Tag Archive: stories


war memorial footscray lest we forget avenue of honour ANZAC Day 2018

This ANZAC day as we remember those who lost their lives in WW1 and WW2 we also acknowledge all of those who lost their lives in the Frontier Wars.

We acknowledge people of the Kulin Nation stalked game, collected food and fished along the river junctions, estuaries, oceans, swamps and lagoons of this place since time immemorial. They met, raised families, shared songs and stories.  We acknowledge this way of life was interrupted during white settlement and that this country was the scene of conflicts between the Kulin Nation people and the European colonisers.

You won’t see any war memorials depicting the Frontier Wars. When Aboriginal people mourn the loss of a family member they follow Aboriginal death ceremonies, or ‘sorry business’. It is believed that when a person dies, their spirit goes back to the Dreaming Ancestors in the land if the correct ceremonies rituals are conducted.  The tradition not to depict dead people or voice their (first) names is very old  – traditional law across Australia said that a dead person’s name could not be said because you would recall and disturb their spirit. After the invasion this law was adapted to images as well.

Aunty Margaret Parker from the Punjima people in north-west Western Australia describes what happens in an Aboriginal community when someone dies.

“…when we have someone passed away in our families and not even our own close families, the family belongs to us all, you know. The whole community gets together and shares that sorrow within the whole communityWe have to cry, in sorrow, share our grief by crying and that’s how we break that [grief], by sharing together as a community.

If you are interested in thinking further on this subject more you might visit NGV’s “Colony: Frontier Wars” exhibition on until 15 July 2018 or  read Richard Flanagan’s recent Press Club speech online. As we remember the grief of those lives lost in wars today the following poem by indigenous artist Zelda Quakaroot, from Mackay, Queensland might be a way to share our grief as a community. This poem was inspired by AFL player Adam Goodes, on the subject of war it may not be that “our voices have been heard” yet but we can be grateful for the space to hold grief as a community today for the fallen in war – named and unnamed.

 

STAND STRONG

Our ancestors spirits
Are here…
Respect never retires
Stand up
We’ve marched
Our voices have been heard;
Stand here
Where we belong
Stand altogether
With our passionate hearts
For respect
We all stand strong.

Sources: Wikipedia and Creative Spirits


 

I know nothing about anything.  I just need to get that out there. I make some presumptive connections above about why there might not be indigenous war memorials and sort of appropriate the “unnamed soldier” for my own poetic ends… The most I have heard about the Frontier Wars was on Monday at the Indigenous Hospitality House‘s Learning Circle.  I’m a you-have-to-start-somewhere kind of person and the second step in acknowledging you know nothing about something is to say: Why don’t I know about this? How can I find out more?  The above is a very hastily cobbled together poster I made very late last night… it didn’t arise out of any wisdom or stakeholder consultation (I’m sorry for that), it didn’t even get spell checked (crap!) it arose out of a deep sense of conviction that I should know more about what I know nothing about and wanting to give hands and feet to that commitment urgently.  Richard Flanagan’s Press Club speech is so pertinent to our times I wish everyone in Australia would read it.

In the meantime… I did a little morning vigil of my own putting these up in Footscray’s Memorial Park and on the Avenue of Honour plinth because I want to see Frontier Wars become part of the conversation… I want to have the conversation… and I can’t get to Canberra for the Frontier Wars March.

