Tag Archive: indigenous


Maribyrnong river footscray


The Maribyrnong river in Footscray on the lands of Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung and the Bunurong peoples of the Kulin Nation

 

Read the following items offering an indigenous lens on relating to country applied to the COVID-19 lockdown. How can other ways of knowing and wisdom of elders, inform how we might live out our own discipleship or radical discipleship within community during these times?

‘Aboriginal people talk about Country in the same way that they would talk about a person: they speak to Country, sing to Country, visit Country, worry about Country, feel sorry for Country, and long for Country. People say that Country knows, hears, smells, takes notice, takes care, is sorry or happy… Country is a living entity with a yesterday, today and tomorrow, with a consciousness and a will toward life’.

Deborah Bird Rose ‘(08) Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature

 

A poem by Ngāti Hine/Ngāpuhi writer Nadine Anne Hura

Rest now, e Papatūānuku
Breathe easy and settle
Right here where you are
We’ll not move upon you
For awhile
We’ll stop, we’ll cease
We’ll slow down and stay home
Draw each other close and be kind
Kinder than we’ve ever been.
I wish we could say we were doing it for you
               as much as ourselves
But hei aha
We’re doing it anyway
It’s right. It’s time.
Time to return
Time to remember
Time to listen and forgive
Time to withhold judgement
Time to cry
Time to think
               About others

Remove our shoes
Press hands to soil
Sift grains between fingers
               🍃 Gentle palms
Time to plant
Time to wait
Time to notice
To whom we belong
For now it’s just you
And the wind
And the forests and the oceans and the sky full of rain
Finally, it’s raining!
Ka turuturu te wai kamo o Rangi ki runga i a koe
                   (may the tears of Ranginui rain down on you)
Embrace it
This sacrifice of solitude we have carved out for you
He iti noaiho – a small offering
People always said it wasn’t possible
To ground flights and stay home and stop our habits of consumption
But it was
It always was.
We were just afraid of how much it was going to hurt
– and it IS hurting and it will hurt and continue to hurt
But not as much as you have been hurt.
So be still now
Wrap your hills around our absence
Loosen the concrete belt cinched tight at your waist
Rest.
Breathe.
Recover.
Heal –
And we will do the same.

rāhui –  is a term that has been used by some in NZ to apply in lieu of terms such as  ‘lockdown’ or ‘shutdown’ or ‘isolation’

https://maoridictionary.co.nz/word/6420 (verb) to put in place a temporary ritual prohibition, closed season, ban, reserve – traditionally a rāhui was placed on an area, resource or stretch of water as a conservation measure or as a means of social and political control for a variety of reasons which can be grouped into three main categories: pollution by tapu, conservation and politics…

So if a water source has been compromised it might be indicated as a rāhui being in place until it is cleansed, or if hunting has been done in an area, it might be rāhui so that it’s not hunted two seasons in a row which might impact the wildlife population numbers. By referring to lockdown as rāhui, a different intention can be applied to this time – concepts of sacredness and healing are evoked.

On the Ancestors Singing Facebook page they’ve been having Friday night fireside chats and a couple of weeks ago Aunty Judy spoke to COVID and learned wisdom about strength and resilience:

  • We care about family, take care of our kids and our elders
  • Go back/connect to a place where your strength is
  • Place your feet on the ground/draw strength from the land
  • Check in with your body, what is it telling you?
  • Grief, resilience, strength… we know something about that. Especially want to acknowledge the loss being triggered if you have kids you can’t see or grandparents you can’t see because you’ve been separated from your family before
  • It’s not the work of people that heals, it’s the land. As soon as you can, however you can, connect with the land.
  • Diploma of Community Recovery…working on developing this qualification.

gum leaves

What arises for your community with these readings?  How does this lens align or affirm  or differ from our thinking/experience of lockdown?

How might using a word like rāhui with implications for healing and sacred time change the way we feel about ‘lockdown’?

I’ve seen lots of people making bread, planting food, crocheting… from kombucha scobies to sourdough starters  – is this to control/participate in food systems? how we would like to spend our time if we always had more?  A return to ‘old’ ways? What “powers” are interrupted by those choices?

What new things (if any) are people doing? What is honoured/kept by those rhythms? Are there new practices that we’ve started during lockdown that we want to keep? 

Does the list from Aunty Judy make you want to try something else to heal?

