal heritage and being a part of the church.

Chasm (barriers to hospitality):

  • difference
  • misunderstanding
  • racism
  • sex
  • past
  • fear

Bringing people together:

  • similarities
  • past
  • hope
  • food
  • conversation

Join in moments of sorrow and celebration. Spent all our budget on food. Need to create spaces that bring people together and give them a chance to say, “Well, actually, I’ve been wondering about this…”

Hospitality across all cultures and all faiths.

Let us learn from you, instead you come and learn from us.

People started demanding and expecting hospitality… anxiety, misguided enthusiasm, on own terms/time, urgency, desire to ‘fix’… our elders are fragile and tired… who cares for the carers?

It’s not that we don’t want to talk/engage but we need time. Reconciliation can’t work by a drive-through approach.

Indigenous Unit is told ‘this is your job’ – it can often be overwhelming. People aren’t aware of what else is going on for our community.

These are the realities of our lived situation.

Trauma caused and trauma received.

Churches (and institutions) need to learn their own story – people go on experiential trips to the outback/red centre. Important to understand that you are on country here, now and always.

We need good and sustainable gatherings.

A time for everything – Ecclesiastes 3:1-14

Need to meet and share – get hospitality right.

Why binaries not working/helpful? Why working on Strong Spirit? Losing heart and tired.

Don’t understand the grace of Aboriginal people offering hospitality on a crime scene.

“You don’t look Aboriginal, what kind of food is this? why aren’t there more chairs? you aren’t dressed very aboriginally…”

People bound up in their own needs, expectations and demands.



On the weekend of 24-25 September Whitley College hosted a conference called Constitutions and Treaties: Law, Justice, Spirituality – these are notes from session 3 of 9. We acknowledge that this gathering, listening and learning occurred of the land of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nations and offer our respects to their elders past and present, and all visiting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island visitors present.

What are the drivers and transcendent values that inspire us?
What are the pathways to change?

9830410   We live in a polemic/binary time… issues like gay marriage, immigration… seem to have no middle ground – you are either for or against. Tolerance for diversity is at an all time low.

This way of arguing gets used manipulatively too… if you aren’t with me you’re against me – in ways that close the conversation down… what are some examples we can think of?

  • faith and justice
  • recognised and sovereignty
  • for the intervention or for child abuse

It is an Aristotelian idea: 2 ideas – thrash them out = one truth

Previously you had to be broad spectrum because you couldn’t afford to alienate anyone. Now the ways we access media and communications, we get exactly what we want to hear – an echo chamber…

  • hard to hear voices from the edges
  • hard to hear, listen, and engage different ideas
  • minimal dialogue and openness to being convinced

Need a strong spirit to imagine a non-polemic future… how do we change without losing our souls?aboriginal-spirituality

What is lost and found in translation?  Getting a (white fulla) education… what do I lose of my own culture and identity?
Industrial revolution and reason vs. everything has sacred significance.

Government talks to a small slice of who we are and how we understand the world.

I want to explore the sacred internal emotional resources that sustain and empower people:

Land, language, law, kinship, ceremony – 5 areas that make up a Strong Spirit.

img_1961Polemics can replace cultural identity… what do you do when a section of your strong spirit has been lost or damaged?

Identity not fused with the fight… not defined by or stuck in the fight. Overcome by the oppression/pain of where we are.

  • conservation (what we don’t want to lose)
  • restoration (actions to restore/share/teach/pass on)
  • innovation (new and adaptive ways)
  • respect (is our work underpinned by mutual respect?)

Strong Spirit audit tool: what have we got/not got?


We need to remember who we are.
When our weapons for warfare start to look like our colonisers I start to worry.

(not just post-colonial reactions)



Can’t rely on vehicles as they are (old and rusted car), won’t get us the whole way (breaks down) we need a new way of getting there (highly modified car).

walk on country
reconnect with people and place
“I’m going back in my memory” (one word that means this), where are you going?[at the kitchen table, able to reflect and be present at the same time]
dardirri (deep listening)
yarning circles
dinner table



On the weekend of 24-25 September Whitley College hosted a conference called Constitutions and Treaties: Law, Justice, Spirituality – these are notes from session 4 of 9. We acknowledge that this gathering, listening and learning occurred of the land of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nations and offer our respects to their elders past and present, and all visiting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island visitors present.

Knowledge puffs up (self), love builds up (others) – Ray’s Dad… and 1 Cor 8:1

What do we know we know? What do we know we don’t know?