 

Squatter Henry Meyrick wrote in a letter home to his relatives in England in 1846:
The blacks are very quiet here now, poor wretches. No wild beast of the forest was ever hunted down with such unsparing perseverance as they are. Men, women and children are shot whenever they can be met with … I have protested against it at every station I have been in Gippsland, in the strongest language, but these things are kept very secret as the penalty would certainly be hanging … For myself, if I caught a black actually killing my sheep, I would shoot him with as little remorse as I would a wild dog, but no consideration on earth would induce me to ride into a camp and fire on them indiscriminately, as is the custom whenever the smoke is seen. They [the Aborigines] will very shortly be extinct. It is impossible to say how many have been shot, but I am convinced that not less than 450 have been murdered altogether.[2]     Source

Please see also Lyndall Ryan‘s interactive (partially completed) massacre map for violence near you…

 

What are war memorials for by the way… Remembering? Honouring? Celebrating? Prayer? Prevention? Cure? Should they be educational so that understanding the horror of war we might be dissuaded from ever participating in them by being transparent about the cost of war and violence – personal and political? Should they advocate for alternate and non-violent approaches? Make connections to waves of migration and refugees?

Ironically, the only one at Footscray’s war memorials this morning was me.  There are no flowers or wreaths, no events, no mourners although I saw a few folks in uniform heading for the local RSL.  The memorial has had a revamp recently, the Australian Government is commiting a lot to doing them up in upcoming years on top of the $100 million spent on a new museum in France, apparently there are a total 5-6 Frontier War memorials in all of Australia, maybe we could get a new museum here on country?

I confess I don’t feel as much as I think I should, I have ringing in my head the chorus “Lest We Forget” but we cannot remember what we do not know, how selective are the stories we’re being taught? And I wonder… have I forgotten what I’m supposed to remember?

What are we forgetting?
What are we remembering?

war memorial footscray lest we forget avenue of honour ANZAC Day 2018war memorial footscray lest we forget avenue of honour ANZAC Day 2018

I read some of the plaques at the memorial garden overlooking the Maribyrnong river and the racecourse.  The catch-cry of the funding appeal for planting the Avenue of Honour back in the day was that the memorial would be “…dedicated to citizens who fell in ANY war in which Australia has been engaged.” Could this language create space for remembering lives lost in the Frontier Wars?  One plaque quotes the widow of Private GF Blake of Footscray from an In Memoriam message in The Age ‘Each day I miss his footsteps/As I walk through life alone‘.  Walking is evocative language in this country, what learned wisdom about following in our elders first footprints and following songlines have to teach us about grief? What symbolism might we share of trails that end unexpectedly, or songs that are lost before they can be passed on, can we learn from?

Don’t forget to remember.   Let’s keep talking about what that means.

 

Fools for love

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This Lent with Easter Sunday falling on April Fools day Godspace are running a series on For love of the world God did foolish things… it’s bringing out/together all sorts of foolish ideas that are worth checking out. Below are a couple of links to contributions I’ve made to that blog on that theme.

Foolish Love: What words do we ever have to express our love well?

This piece is a story of the time I stuck up bad poetry all of the woods like Orlando from As You Like It…. you can read more here

Come, Be a Holy Fool

This piece is an invitation to follow the example to do foolish things for love too… you can read more here

May you encounter something Holy and foolish this Lent.

Taurikura, Talitha
have peace

 

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‘I would like to go, stupidly, towards the bodies that my anxiety has kept me from.’
– Guy Hocquenghem, ‘The Screwball Asses’

I will be content with nothing less that the total and complete destruct-
tion of my body. Now is not the time to be flippant, now is the time to be
sincere, and helpful, but I still say, ‘I like to sleep with people who could
break my ribs id they chose to’. It’s stupid because couldn’t anyone, phys-
ically? And wouldn’t they?

Smashed ceramic chips are like fingernails, kept clipped short
and ragged, scraping over your legs. No two chips are identical. Rough
snaggles, little knives. Obsessively clipped every day. I love forms that
take a long time to set. I love thinking about waiting for the grout to dry.
Thin cylinders, almost meeting in the corner of the room. At the same
time smooth, especially aesthetically, and rough, like a secret. I feel like
I’m visiting the clinic, and I’m into it.