 

Further reading if you’re interested:

Nourishing Terrains: Australian Aboriginal views of Landscape and Wilderness by Deborah Rose

sculpture bunjil bruce armstrong moonee ponds land of the Wurundjeri Willam people

‘Every Bird’ sculpture by Bruce Armstrong, on the land of the Wurundjeri Willam people (in Moonee Ponds)

 

We weren’t able to share this spiritual reflection today as there was an urgent need to address a community response to the COVID-19 virus but it feels like the witness of radical call and holy, foolish hope is necessary too in these times. And also, here’s an Aboriginal written guide to Coronavirus preparation & care for Mob by Natalie Cromb… may the Spirit of the land protect us all and keep us safe.

 

A few years ago I went to a Bartimaeus Institute and heard Bill Wylie Kellermann share reflections on the Stations of the Cross walk they have done in Detroit for over two decades. In a public and political way, they meet and pray where people are suffering – a jail, the site of a shooting, places where decisions are made: courts, corporate offices; places where needs are met: a shelter, a soup kitchen. I felt a strong desire to do that in Footscray, Melbourne and it felt like a wonderful confluence to discover that IHH already do a walk for indigenous reconciliation based on the model created by Norm Habel.  The story I want to read together today seeks to make that link again between the faith that calls us to live our lives differently and the lens of Aboriginal spirituality.

Read the following text as one story – it has interspersed texts from Bill Wylie Kellermann’s Seasons of Faith and Conscience and Norman C. Habel’s Reconciliation: Searching for Australia’s Soul (italics).

 

Aboriginal spirituality is the belief in the feeling within yourself that allows you to become part of the whole environment – not the built environment but the natural environment… Birth, life, and death are all part of it, and you welcome each. Aboriginal spirituality is the belief that all objects are living and share the same soul or spirit that Aboriginals share. Therefore, all Aborigines have a kinship with environment. The soul or spirit is common – only the shape of it is different, but no less important.  – Eddie Kneebone

 

 

For 4 months they have gathered and prayed: a Methodist pastor, members of the Catholic Worker movement and a handful of Catholic priests. Holy Saturday 1983 they gather to act at a cabin up the road from an air force base in Michigan with first strike capability for nuclear attack:

All of us had long ago concluded that such weapons were not only illegal by international standards and immoral by ethical ones, but also theologically blasphemous, the power of death writ large.

At 2:00 a.m. we begin the liturgy of the Word… there is in Christian liturgy no finer  collection of readings from the Hebrew scriptures: the story of creation, the flood Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, the Red Sea Crossing, Ezekiel’s new heart and spirit, the valley of the dry bones called to live, and the like. A feast of faithfulness, passage and hope.

There in the cabin we also made intercession, marking names and peoples upon a sheet subsequently to be used as an altar cloth: children, the poor, friends in prison, soup kitchen guests, the dead and disappeared of Central America… a communion of the living. A solidarity of the spirit, this prayer for passage, this claim upon the future. After singing a hymn, we exited into the night.

At the barbed-wire fence we paused and circled in preparation for two symbolic deeds. The first was to light the Paschal candle. Into these, our dark times, enter the light of Christ. So we prayed, flame in hand. The second, indeed one with the other, was to cut the fence. …Twang! The security of death guarding death was broken in liturgy. The wall was breached.  

 

When we talk of God – and the old fellas know – God is not the Whitefella way, up above here. God is here with me. That’s the way it is. God’s not just grounded, hiding behind the butt of that tree. The presence of the Creator is there in the tree, in the land, in each one of us. You don’t need to do a Pentecostal type service, right? You don’t need to carry out all sorts of observances. You just need to communicate with the Creator. And that Creator’s always been with the Aboriginal people. (Gilbert 1996, p.62)

 

…the seven of us began our three-and-a-half-mile trek towards the high-security area, the loaded B-52s.  It had been our intention to paint at the foot of the runway, in six-foot high letters legible from a landing plane, CHRIST IS RISEN! DISARM! We had toted along supplies sufficient: buckets of yellow paint, brushes, rollers. The wet and freezing snow, however, foreclosed that plan.

We walked on, mostly in silence, lying down periodically in a fumbling comedy, to avoid the view of patrolling security cars. As the nuclear storage bunkers came into sight, we arrived at a small building, the enclosure for some sort of electronic equipment. Here on the walls we inscribed our message, paint congealing in the freezing drizzle. And here we carried the vigil liturgy another step forward: we renewed our baptismal vows.

