One of my fondest memories is of my Pop taking me home to the Aboriginal settlement outside of Condobolin. Down at the Murie, Pop would show us the creek where he went fishing, the spots where my Nan Billie and Pop Guy lived, and the bush where the old people hid from the police to play cards. Like so many aspects of their lives under the control of the authorities, gambling wasn’t allowed.
He would also take us out to my Uncle Doc’s place.
Uncle Doc, my Pop’s uncle, lived in a small place that he built himself about 5km outside of Condobolin. I went out there one summer to get some information for our family tree. I remember how hot it was walking up to it; you could feel the heat coming off the tin and he had a little path with a couple of bricks out the front to wipe your feet on. There was a creek down at the bottom of his place where you could catch fish.
Uncle Doc had lived there since the 1970’s, when Aboriginal people were moved off the Murie reserve. He hadn’t liked being in town – the bush was what he knew and loved. It was where he felt most at home.
My identity is shaped strongly by my family and culture. My dad is a Wiradjuri man from modern-day New South Wales. Known as the people of three rivers, the Wiradjuri were one of the first peoples to come into contact with colonisation in Australia. Our warriors put up one of the fiercest resistances in Australia’s history, fighting to protect our culture and to fulfill our duty to care for our country.
My ancestors were caretakers, respecters and protectors of the environment they belonged to. Each area was looked after by a keeper called a Gunjung; a man of authority. They made sure that the rivers, the land and the animals were not exploited.
A staple diet of Yellow Belly fish were hunted with spears and woven yabby traps from the Macquarie, Lachlan and Murrumbidgee Rivers. The water was clean enough to drink then, not yet contaminated by generations of Australians to follow.
While the tools have changed, the traditions remain. When I go home, Dad takes my brothers, sisters, cousins and I all out fishing and yabbying in the creeks and rivers. The stories live on. History pulses through our veins. Our mob lives it every day.
Yet, this rich and impressive history is missing from our nation’s founding document.
We have the oldest living cultures on the planet right here in Australia and not one word in our Constitution inscribing this most remarkable and uniquely Australian feat of human achievement.
I remember my Pop telling us the story of an old woman from Condobolin who was a special lady; she had initiation scars on her chest. Some things have changed a lot over time, but it makes me feel good that some traditions are still remembered.
This week is National Reconciliation Week, a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements.
Every Australian can rightly be proud that our country is home to the longest unbroken thread of human culture on the planet. Just like every Australian can now play a part in bringing about a great moment in our nation’s history.
An opportunity is on our doorstep; a chance to do the right thing and bring the country together after so many chapters apart. It’s a chance for us to forge a better future together for all Australians; to honour the legacy of those who have come before us, and help repair the lingering sense of separation often felt between non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians.
We all have a role to play. RECOGNISE THIS is the youth arm of the campaign, building support for a referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution and to rid the document of racial discrimination.
Knowing the struggle of what Uncle Doc and my other Elders went through to help our generation’s position today, I urge you to see that it’s now our responsibility to help keep Indigenous culture alive.
This will be our country’s next step in reconciliation. It’s a chance for my little brothers and sisters to grow up knowing their nation acknowledges who they are and where they’ve come from; to know that their fellow Australians value our own unique cultures. This is a chance for every Australian to safeguard our distinctly Australian identity, because without action, erasure of our cultures is inevitable.
When I think about Uncle Doc, it makes me feel proud that he was strong enough to go back to how he used to live and not worry about what other people thought. He once told me that he thought he would’ve been long gone if he hadn’t returned.
Uncle Doc showed our family how to be true to ourselves, to our identity and to our culture. I owe it to him to continue that legacy.
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