I was clearing away the cups from tea and coffee after group.
There was a tea bag bound to a stirring stick, the string wound tightly
around. In sharing time he said, ‘If you can’t be a faggot, why be a man at
all?’ and honked, a nervous burst of laughter. When he was not speaking
I looked at him. His shoulders hung forward with many years of habit,
the same as mine. The things I love looking at are the things that are the
same as me, or spaces where I can see that I could be too; there but for
the grace of God go I. When he was speaking, I looked away. It’s just a
wrapper. A vessel.

I like to think about bending steel. To make something look like it
flutters but allow it to be still. Allow something so precious to evaporate
into the air. Less death wish, more stability. It’s good to have a role, you
whispered, handing me a tray of raw meat, not looking at me. ‘everybody
treats you like a boy until you say you are one’. The bruise becomes the
unmistakable centre of the long neck. The neck becomes negative and
the bruise positive. Like the neck exists only o support the bruise. Like
this vessel exists only to support what’s inside of it. To see your pulse in
light blue. To feel your heart beating in your skin. ‘These things we do,’
he says. ‘they never used to come naturally to me,’ Nothing even really
happens, but the interiority is so overpowering, so strong. The blood is
at the surface.

An excerpt from the stunning work of Spence Messih with Vincent Silk and many other artists are now on display as part of the UNFINISHED BUSINESS: Perspectives on art and feminism exhibition at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, 15 Dec 2018-25 March 2018. Free entry. Check it out!

 

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Jan 067

The gorgeous Dusk Liney of Inspirit Creative recently ran a customised (pretty damn special) contemplative birthday for me down at Pipemakers Park. As she as gifted, so are we all. Please be encouraged to  use this for your own reflections on 2017. 

Pipemakers Park mosaic

Wurundjeri Garden 

Mosaic

This mosaic depicts Aboriginal life before European settlers arrived. Find a place around the mosaic to reflect on your own life this year. Create your own Mosaic/picture – using illustrations, colours or words – that reflects how you experienced 2017.

Capture the good, the bad, the ugly. What surprised you? What enlivened you? What challenged you? What were the unexpected gifts?

burning paper

Fireplace

Before you leave the Wurundjeri Garden, if there is any part of this year that you would like to leave behind, make your way to the fireplace.

Take a piece of paper, put that image, word or feeling down on paper, and burn it.

Childs feet

Early Settlers Garden

Footprints

As you walk to the next station, pause and place your feet on the child’s footprints. Take a moment to be still and be present to your inner child.

Whisper to her what your heart yearns for her to hear.

Jan 031

One sided Table 

So much of the year is spent preparing food for others. In this moment, come and sit at the table. Think about the hospitality that you show to others and imagine the ways in which you can show that same beautiful hospitality to yourself.

What would it be like for the Divine to prepare a table for you? What would feed your soul? How can you show that hospitality to your soul this year?

Mum and baby under an apple tree

Take a walk over to the apple tree and think of an apple dish that captures that imagining. Write it on a sticker and place it on your clothes.

woman sitting in a fig tree Pipemakers park

Pipeworkers Garden

Dry Garden

Take in the fig tree, the succulents and the drought resistant plants. Each of these plants have survived dry, hot, tough conditions. It is actually in this landscape of lacking that they grow.

Sit here and acknowledge the dry places in your life. Think about the qualities that have grown in you within the dry parts of this year. Write them on a post it and stick it to the dry plant captures that quality.

Jan 073

Grapevine Colonnade

Then walk under the pipe colonnade shaded by the grapevines. Allow the coolness and shade to wash over those dry places. As you come to the end, sit with the sun mosaic.

Ask God / the Divine / the Sun to shine on you this year, to shine you with light and warmth. Name the desires of your heart and lay them at the Sun as offering. 