I had not foreseen the personal power of that moment: to look down in the runway towards the machines and their cargo, and there to “renounce Satan and all his works.” There I promised in a way not fully understood before to “persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever I fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord.” A life can be called back to such moments, indeed it may turn on them.

 

The Creator Spirit is crying because the deep spiritual bonds with the land and its people have been broken. The land that is crying because it is slowly dying without this bond of spiritual life. The people are crying because they long for restoration of that deep spiritual bond with the Creator Spirit and the land. – Rainbow Spirit Elders

 

The sky had begun to lighten. Birds were rousing. Shivering, we conferred and decided we had had enough of the dodging and weaving. We would proceed upright with dignity, in the manner of right worship. Here an astonishing phenomenon occurred, one reportedly not uncommon in such undertakings. We passed unseen! On one side were the bunkers, encircled with barbed- wire, lit like perpetual noon-day, driven roundabout by a constant patrol of vehicles, and observed from above by watchtowers, beneath which we processed. On the other side, parked for maintenance and refuelling, huge bombers stood in a line equally well-lit. It was as though the waters had parted. We walked unhindered to the open entrance of the high security area where the planes on alert stood ready to fly.

There, measured by a sudden flurry of activity within, we were finally noticed. Armoured vehicles and pickup trucks rushed to surround us. We spread our altar cloth of intercessions on the runway. About it we scattered blood, brought in small bottles, to signify the blood of the innocents, the blood of the Lamb. Producing the elements of the eucharist, we completed the service at gunpoint, surrounded by young airmen armed with automatic weapons.

We were a dishevelled band. Bedraggled, dressed in plastic garbage bags as makeshift protection against the unexpected weather, we were soaked nonetheless and cold to the bone. In witness and exhaustion, we suffered a sense of our own foolishness.

 

[The] land is a living place made up of sky, cloud, river, trees, the sand; and the Spirit has planted by own spirit there in my country. It is something – and yet it is not a thing – it is a living entity. It belongs to me, I belong to it. I rest in it. I come from there – Pat Dodson

 

The airmen held us in their sight but did not approach. Extending the service, we sang plaintive gospel songs and hymns of resurrection.  At long last an officer approached us.

“Are you,” he asked tentatively, “base personnel?”
“No.”
“Do you work on the base?”
“No.”
Then surveying the scene yet again, “Well, would you pick up your trash and leave?”

It was clear almost immediately that our breach of security was so severe an embarrassment that should we simply depart quietly, no record or mention need come to the attention of community public or even military higher-ups. We consulted among ourselves and declined.  The liturgy was complete in its own right, but it had momentum and direction we did not intend to abandon. Herded into a bus, strip-searched, interrogated by various agencies military and civil, we were in the end dumped unceremoniously at the front gate without charges.

Our friends awaited us with leaflets in hand. At the gate to the base and the doors to the churches in town we distributed the news. Leaflets described the cruise and it’s meaning for policy. They described our pilgrimage. And they offered this simple confession of faith:

We believe that God has already intervened in this dark history of ours.

We believe there is hope. Many people have yielded to despair. They can already hear the terrible sound of the door slamming shut on human history. But we are here to say otherwise. Someone is hidden at the heart of things, breaking in to break out, on behalf of human life.

We believe that God rules our common history. Not the Soviet Union. Not the United States. Not the NATO or Warsaw Pact forces. Despite their big and competing claims.

We believe that human beings (so says Easter) are free from the power of death in all its forms and delivery systems. We are not stuck with the balance of terror arrangements. We’re not in bondage to these weapons. We are truly and fully free to unmake them. Now. Not tomorrow or next week or next year. But this very morning.

We believe that God who raised Christ from the dead will also quicken our imaginations, and thereby our bodies and lives.

We believe this is the meaning of the resurrection. And we’ve come to say so. 

 

Individual Australians are not guilty for what happened to our families. But if you fail to respond to what you know that will be another thing. If you do not help to ease the pain, that will be your act for which you are responsible. – Pat Dodson and others at the 1997 Australian Reconciliation Convention

 

What arises for you/r community with these readings?

What is the significance of doing the 7 Healing Rites for 7 Sites walk as a community?

Have you ever had an experience of connection to or with the Spirit of the land? What was that like? How did that impact your faith?

