By Pamela Nathan
Creating A Safe Supportive Environment (CASSE) wholeheartedly supports NAIDOC Week celebrations held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We fully endorse Voice, Treaty and Truth for Aboriginal Australians, and for the Australian nation to endorse Voice, Treaty and Truth for its First Nation peoples.
I will say a little about Voice. I heard Deborah Cheetham’s, soprano and conductor, Eumeralla: a War Requiem for Peace, dedicated to those who died defending their traditional lands in what she insists on calling “Resistance Wars”. It was profoundly haunting, symbolic and at times anguishing; the singing and music weeping, imploring and uniting. There were also the most beautiful and powerful words on a screen throughout. I couldn’t find a program but a couple of heart rending lines stood out for me which went something like this – “The children were taken away. Who could we appeal to under the guise of Protection when not even our children were safe?”. She received an endless standing ovation.
I will say a little about truth. I think searching for the truth assumes that all have a voice, that we are all in a position to have a voice and that all voices can be heard. To be grounded in truth, in short, requires equality. It requires recognising the truth of the Other. The search for emotional truth requires a tolerance for uncertainty and for not knowing which does not permit the control of Absolute truths. Whitefellah truths often seem to dominate and they often think they know and know what is best for all. But if we allow the interplay of different points of view, a plurality of meanings, the paradox of more than one truth, and hear the voices and allow them to emerge, then transformation is possible.
The untold stories of frustration, pain and suffering need to be recognised, heard, and worked through within a safe place, a home or a country camp and given time to be told.
It takes a long time to tell the stories, which have to be told on the ground. We all need to bear to listen to these stories, to listen to the sorry business in order to acknowledge responsibility for failed historical interventions and to put an end to repeated measures that fail because they have not been born on the ground in country. It is necessary also to recognise and then to celebrate the achievements of Aboriginal people, who are struggling with self-determination and its demons. To go on listening to the feeling story together, in time, may facilitate the Aboriginal voice to be self-determining and fill in the blank page with new conversations.
There needs to be a new Australian story, to wake Australia up strong, in the cool of sundown and sunrise, which can fill the holes of unlived lives, heal the cries and put out out the wailing fires and fertilize the dry, desert lands with rainstorms of new truths and dreams, transforming terra nullius to breakthrough recognition. This story can be found on the ground, at the pivotal deathly epicenter, the emotional cataclysm cradled in the heart of Australia.
Recognition does cut to the heart of what an individual needs to have a sound mind – let alone the wellbeing of our national psyche. To treat the mind we need to address issues of recognition at a personal and individual level. Then healing and dreaming can come in the unleashing of emotional experiences and humanity can prevail. To treat our national psyche we need a Treaty for the First Nation peoples. It is time for Australia as Mother country to make safe the children of the First Nation. Let us create tomorrows of safety and cultural legacies for the children of the First Nation and enable living on equal ground.
I finish this story now with some of the words of Alexis Wright (2009) from the musical performance dirtsong. She writes about the “crying shame to see the country like this” and tells us how to bring the country back and to settle down country:
Listen for the heartbeat.
The heartbeat now—with the pulse of the land,
The bird; the tree; the grass and the wind
Bringing it up.
Dry country some places now
I don’t know if we will get rain soon.
Who will make it rain?
Some of them old people passed away now,
You know the rainmakers.
They been make it rain.
Make it rain and the country come back.
You got to look after the rainmakers.
People need to listen
The wind blows strong
Through the tree it blows
Come visiting you
Spirit talking to you
It comes in dreams
You can hear it too
We are made the same, you and I.
Hot wind bringing the goose
VOICE, TRUTH, TREATY