Picnic Pipemakers park

Picnic Circle

When you’re ready, come and find a place on the blankets and we’ll gather in a circle to reflect together.

westword lmaw vigil 287

An act of public witness and liturgical protest in a response to the current crisis on Manus Island following the government’s closure of the island’s immigration detention centre.  Sunday 19 November 2017, Tim Watts, Labor MP Office, 97 Geelong Rd, Footscray

We are here today to stand in solidarity with men who the Australian Government have held on Manus Island in limbo for over four years. We are here today on the unceded land of the people of the Kulin Nation because on October 31 the Manus camp was officially “closed.”

We are here today because water, food and power have been cut off. Over 600 men have been abandoned. They are collecting water in rubbish bins. They are digging wells to survive. They are showering in the rain. And left starving and without medical care. Because they can no longer tolerate political games and human rights abuses.

There has been no plan. There has been no justice. Their lives are on the line. Men have stated: We can’t blame the sea for drowning people but we blame Australia for killing us. People need a genuine solution. Not to be shifted from one prison to another where their lives remain at risk.

We echo their calls for freedom and safety and call on the Australian government to bring people back to Australia immediately and provide safe resettlement. We want the government to know that we are watching this humanitarian emergency unfold and we do not accept the violence, the abuse, and the ongoing persecution of refugees.

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We hear stories of the men on Manus in their own voice. Raise our arms as they do in non-violent protest. We spell out SOS in cups in solidarity and symbolically of life-giving water denied. We make decorations together with our children and tell them stories… we want to teach our children justice. We make chains of the names of those we know on Manus and symbolically tear those chains. Felt and red lights denote the blood on the hands of our democratically elected Government who are treating people this way in our name.  We have barbed wire on our tree instead of tinsel – neither the welcome you thought you’d be given nor the home you hoped to find. We sing, to remember and be re-membered.  We make decorations, we recite, we pray, we sing… it feels like something. Wherever two or three are gathered… there is our hope.

 

Hold on (Love Makes A Way)

(tune: Keep your hand to the plough/Keep your eyes on the prize)

They are coming across the sea,
From their homes they have had to flee,
We say, love makes a way, hold on.

We are here to sing and shout,
Why you keeping God’s children out?
We say love makes a way, hold on.

Chorus
Hold on, hold on,

We say, love makes a way, hold on.

We say welcome the refugee
We say set all the people free
We say, love makes a way, hold on.

We have room in our hearts to care
We have plenty enough to share
We say, love makes a way, hold on.

 

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Each step I am blind

lost and found park bench

Each step I am blind
In faith, I follow
listening for the Song
listening for the Singer.
Maybe that’s the Mary thing to do.
Kneel, right here where I am,
lean against You and
ask all the questions
why God? how God?
when God?

Talitha Fraser

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A hollow grief, a hallow grief

We light candles in defiance of the darkness
raising our lights high to honour those voices silenced and stories untold
mine goes out.
A small enough gesture and mine is snuffed out before
it can transmit its’, however fragile, beacon of hope.
Discouraged, I lower my arm and my head but
a hand, bearing a lighter, comes into my view.
We each have that power – to share the light we have.
I had forgotten but this stranger reminds me:
the fellowship isn’t only with the Other but each other too.
Touched by grief, I don’t immediately move away following the vigil
a Chinese international student approaches to ask in broken English:
“Why do these people gather here this way?”
I try to explain but realise asylum “seeker” evokes Potteresque imagery
I let it lie – elusive to gain, as much to do with luck as skill,
glittering just out of reach… there are worse metaphors.
“You all show much courage”, she says.
“How’s that?” I ask.
“In China, this would never be allowed.”
What seems little enough… not nearly enough…
is to this person unthinkable
and I am confronted by my privilege to be here.
She moves off and a man joins me on the library lawn
“The powers you must overcome…
they would keep you from expanding.”
He lights a cigarette.
“They are going backwards, except,
it seemed backward even the first time”
he sighs looking around, “It is little enough”.
It is little enough.