Facilitated by Christop Booth from the Indigenous Hospitality House, in this bible study series we will seek to make connections between the story of the nation of Israel told in Lamentations and our own national story. We will look to see whether this book may help us to address our shared histories of displacement and endeavour to distill how we might move forward as a nation in light of the biblical example.

Connection to Community

Who do you think of as community?

What forms of sharing are undertaken within these communities? (what is personal, what is communal?)

Read Lamentations 5

What type of people made up the Israelite community?

What did they share together? What experiences/materials/stories?

How connected were the Israelite people to one another at the time this poem was written?

What do we think of when we think of Aboriginal communities?

Watch clip from move The Sapphires [singing for soldiers during the war, Manager is injured and they’re separated, have to decide to go on or go back]

What kind of sharing takes place?

What part does shared suffering play in the building of community or extent of connectedness experienced?

Does being Aboriginal increase the likelihood of connection experienced by an individual? Does belief in God?

Can we identify any other factors which promote community building and connectedness?

How might we offer and/or provide aspects if community connectedness for others and ourselves at a local, national and international level?




Some fine Saturday I would like to recommend you idle away an afternoon doing the Billibellary’s Walk at the University of Melbourne.  I work in the precinct so it felt like a good fit to contextualise what was happening in this specific place 300 years ago, 200 years ago, 100 years ago, now… or maybe what’s not happening…?


Billibellary’s Walk

Wominjeka. Welcome to Wurundjeri Country

Billibellary’s Walk is named after the Ngurungaeta, or clan head, of the Wurundjeri people at the time of Melbourne’s settlement. The walk is a cultural interpretation of the University’s Parkville campus landscape that provides an experience of connection to Country which Wurundjeri people continue to have, both physically and spiritually.

The walk is designed to help participants hear the whispers and songs of the Wurundjeri people that lie within the University of Melbourne’s built environment. The walk alerts us to signs and stories that may not be apparent to visitors, but which provide some insight into the experience of the Wurundjeri people of the Woiwurrung language group who have walked the grounds upon which the University now stands for more than 40,000 years. It is intended to provide the impetus for further exploration of issues pertinent to the Aboriginal community.


Smart phone App




The actual talking-point sites around the campus don’t often have a strong link to what you’re talking through but probably understanding that little remains from earlier times is precisely part of the journey they are taking you on.  I was lucky enough to do it with Samara from the Indigenous Hospitality House in Carlton so the talking points and questions were enriched by having someone along so much more deeply invested and holding wisdom in cultural awareness.  You could do it as a tourist, as a social studies class, as someone seeking to hear truth… being open to ideas, history, stories and what they have to teach us about the impacts of colonisation.  You could do it as someone who likes to look at a big, tall, beautiful tree and know that it’s been there since before you came along and will stand for many years after you go – bearing witness.


The walk poses a lot of questions.  It doesn’t necessarily have the answers.  You have to sit in that. Not having the answers.  This is something we’re still living out hey…

I find myself getting fired up as our conversation canvasses: religion, authoritarianism, institutionalisation….  from colonisation to terrorism to the Royal Commission investigating child abuse… it all somehow feels like the same thing and it feels broken.

“We’re not going to be the ones who fix it” Samara points out.

“Then who?” I demand.

“We be a part of it.”

This walk invites you to do that.  Be a part of it.











All the signs, front and back, seem to be indicating this climate change thing is something that anyone and everyone can get behind.  That everyone should get behind.  Action on climate change is a demand for justice for our children, grandchildren and future generations and also, here in this place, I think, a demand for justice for the indigenous people of this land who have lived in tune with and attuned to country since time immemorial.  The traditionally acquired knowledge of our elders, their understanding of the interconnectedness of things, must surely have wisdom to offer and we must humble ourselves to the wilderness that cries out against its bondage to decay.

I imagine a time in the future when talking about flushing potable water sounds like heresy, when running under sprinklers in the summer sounds like a fairytale, a time when a child asks me:  “But if you knew, why didn’t you do anything?”

It is little enough.

Today: “Across the globe, 785,000 people in 175 countries hit the streets at more than 2,300 People’s Climate March events. That’s three quarters of a million people. And in Australia, we came together in record breaking numbers in more than 50 towns and cities right across the country to show the world just how much we care.” (www.peoplesclimate.com.au)

With our bodies, with our feet, outside, we seek to be a face to and give a voice to creation at the UN climate change summit in Paris, to our own government and politicians, to those who don’t believe its real. …that will sound like the start of a joke but it isn’t.

It is little enough.  Too little probably.  The least we can do, certainly.