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Marie Bashir's Speech

 

Woodford Bay Reconciliation Memorial Ceremony
'Journey of the Spirit '

1.30pm for 2pm, Saturday, 7 February, 2003

Speech by HER EXCELLENCY PROFESSOR MARIE BASHIR AC

GOVERNOR OF NEW SOUTH WALES

 

COUNCILLOR JOHN MAY, Mayor of Lane Cove

MR PETER BROWN, General Manager, Lane Cove Council

MR ROBERT WELSH, Chairman, Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council

SENATOR ADEN RIDGEWAY MP, Federal Member, Democrat

AND MRS STEPHANIE RIDGWAY

MR CHARLES MADDEN and MR RICKY LYONS, Members of the Executive

Committee, Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council

MS KERRIE McKENZIE, MS ELAINE MAYER, MR FRANK KNOWLES

representing Lane Cove Residents For Reconciliation

ABORIGINAL ELDERS AND DEAR FRIENDS MRS NAOMI MAYERS

AND MR CHIKA DIXON

MR GEOFF WASHINGTON, President, Lane Cove Historical Society

MR GRAHAM PAYNE, Secretary, Lane Cove Historical Society

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, AND FRIENDS, AND ESPECIALLY ALL THE CHILDREN

THANK YOU CHARLES MADDEN FOR YOUR WELCOME TO COUNTRY.

THANK YOU TOO UNCLE MAX EULO, AND THE PERFORMERS OF THE GARRABARRA DANCE GROUP.

IT IS A PRIVILEGE TO RECORD MY RESPECT FOR THE TRADITIONAL OWNERS OF THIS LAND UPON WHICH WE STAND, THE CAMERAYGAL PEOPLE AND THEIR DESCENDANTS, AND INDEED TO ALL ABORIGINAL AUSTRALIANS WHO HAVE NURTURED THIS CONTINENT FOR TENS OF THOUSANDS OF YEARS.

THIS IS A MOST IMPORTANT GATHERING, AND A TRULY SOLEMN MEMORIAL CEREMONY, — A 'JOURNEY OF THE SPIRIT',— WHICH I KNOW HAS LONG BEEN IN THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF SO MANY OF YOU HERE TODAY, AND INDEED OF OTHER VERY FINE PERSONS WHO, TO OUR SORROW, ARE NO LONGER WITH US.

AUSTRALIA'S HISTORY IS UNIQUE AND VERY RICH, WITH EVIDENCE REACHING BACK FOR AT LEAST 60,000 YEARS, INDICATIVE OF THE SKILLS, THE LAW AND THE FINE CULTURE OF THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE. FOR MILLENNIA, THEY LIVED ACROSS A VAST CONTINENT IN HARMONY WITH THEIR ENVIRONMENT, IN RESPECT OF THE EARTH, THEIR LAND AND SPIRIT.

UNTOUCHED BY THE TOXIC INTRUSIONS OF THE OLD WORLD, THE FIRST AUSTRALIANS WERE ALMOST CERTAINLY THE HEALTHIEST PEOPLE ON EARTH. WITH THE ARRIVAL OF THE EUROPEAN SETTLERS OF THE FIRST FLEET, THIS IDYLLIC STATE WOULD DRAMATICALLY CHANGE, BRINGING TRAUMA AND ILLNESSES OF UNIMAGINABLE DIMENSIONS, TO THE CAMERAYGAL PEOPLE OF THIS BEAUTIFUL AREA.

WITHIN A FEW MONTHS, THESE ILLNESSES WERE TAKING THEIR TOLL ON THE TRADITIONAL OWNERS, INNOCENT GUARDIANS OF THE LAND. AND THE INCREASING INCURSIONS OF THE NEW ARRIVALS, MILITARY, CONVICTS AND SETTLERS INTO THE LANDS OF THE CAMERAYGAL, WERE HAVING A DEVASTATING IMPACT ALSO ON THEIR HUNTING AND FISHING GROUNDS.

