Updated: Jun 2
Danjoo Koorliny has hosted a Reconciliation in Action Forum in partnership with Reconciliation WA as part of this year’s National Reconciliation Week.
The session was facilitated by Danjoo Koorliny team member and Reconciliation WA board member Ezra Jacobs-Smith, and featured a panel with the four Danjoo Koorliny co-directors Dr Noel Nannup, Dr Richard Walley, Prof Colleen Hayward and Carol Innes.
The forum was attended by around 180 people, and was held at Optus Stadium directly following the Reconciliation WA Breakfast.
Noel opened the session with a welcome to country. “This piece of land here has always been used by our people. And we were gifted it by Wirin, the spirit. And because of that, that spirit didn’t abandon us, it gave us the skills and the knowledge to be able to conduct ourselves in a way that appeased that spirit. So we were fortunate to be able to do that for in-excess of 80,000 years - now that’s the latest figure, and I’m talking about academically,” Noel said.
Noel acknowledged the many Elders in the room, including City of Perth Elders and Telethon Kids Institute Elders. He then spoke about the possibility before us all.
“Here we are with this incredible opportunity to lead not just WA, but the whole country. And let’s not settle at the whole country let’s focus on the planet - and we’ll get there. Settle for nothing less than the best,” Noel said.
The four Danjoo Koorliny co-directors then individually shared as part of a panel discussion.
“We ourselves know that anything that is Aboriginal led automatically has the spirit with it. And therefore we can go forward with absolute confidence and be able to do whatever it is that we endeavour to do,” Noel said. “Our intention is to make a social impact...we’re aiming at 2029 [200 years of colonisation in WA].”
“We have a proven track record that not many people know about - so therefore we’re making people aware of that track record - and that’s inclusive of everything. We’re following a dreaming story [Moondang-ak Kaaradjiny / The Carers of Everything; link password: DanjooKoorliny],” Noel said, before passing the microphone on to Dr Richard Walley.
“Danjoo Koorliny is a platform to have those conversations with other people who can make a difference. Because a lot of those meetings we used to have were amongst ourselves. In the past you’d have the government connect and all meet together without the Aboriginal people and talk about Aboriginal issues. And then you’d have all the Aboriginal people - we would all meet and talk about the government issues,” Richard said.
“In the past, I firmly believe that Aboriginal people were kept out for two reasons. One: they didn’t believe we had the nous, the qualifications, to contribute to the conversation - that’s one. And the second one: they did believe we had it and they were threatened by it,” he said.
“We have to create this platform so that we’re not talking about these issues, but you’re talking about the issues with people who can make a difference, and hold people accountable. So 2029 is a government conversation - a colonisation conversation - and we want to hold them accountable. What have you done in 200 years? Who have you listened to? My opening line used to be we come through four stages of speaking: we’re spoken about, we’re spoken to, we’re spoken for, before we get to speak. And we’re at the speaking stage now. In the next years we must get the listening stage for outcomes. And my advice to all the young people is it’s about outcomes,” Richard said.
Richard spoke about the importance of outcomes and having credentials through lived experience, as the Elders have, before he passed the microphone on to Prof Colleen Hayward.
“Lately I’ve been doing some work that has a look at the work of some government agencies working in partnership with community organisations to service people’s needs. That’s a laudable principle. Can I say to you so far I’ve not seen anything that’s about an outcome; everything has been about an output. Outputs are easy to measure. They can be quicker. The numbers look fantastic. Outcomes are something very different. And for me, part of the reconciliation journey, hand in hand with this Danjoo Koorliny initiative, is about really creating a shift. If we are not prepared to shift things then all the resourcing, all the so called care, all the commitment, and I’ve got to say genuine commitment, doesn’t do anything other than keep people in their current life circumstances. And, quite frankly, that’s not good enough,” Colleen said.
“For me, everything about 1988 [Australia’s national bicentenary] was angry. It was about anger and frustration and protest. Mixed with, on the other end of the continuum, a whole bunch of wadjellas - white people - most of whom you didn’t know, who felt compelled to come up and make some comment like ‘I love Aborigines!’ I don’t want that in 2029. I don’t want the protest, I don’t want the anger, I don’t want the frustration, I want really joined-up positive action and real change,” Colleen said.