Tonight on the anniversary of the “Regional Resettlement” initiative 55 vigils are taking place across Australia. It is little enough. It is something…

 

Messages from Manus

Timeline: Four years of abuse

19 July 2013: Then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announces a new “Regional Resettlement Arrangement” with Papua New Guinea (PNG) so Australia can buy its way out of its ethical responsibilities. From this day forward anyone seeking protection and safety in Australia who arrive by boat will be forcibly transferred to PNG for processing and, if they are found to be refugees, be permanently settled there.
19 July 2013: The announcement causes distress amongst the people warehoused in detention in Nauru with peaceful protests escalating into violence.
3 August 2013: The Australian Government signs a new memorandum of understanding with Nauru similar to its Regional Resettlement Arrangement with Papua New Guinea.
17 February 2014: 23-year-old Reza Berati is murdered, and over 60 others injured, some of them seriously, on Manus Island. Numerous witness reports state Reza Berati was attacked by a group of G4S staff and at least one local staff member employed by The Salvation Army. Several eyewitnesses reported that one attacker picked up a large rock and hit Reza Berati on the head with it several times.
5September 2014: Hamid Khazaei, who was only 24 years old dies from a sepsis infection three weeks after he cut his foot at the detention centre on Manus Island. Inadequate medical care and delayed medical evacuation were later reported to have let to to Mr Khazaei’s death.
26 September 2014: The Australian and Cambodian governments sign a deal under which people on Nauru who are found to be refugees are to be resettled in Cambodia.  This second deal again allows Australia to buy its way out of its ethical responsibilities.
18 November 2014: Then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison announces that asylum seekers who have registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Indonesia after 1 July 2014 will no longer be able to be resettled under Australia’s humanitarian program.
5 December 2014: bill passes both Houses providing the Immigration Minister with the power to detain people at sea (including outside Australia’s jurisdiction) and send them to other countries or vessels, even without the permission or knowledge of those countries.
20 March 2015: The report from independent review into allegations of sexual abuse on Nauru is released detailing reports of women being raped and allegations of children being sexually assaulted.
20 March 2015: A boat carrying 46 Vietnamese asylum seekers is intercepted by Australia. Its passengers are held at sea for nearly a month and undergo “enhanced screening” before being returned to Vietnam on 18 April.
28 May 2015: Thousands of men, women and children seeking protection are abandoned at sea in what is now known as the Andaman Sea ‘boat crisis’. Regional governments eventually agree to allow the boats to land but then Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s callous response to Australia offering safety is “nope, nope, nope”.
4 June 2015: Nine months after the $55 million Cambodia deal, four refugeesarrive in Phnom Penh from Nauru. All of these people subsequently choose to return to their countries of origin, despite the fact that all four were found to have well-founded fears of persecution.
1 July 2015: The Australian Border Force Act takes effect making it a crime punishable by two years’ imprisonment for medical professionals, educators and others contracted by the Australian Government to speak about what they see in offshore detention.
5 October 2015: The Nauruan Government announces that the Regional Processing Centre will operate under an open centre arrangement.
29 October 2015: Amnesty International Australia publishes a report revealing evidence that Australian officials paid boat crews to return peopleseeking asylum to Indonesia.
8 November 2015: Fazel Chegeni, an Iranian refugee detained in Christmas Island Detention Centre, is found dead after escaping the centre.
19 February 2016: Australia again rejects the standing offer from New Zealand to accept 150 people from Nauru or Manus Island, failing to provide sensible, durable solutions for the people trapped there.
21 February 2016: Baby Asha, a one-year old who was transferred along with her family from Nauru to Brisbane Lady Cilento Children’s hospital for medical treatment is released into community detention. This came after the doctors at the hospital refused to discharge Asha after the completion of her treatment, fearing she would be transferred back to Nauru.
23 March 2016: At the Ministerial Bali Process meeting a declaration was released (the Bali Declaration) which for the first time identified the need toprovide protection to refugees in the region.
15 April 2016: A refugee in Nauru is convicted of attempted suicide, which was recognised as a crime in Nauru at the time.
26 April 2016: PNG’s Supreme Court rules that the transfer and detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island is illegal.
26 April 2016: Omid Masoumali, a refugee living in Nauru for three years sets himself on fire. After more than 24 hours he is medically evacuated to Australia where he dies in a hospital in Brisbane on Friday 29 April 2016.
2 May 2016: A young Somali refugee living in Nauru sets herself on fire. She is later flown to Australia by air ambulance suffering burns to 70% of her body.
5 May 2016: A boat with 12 Sri Lankan people seeking asylum who were intercepted by Australian authorities earlier in the week are screened at sea before being returned to Sri Lanka. They were reportedly arrested on arrival at Colombo airport.
10 May 2016: The Federal Court rules the Government must provide a woman,raped on Nauru, access to a safe and legal termination.
July 2016: Amnesty International’s Senior Director for research visits Nauru where she finds a system of deliberate abuse hidden behind wall of secrecy.
10 August 2016: The Guardian releases the Nauru files – thousands of leaked incident reports from Nauru detail assaults, sexual abuse and child abuse.
19 September: UN Global Summit for Refugees and Migrants in New York misses opportunity to find solutions to the global refugee crisis.
17 October 2016: In a new report Island of Despair’: Australia’s “processing” of refugees on Nauru Amnesty International find that the conditions to which refugees and people seeking asylum on Nauru are subjected amounts to torture.
30 October 2016: Immigration Minister Peter Dutton tries to introduce legislation to ensure anyone taken to Nauru and Manus and then resettled anywhere in the world, would never be able to come to Australia.
13 November 2016: The Government takes an extreme step in shirking responsibility byannouncing an agreement with the United States for some of the refugees in offshore detention to be settled in the US via a process administered by the UNHCR.
25 November 2016: Malaysia begins work on a pilot scheme to allow refugees from Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya minority to work in the country, which in turn reduces number of people forced to take dangerous journeys in search for a safe place to rebuild their lives.
24 December 2016: Faysal Ishak Ahmed collapses at the Manus detention centre. He dies on Christmas Eve.
31 December 2016: The Indonesian President issues a Presidential Decree for refugees which for the first time provides people seeking asylum and refugees in Indonesia with a more formal legal status.
14 April 2017: PNG Soldiers fire directly into the Manus Island detention centre putting lives at risk. 9 people are injured. No one is held accountable.  

