Updated: Oct 22, 2021
Danjoo Koorliny Co-Director Professor Emeritus Colleen Hayward, and the Governor of Western Australia and Danjoo Koorliny Ambassador the Hon Kim Beazley have given keynotes during the 2021 Danjoo Koorliny Social Impact Summit.
Both Colleen and the Governor addressed the theme of ‘What is important to consider as we walk together towards 2029 and beyond?’
Colleen spoke about the need for change, and how that need is closer to home for some than others. She spoke about personal experiences - challenging as well as more positive - and pointed to discussions which have attempted to bring about change over the years.
“In preparing this presentation I did think about listing some of those [discussions] but, frankly, we've heard them all before. Instead, I used the old adage along the lines of, ‘if all else fails refer to the manual’. In this case I think that manual is actually about 'The Carers of Everything', and what that can mean for us," she said.
Colleen said that what it means to truly care and how to demonstrate that could be further understood by viewing things through the lens of an Aboriginal cultural perspective. She said that, of course, this was easier for Aboriginal people, but that COVID had given everyone an opportunity to understand, through a brief lived experience, what life could be like living under various imposed restrictions and conditions, including Perth's two-week period of hard lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic.
“Well for Aboriginal people in this country the conditions just outlined, for those two weeks, are what too many generations of us have experienced for nearly 200 years. And yet we wonder why there are issues in the Aboriginal community. To me the pandemic is the perfect opportunity for non-Aboriginal Australians to get a glimpse into our lives.”
Colleen also elaborated on the possibilities in this year’s NAIDOC theme of ‘Heal Country’, including the way we relate to land, waterways, fire practices, air and more.
“When Aboriginal people talk about Country, it is not about ownership, or about property. What it actually means to us, is that we belong to that Country and part of that Country is in us. Country is more than a place, Country is family, kin, law, ceremony, traditions and language. And in that more personal context, Country healing and care gives us all an opportunity to embrace Aboriginal cultural knowledge and understanding of Country as part of Australia's national heritage.”
Colleen also mentioned the need for care and healing when it came to human beings - including the more subtle parts of who we are. She also spoke about truth telling and the need to know where we’ve come from in order to know where we are today. “After some 200 years our children and our future generations deserve better. And you know what? So does everyone. We cannot afford to let pass the very real opportunity that now presents itself for reform, based on a fundamental change in the relationship Australia has with Aboriginal people. That opportunity, in this state, is 2029, and our collective and concerted march towards it - our shared journey, our walking together, Danjoo Koorliny. "And if we can do that in WA, then why not Australia? And why not beyond? Healing and caring of Country, of ourselves, of each other, of the lands and waters, of our nation, and maybe even, of the world - caring for everything and everyone by us all - the carers of everything.” The Governor was then invited to speak. “Thank you. All I feel like doing after listening to that magnificent address by Colleen is saying ‘I second the motion!’ and then sit down."
The Governor began by acknowledging all the Elders in the room, and offered some reflections on Danjoo Koorliny.
“As I look out here - I wasn't sure who was going to be here - but as I look out here I get a really strong sense that we're going to be okay. That it’s all going to work. That we're going to have the sorts of relationships developing that need to be developed, and that this movement - Danjoo Koorliny - is actually operating. It's on the move; we are doing things,” he said.
“I want to start with a point that I've made before but one that I think remains relevant, and that is how privileged those of us who are not Aboriginal are to share this country with the oldest civilisation on earth.”
“The journeys that have brought Professor Hayward and me here today are totally different. But there's one major difference between myself and Colleen, and many of the people who are here: You know who you were 40,000 years ago - you know it. About me, I haven't a clue...It's a humbling thing to think there is a people on earth who actually know exactly who they were 40,000 years ago.” “So, as we approach 2029, we've got a bit to talk about. From this state - and this is a state date, 2029 - but it's a state date that covers an awful lot of things, and some of them very bad, which I’ll talk about a bit later. But nevertheless, that’s there - it’s a fact historically - and it's a community which is a fact also, and there are the possibilities in all of this of really significant lessons.” The Governor also spoke about caring for Country. “Wilderness did not exist in Australia when there were only First Nations people in Australia. Because every facet of the land was understood, its purpose understood, and its structure changed to reflect the best the land could produce. So wilderness is a concept that is developed largely by the elimination of Aboriginal people from care of the land.” The Governor also spoke about Aboriginal servicemen who had joined the Australian defence forces and fought alongside the same people who had done them so much harm.
“That is a psychological, spiritual character I don't even begin to understand, but hopefully I will by 2029. And hopefully we will have got to acknowledge all this by 2029...And to conclude I can't beat Noel’s definition about the task: We have our vision, set for the next 10 years, and that is to care for everything. Care for everything. Three simple words, but how powerful. I look forward to continuing the journey with you.”
Click here to listen to Moondang-ak Kaaradjiny / The Carers of Everything story (43min); password: DanjooKoorliny
More from the keynotes with Colleen and the Governor will be shared as part of our upcoming online induction course - stay tuned for more information about this in the time ahead.