In collaboration with the Goulburn Valley Regional Library, Shepparton Interfaith Network co-facilitated Living Books-Living Voices as part of the Emerge on the Goulburn Festival.
On the evening, some 60 people attended. The speakers for the evening were Maria Calandro (from Italy), Antonita (from Sudan), Tolga Arslan (Turkish), Shane Charles (Yorta Yorta Nations Welcome to Country), Aunty Irene Thomas, and Nora McCarthy (Philippines). President of the Shepparton Interfaith Network, Dr. Frank Purcell, was facilitator of the speakers panel.
We heard narratives of arrival in Shepparton, culture shock, adjustment, and meeting personal challenges. The Afghani lady who address these issues presented a particularly challenging narrative of arrival and adjustment.
Frank Purcell facilitates Living People - Living Books
The Yorta Yorta representatives told of an interconnected community, of many families, sisters and brothers, and of the love that exists within this community. The stories of the land, the stories of placement and displacement (nearly to the extent of being an alien in their own country) were profound, in their simplicity.
The young representative of the Turkish community (who is now unemployed) spoke with remarkable confidence and strength. He told of arrival in Shepparton, fitting in, and strong sense of feeling at home in the Goulburn Valley. Although currently unemployed, he expressed that he had no desire to leave the region as he found it both challenging and satisfying.
One speaker during the evening was a Koori woman from Tasmania. She told that she is in search of her place, as she has no place nor story to tell of her people and country in Tasmania. Another Koori speaker, Aunty Kella Robinson, told of the language project and the efforts currently being undertaken to preserve the language and teach it to young children. Aunty Kella gave a marvellous example using The Three Little Pigs - a story yet incomplete in its translation to the local lingua.
The audience on the night interacted with the speakers, asking many questions. During this interaction, one of the local Yorta Yorta speakers, (Aunty) told of the current challenges presented by modern life and its accoutrements. She told of her concerns with a diminishing humanity, with mobile phones, technology, violence and lack of person-hood. These were particularly felt concerns which, Aunty felt, could only be reconciled by a return to spirit and spirituality.
These observations elicited a stream of responses and questions from the audience, seeking both understanding of aboriginal spirituality, and a request from one audience member, that the local kooris do in fact nurture this nation by a return to their spiritual practices. Other audience members commented that the sense of belonging in Shepparton and environs was about relationships, with family, with each other, with the community. As one audience participant told, "We are a river people". This then elicited a striking response from the main Koori contributors. The facilitator, Frank Purcell, reported comments he had received from people in Shepparton about the importance of the river to everyone, and that it seemed to be linked to the "Soul" of Shepparton.
A remarkable evening was had by all present, with the conversation going along interesting paths that interconnected so fittingly, as Librarian Libby Woodhouse commented. Many thanks to Goulburn Valley Regional Library Corporation, to the Shepparton Branch staff and Kiran Soni.
The speakers on the evening were presented with tokens of appreciation.