Re-lie

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You want to lie
to cover up what you
think of as incompetency,
letting people down…
That’s a narrative that
reassures who you want
to be to yourself.
Selfish is closer to the truth,
sinful is closer to the truth,
human is closest to the truth.
When did being human become
something you had to lie about
and “cover up”?

Talitha Fraser

IMG_5316Site 1: Treaty

In February 2016, 500 Victorian Aboriginal leaders voted to reject constitutional recognition. Instead the group requested that the State Government “resource a treaty process including a framework…  (and) complete collaboration with all Sovereign Peoples and Nations”. In July, a Working Group began talks to work out Australia’s first Treaty with Aboriginal people. It hopes to cover recognition of past injustices; authority held by the 39 First Nation clans in the region; respect for the land, customs and traditions of the First Peoples; land rights and land acquisition funding and fresh water and sea rights.

Progress is being made, yet nationally Arrernte woman Celeste Liddle maintains “We don’t have land rights; we have not received proper reparations for the Stolen Generations nor stolen wages; our sovereignty is yet to be respected and the damage of the false doctrine of terra nullius is yet to be undone”.

Sour wine to dull the pain.

They thirst for justice.

Indigenous Hospitality House IHH Healing Rites walk 2017 teaRite 1: tasting cold tea

We drink this bitter tea today
To taste the bitterness of unkept promises
We drink this bitter tea today
To remember the thirst of Christ on the cross
We drink this bitter tea today and ask
How can we truly recognise our hosts on this stolen land?