THE DIARY OF LIEUTENANT RALPH CLARK, ONE OF THE FIRST FLEET MARINERS PROVIDES US WITH THE FIRST RECORD OF CONTACT, ON 14TH FEBRUARY 1790, EXACTLY 214 YEARS AGO, LESS ONE WEEK.

CLARK'S ACCOUNT INCLUDES MENTION OF AN AMICABLE MEETING WITH TWO CAMERAYGAL MEN, AN EXCHANGE OF GIFTS, AND THE TOUCHING ACKNOWLEDGEMENT THAT THE WIFE OF ONE OF THE MEN HAD ALREADY DIED OF SMALLPOX. (THIS WAS 2 YEARS AND 19 DAYS ONLY, AFTER THE FLEET'S ARRIVAL).

THE RESISTANCE OF THE TRADITIONAL OWNERS TO THE INTRUSION OF THESE NEWCOMERS WHO HAD ARROGANTLY IGNORED THEIR ANCIENT LAWS, AND WHO WERE TAKING THEIR LANDS AND DISTRIBUTING FREE GRANTS, WAS SURELY TO BE EXPECTED. THEREFORE IT IS NOT SURPRISING THAT JUDGE ADVOCATE DAVID COLLINS COMMENTED THAT THE EORA WERE PARTICULARLY TROUBLESOME ESPECIALLY IN THE LANE COVE AREA.

I WAS DEEPLY SADDENED WHEN I READ THAT LACHLAN MACQUARIE, A MUCH VALUED EARLY GOVERNOR, IN RESPONSE TO THE CONTINUING BUT UNDERSTANDABLE RESISTANCE AND UPRISINGS OF THE CAMERAYGAL PEOPLE, ORDERED A MILITARY EXPEDITION AGAINST THEM. THIS EXPEDITION, EXTENDING FROM LANE COVE TO THE NEPEAN, LASTED TWENTY-THREE DAYS, WITH INSTRUCTIONS TO CAPTURE OR SHOOT THOSE WHO WERE RESISTING.

AT THE TIME OF THE 1988 BICENTENNIAL CELEBRATIONS, MANY AUSTRALIANS OF DIVERSE CULTURAL BACKGROUND — ABORIGINAL AND NON-ABORIGINAL — WERE PROUD TO WEAR SHIRTS DECLARING "WHITE AUSTRALIA HAS A BLACK HISTORY".

THE ACCURATE AND TRUTHFUL HISTORY BY THE PEOPLE OF AUSTRALIA — PRE-COLONIAL AND COLONIAL, NOT ONLY THE LATER DECADES — MUST BE TRUTHFULLY ACKNOWLEDGED, WITH DEEP AND GENUINE RESPECT FOR THOSE WHO PERISHED, WITH REVERENCE FOR THEIR SPIRITS.

TODAY, WE REMEMBER THEM ON SACRED CAMERAYGAL LAND, AS AUSTRALIANS TOGETHER.

AS AN INDIVIDUAL AUSTRALIAN, JUST ONE OF TWENTY MILLION, — AS WELL AS GOVERNOR OF NEW SOUTH WALES — I WANT TO EXPRESS MY IMMENSE GRATITUDE TO BE WITNESSING AND PARTAKING IN THE HEALING JOURNEY OF RECONCILIATION OF THE AUSTRALIAN PEOPLE.

I AM PRIVILEGED TO MEET WITH THOUSANDS OF SCHOOL CHILDREN ACROSS THE WHOLE STATE EACH YEAR, AND I AM INSPIRED BY THEIR DETERMINATION TO JOIN US IN CARRYING FORWARD AND UPHOLDING THIS RECONCILIATION JOURNEY, ALL COMMITTED TO SOCIAL JUSTICE AND TO A HARMONIOUS AND FAIR LIFE OF OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL.

MR MAYOR, MR WELSH, MEMBERS OF THE METROPOLITAN LAND COUNCIL, THANK YOU FOR THE PRIVILEGE OF JOINING YOU IN THIS HISTORIC COMMEMORATION.