Apology to First Nations Peoples
Those present included Uncle Ray Davison from the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council who gave a welcome to country, Aunty Norma Ingram, Member for Newtown Jenny Leong, Inner West Councillor Pauline Lockie, Deputy Lord Mayor Jess Miller, local community members and students from Newtown Public School.
Centre staff spent several months prior to the event planning and consulting with local Aboriginal people.
CEO Liz Yeo said: “If we want to build real relationships and see real change this will not be a rushed process. We are committed to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to collectively contribute to creating a community where justice and equity prevails for all peoples.”
Brendan “Japangardi” Kerin offered stories and songs of country. His performance inspired an encore and he began teaching the Emu Dance.
The apology was read by Jo Wallace, president of the NNC board. The statement recognised the great pain, suffering and trauma First Nations peoples experience. The statement reads in part: “We therefore unreservedly and with open hearts apologise to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, for the pain and suffering caused, both in the past and the present.”
NNC is committed to practice that will not cause further harm, and the statement will be displayed on the premises and the NNC website as a constant reminder of this intention.
A commemorative artwork created by Nick Halpin depicts Pemulwuy, a Bidjigal warrior of the Dharug people who led the resistance against the colonisers. During morning tea, children from Newtown Public School gathered around Nick to chat about his painting.
The apology statement continues: “We believe Indigenous Peoples have the right to be proud of their cultural heritage and to continue their cultural practices and beliefs.”
NNC looks forward to incorporating traditional practices in future events and commits to culturally safe practice that acknowledges the cultural heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
After the formal ceremony all gathered upstairs in the hall to enjoy a scrumptious morning tea provided by the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence. Both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags were hung high and will remain there. NNC staff also contributed some homemade damper to try with some unique native jams. Students were impressed by this and wrote in their newsletter: “We ate a lot but you can’t blame us, it was too delicious …”
The apology statement reads: “We commit to upholding the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We commit ourselves to opposing racism and all forms of discrimination. We commit ourselves to a reconciliation process by seeking advice from, and working with, Indigenous organisations and communities in their struggle for better health, justice, educational and housing outcomes.”
Making an apology is one small step. NNC intends to report back to the community annually on the progress it is making towards recognition of and reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.