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Site 2: the food places

We come to the food places all over the land.  For a long time, Settler peoples have note understood the sophisticated practices of food cultivation of the First Peoples of the land.

Unlike a passive hunter gatherer lifestyle, Aboriginal people across the country sowed, grew, irrigated, preserved and built storehouses. For at least 6600 years at Budj Bim, the Gunditjmara people deliberately manipulated local water flows to engineer a landscape that increased the availability of eels.  Kulin nation people sustainably managed and harvested fields of murnong root.  Others fermented banksia nectar, milled grain and baked bread.

Now there is pre-packaged food imported from far away, polluted with chemicals.  Knowledge of traditional food cultivation has been restricted or devalued or lost. In hospitals people are treated for diabetes, kidney disease, obesity and heart failure, the results of a Western convenience diet. And the advertising say, “Take and eat, this is given for you.”

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Rite 2: plastic bread, sugar water

We eat this bread
To remember the loss of Indigenous agriculture
We drink this soft drink
To taste the loss of living water
We eat this cheap bread
To consider the true cost of our food
We drink this sugar drink
To taste the lure of thinking we know better
We eat and drink a warning, and we ask:
Do we seek a table of nourishment, the bread and water of life?

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Site 3: The Warrigal Creek Massacre

Angus McMillan – the “Founding father or “the Butcher” of Gippsland. He fle Scotland during the Highland Clearances but went on to enact brutal clearances of his own upon his new country. At the time of the European invasion of Gippsland, about 3000 Aboriginal people lived in the area. By 1860, it was less than 250.

The worst massacre was at the Warrigal Creek in 1843, where 80 to 200 members of the Bratowooloong clan were killed by McMillan and the Highland Brigade in revenge for the murder of a single white settler. The Brigade found the clan members camped around the waterhole at Warrigal Creek. They surrounded them and fired into them.  Some escaped into the scrub. Others jumped into the waterole and were shot “until the water was red with blood”. One boy, about 12 years old, was hit in the eye, captured and made to lead the brigade from one camp to another. The piles of bones were hidden in a place known as the valley of the dead.

There is a campaign underway to rename the McMillan electorate in Victoria. Liberal MP Russell Broadbent said, “It would send a message that wwe actually care about these issues and, if we are not responsible to our past… we can’t get on with our future.”

When Kurna man Russell Mullett visits an Aboriginal massacre site, he listens for the birds. “If I get out of the car and the birds are singing, I know it’s alright,” he said.

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Rite 3: black armband

We wear this black armband
Because of grief and shame and horror
We wear this black armband
Because we grieve the killings of the First Peoples
We are ashamed of the violence that still exists today
And the complicity of those who bury the truth
We grieve our failure to give back the land
We cry out with those who defended their country
We wear this black armband and ask:
How will we deal with out unfinished business?

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Site 4: young people in detention

97% of children in juvenile detention centres in the Northern Territory are Indigenous.  Of these, about 60% are in out of home care.

Children are removed when there parents are judged unfit to care for them.  However, in 2016, a program on the abuse of Aboriginal children at the Don Dale juvenile detention facility showed what can happen when the State takes on the role of parent.  Previous investigations had already uncovered incidents of children being tear-gassed while playing cards, having fabric hoods placed over their heads and being deprived of drinking water for 72 hours while in solitary confinement.

The most disadvantaged and troubled young people who offend are pout into the custody of a system with the most confrontational and violent culture.  The default response seems to be to exclude the, from society and from visibility – a response that runs right through Australia’s history.

Rite 4: hand prints – stop!

We say stop! Wait. Listen.
Listen to the voices of violence and despair behind bars
We wait in silence.

[a period of silence]

We leave our handprints here
When we have heard , give us courage to speak up.

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Site 5: Change the date

26th January 1788 marks the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet to our shores. ANTaR warns that “…celebrating Australia Day on that date is akin to asking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People to celebrate their own invasion and dispossession”.

