Many people in Shepparton have remarked on the electrifying talk given by Stan Grant last year and how it impacted upon them. In recent days, we have seen - and heard - the State of Reconciliation and the Closing the Gap Reports. On the morning of Friday, 12 February 2016, there was a community function in Queens Gardens commemorating the Apology to the Stolen Generations.
Speakers at the Apology Breakfast in Shepparton made references to the profound spiritual foundations of indigenous life and families and how the stolen generations shattered this. Mayor Dinny Adem made reference to the absence of apology with regard to the spiritual damage inflicted on indigenous communities all over Australia. (You may read Mayor Dinny Adem's speech here. )
Local indigenous leader Paul Briggs OAM gave an address to the Apology Breakfast, and in so doing, highlighted that the National Apology to the Stolen Generations is not a static event in the past and nor is it a document for the historical archives. It is a living document which has been taken up and embodied in the lives of all indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. It is a living document which inspires actions which lead to building reconciliation, to closing the gap, to creating and taking up opportunities.
Paul Briggs also made reference to the Goulburn Murray being a resource rich region; rich in natural resources, rich in human resources, rich in opportunity for all who make their home here. It is also a region wherein the indigenous peoples took steps to create a life of their own choices with the Cummeragunga walk off, the creation of Rumbalara and the Rumbalara Football-Netball Club, and in partnership with local businesses, creation of the Reconciliation Action Plan. These are ongoing opportunities for reconciliation, integration and future economic welfare of the local indigenous communities, and the Yorta Yorta nation.
Creating a Future of Harmony
In the Dungala Kaiela Oration 2015, Professor Glyn Davis, Vice-Chancellor of Melbourne University took his topic, The Hard Conversation - Voices and Public Policy, and illustrated several movements which revealed that the public conversation about indigenous peoples and their place in modern Australian society is both an expanding conversation and a shared discovery by all partners. Truth is the basis of the Universe and cannot be suppressed in any society.
In his talk, Prof. Glyn Davis illustrated how the conversation has changed focus somewhat. Whereas the indigenous peoples seek to close the gap and cultural recognition, passive welfare does not take the indigenous community forward. Whilst there has been a lack of infrastructure investment in the social and economic needs of the indigenous communities as Pat Dodson points out, the community is now recognising and articulating its own need to create their own future in employment, education and economic development. Fruits of this will be to elicit self-respect, dignity and thrive in the reality of contemporary Australia and yet - convey in a powerful and authentic manner - their indigenous heritage. This is a significant and meaningful challenge for all Australians.
Algabonyah Economic Roundtable
The day after the Dungala Kaiela Oration, the Algabonyah Economic Roundtable took place with community members and Indigenous leaders with representatives of industry, government, health and educational institutions to consider what is needed to develop an inclusive economic development agenda for the Goulburn Murray region.
There were some very positive outcomes from the roundtable, including a commitment for Melbourne and Latrobe Universities to collaborate with the Shepparton Chamber of Commerce to develop a business hub for Indigenous businesses in the region; and a commitment for development of a coordinated Indigenous education strategy for the Goulburn Valley region with a focus on pathways into employment outcomes.
One of the world's greatest spiritual guides once said,
MAN has to recognise his indebtedness to society and his duty towards it; this is the best way to solve the troubles of the day. Attention is paid only to arguments and counter-arguments, propositions and oppositions, plans and programmes; the aim of the ego-centred is more to win a verbal victory than achieve a valid target. No attempt is made to foster the social virtues of honesty, tolerance and cordiality.
In 2015, indigenous local identity Niall Brown gave a welcome to country at the recent Dungala Kaiela Oration, calling on Biame, Great Creator Spirit to come and be present. In his welcome to country, Niall said "All share in spirituality, going forward. There is depth of spirituality that comes with language. We are all Yorta Yorta going forward in harmony." The National Apology Breakfast held at Shepparton this morning is evidence of society in the Goulburn Murray - going forward in harmony - building a joint future on the foundations of the Apology to the Stolen Generations given by Prime Minister Rudd, on Wednesday, February 13, 2008. As Uncle Paul Briggs OAM told, this is a living document.