Colleen spoke about other milestones on the national stage, including the 1967 referendum, the Bringing Them Home Report, and the recent Black Lives Matter movement.
“What do we want this place, in which we all live, to look like and feel like and be like, by 2029? It’s not actually really far away, and a concerted effort really has to be made,” she said.
Colleen also spoke about the way in which the COVID experiences of last year have given us a shared language to talk about decolonisation: “Two weeks. And in that two weeks you were told where you could be, when you could go shopping and supply the household, who you could meet with, if you were allowed to get married or buried, and if you were how many people could come along, how many people could come and visit you and under what conditions. And everyone went into panic mode. We anticipated an increase in mental health issues, an increase in family violence, an increase in alcohol use. And we were looking at two weeks. Imagine that over 200 years. Because now one of the opportunities that we’ve got from COVID is that it’s given us all the opportunity to have a slight chance of empathy - if we take it and then apply it. So my words are about going forward to 2029 and really making a difference as we do,” she said, before handing on to Danjoo Koorliny Co-director and Reconciliation WA Co-chair Carol Innes.
“What we’re doing with Danjoo Koorliny and through Reconciliation WA - we can’t not be on the same journey. We will interact, we will move across, we will help influence different spaces. But what we’re doing collectively and why we all jumped into this process when we were asked two years ago...is that we can do it. It’s something that we can do. And we’re doing it. And if you’d mapped our journey and seen the meetings and seen the impact on the world, on what the four of us have had input into and the change you’d be smiling...we’re doing something that we love for the change for our people. So that’s what we want you to do. You can step inside yourself - no one else can do this - but if you can influence, you can make a difference in what you do, if you can listen a little bit harder, and do something a little bit better, our Elders wouldn’t have to do so much, because they are still working for us - all these Elders in this room are having input into so many things that affect our lives still,” Carol said.
“So when we are talking through this process of change - and we are leading a process of change - that’s what we’re doing, with our collective experience - the amazing journey that I’ve been on with Richard and Colleen and Noel, and our lives have crossed over, and what we can give and share - this is what it’s about - it’s about trust, respect and building on relationships that we all have. Having a common focus for something different. 2029 will be a state celebration, but will it be our celebration? That’s what we’re talking about. Because the celebration that we want to see is that we want the numbers down to zero in prison; we want the health of our people lifted up; the wellbeing; the education process,” she said. “A lot of what we're about is listening, sharing and doing. That’s all we’re asking you to do. Three things. Listen a little bit deeper. Build strong relationships with our mob...when we come together we’ve got to come together in head, heart and spirit.”
“Danjoo Koorliny is a movement of change,” Carol said. “Jump in, walk with us, because there’s a lot of work to do. We’ve made some great headway with the Department of Education, the Department of Water, a lot of the policy development with DPC [the Department of the Premier and Cabinet]. That’s what we’re working for...how do we fly together?”
The session then moved into a Q&A format, and touched on topics such as the teaching of Aboriginal languages in school, broader education themes, themes related to water, and how the wider community can become further involved in this movement.
Shenali Perera then shared the visual scribing she completed during the session.
Scribing by Shenali Perera. Please don't share outside of this context.
Reconciliation WA Breakfast
Earlier, the Reconciliation WA breakfast was MC’d by Narelda Jacobs and featured dancing and songs with Karla Hart, Honey Webb and others; a welcome by Dr Richard Walley; speeches by Dr June Oscar AC, and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Stephen Dawson MLC; a panel with Professor Helen Millroy, Dr Hannah McGlade and Chloe de Souza; music by Phil WalleyStack and the Perth Symphony Orchestra; and closing words from Reconciliation WA Co-chairs Carol Innes and Gary Smith, together with Reconciliation WA CEO Jody Nunn. Around 1200 people attended the breakfast.
Further Reconciliation WA events will take place as part of National Reconciliation Week (for more information, click here).