This year Fremantle Council celebrated its “One Day” on January 28th. Nyunggai Warren Mudine has suggested January 1st is a “proper day to celebrate Australia’s independence, identity and nationhood” stating that “it’s a day everyone can unite behind”. Tens of thousands of people attended the Invasion Day rally in Melbourne this year. The Australian people are increasingly recognising the implications of the current date and acknowledging it as inappropriate.

However, Arrernte woman Celeste Liddle asserts that “Merely changing the date will only end up erasing and nullifying the very reasons Indigenous people take to the streets to protest Invasion Day”.

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Rite 5: laying down leaves

We lay down these leaves today
To acknowledge our own need to remember
We lay down these leaves
To show respect for all who are no longer here
We lay down these leaves
To honour those who challenge a false celebration
We lay down these leaves
For those daring to start telling a true story

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Site 6: Wangan and Jagalingou native title

The Wangan and Jagalingou people are the Traditional Owners of the land in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.  They are fighting mining company Adani and the Queensland government to prevent the massive Carmichael coal mine from being built on their land.

They explain: ‘In our country, spiritual ancestors come from up under the ground and travel in and through the land at sacred sites associated with the Rainbow Serpent known as the Mundunjudra.  The Rainbow Serpent has power to control the sites where our people are born into their bigan (Totem). This has been so since the beginning of the creation period.

The sacred beliefs of our culture, our religion, is based on where the song lines run through our country.  These song lines connect us to Mother Earth. Trees, plants, shrubs, medicines, waterholes, animals, habitats, aquifers – all these have a special religious place in our land and culture.  Our spirits and the spirits of our ancestors travel above, through, and under the ground of our country.

If the Carmichael mine were to proceed it would tear the heart out of the land.  These effects are irreversible. Our land will be “disappeared”.

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Rite 6: blindfolds

We wear these blindfolds today
To recognise our blindness to the sacred spirit of the land
We wear these blindfolds today
To recognise our blindness to the workings of power and greed
We wear these blindfolds today
To recognise our blindness to those seeking to protect the land and its people

[blindfolds are tied on for a period of silence]

We take off these blindfolds today
To show that we are willing to be shown the way
We tie these black and white strips together
To recognise our need to be connected with the land and each other

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Site 7: ‘Cultural’ violence?

In August 2016, a cartoon was published in the Australian newspaper, depicting a drunk Aboriginal father who didn’t know his child’s name. The cartoonist said he was trying to focus public attention on the plight of the child.  Dameyon Bonson, the founder of Black Rainbow, an advocacy group for LGBTQI Indigenous youth, said that when he saw the cartoon, he felt ‘gut punched’.  ‘This was in the national broadsheet, and published on national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day.’

In response, the Aboriginal community mounted an online campaign showing positive images and stories of Indigenous Dads.

Luke Pearson wrote, ‘Every denial of Indigenous peoples’ rights, fro invasion to massacres to Stolen Generations to the NT Intervention, has been accompanied by imagery and rhetoric that has made us out to be a threat.  A threat to white people, a threat to ourselves and each other, a threat to our own children; for this to dominate public imagination the public also needs to buy the underpinning idea that we are fundamentally flawed, that our very humanity us both in question and at stake, and that we need to be protected from ourselves,’

We are all responsible for a culture shift.

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Rite 7: creating a home fire

We build up this fire
Warm like a family of care
We build up this fire
Like we work to build up strong families
We build up this fire
To remember Jesus who gathered unlikely people into families
We build up this fire
To remember Jesus who called us to care for each other as the children of God
And we ask:
How can we create places where all can find warmth, welcome and home?

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Closure

Creator Spirit
Help us to uncover our hidden stories
Suffering God
Help our tears to flow for the pain
Reconciling Spirit
Heal our shame and our wounds, and call us into action

We are searching in the darkness
for the first signs of new life.