Where are you feeling called to break into and break out of?

What might public and political liturgical action look like in a time of social distancing, when Easter services and walks might not be on?

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“We are protectors of the mountain.When I stand here it is as if I’m standing on my mauna. When I look out at all of you, it is as if you are standing on the mauna.”

 

If you don’t know what the Mauna Kea trouble is all about you can read more in the article linked here…

“Nearly ten years ago, a multibillion-dollar international collaboration led by the University of California and the California Institute of Technology planned to build the largest telescope in the Northern hemisphere on the summit of Mauna Kea, a sacred Hawaiian mountain. It is the tallest mountain in the world when measured from the ocean floor; higher than even Mount Everest. In 2015, kiaʻi, protectors of the mountain, prevented that work from starting …”[continue reading]

On Friday 2 August there was a gathering in Fed Square to stand in solidarity with the protectors at Mauna Kea. It was bigger than that. We stood also in solidarity with the protectors at Ihumātao, and the protectors across the Pacific Islands feeling the impacts of climate change.

In Maori the word whenua means both land and placenta. It is what nourishes us. To be tangata whenua  is to be indigenous, to be at home, to be naturalised. To build or develop land in ways that that does not consult with indigenous people or consider their use and value of the land  is to show yourself to be a stranger in that place. Do not think that colonisation was something that happened long ago and far away when it’s impacts are being experienced in real ways here and now… it’s happening just up the road at the Djab Wurrung Embassy.
Mauna Kea… “the firstborn child of Wākea of the sky and Papa of the earth. Mauna Kea is the piko, the center or umbilical cord, the point where all energies converge. It is a place where the akua dance in their human forms, a place to chant, pray, and remember how to be in proper relationship to creation. It is the highest temple. The mountain is an ancestor to the Kanaka Maoli people, born long ago in the ongoing song of creation. For well over a thousand years, to honor this ancestor, the Kanaka kept the summit pristine, pure, and accessible only to those who ascended with the proper conduct and ceremony.” (Chelsea Steinauer-Scudder)  and the government is approving a telescope to be built that is dug in two storeys below ground and stands 30 storeys tall.
Through language, story, dance, chants the people, the tangata whenua, sing aloha to the land. The tangata whenua are kia’i – protectors of the land. We invite you home. We invite you to be a protector of the land. We speak and sing in many languages, Aboriginal, Hawaiian, Solomon Islands, Samoan, Maori, Niuean… we speak and sing with one voice.
Please listen.
Hawaii (Mele)

Solomon Islands (great spoken word poem… “you may treat us like dirt with your lies but the very dirt that you treat us as anchors the foundations we build our lives on…

Maori/New Zealand (Haka)

Maori/New Zealand (Tiaha)

Samoa (Pese)

Indigenous Land Struggle

MASIL land struggle

‘To those who say, “But I didn’t take your land” I reply, “Are we going to be honorable ancestors?”‘

MASIL is a historic exchange between Indigenous Mapuche activists in Chile/Argentina and Aboriginal activists in Australia.

The goals of the MASIL Project are:

  • To establish face to face contact and dialogue and build links between Indigenous communities protecting their lands.
  • To document all the work that is carried out and
  • To produce a documentary of approximately 60 minutes duration, for distribution in Australia and internationally.

 

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CL: First heard the term “intersectionality” after starting my blog Black Feminist Ranter which ticked several “oppression” boxes. It was a label applied to me to inform a sense of ‘place’. A description of where the intersections of oppression are overlapping. It’s in the feminist sphere that is being played out but dividing and othering instead of being done well. It’s not being used to subvert and challenge systems but by those wanting “ally credit”.

RH: How we use the word… it’s made equivalent to representation e.g. have a quota of female politicians but the systems don’t change. What about sweatshops? What about Western interventions in the Middle East? Supporting Hillary and the first potential female President is great but don’t say “She’s going to be great for all women” – be specific. Say “some of her policies are good” or “Hillary being President will be a good start” but not making sweeping statements like: “What’s good for women is good for all women”, that erases the experience of those her policies don’t benefit.

CL: Why did that election result get pegged on the non-white women? Hate that… everyone asking: Where are the African-American women? Stats show it’s white women that didn’t vote for Hillary.

RH: They had to ask – “Who will be worse?” All minority groups voted for Clinton.

CL: Similar here re Gillard. First Australian Prime Minister – a win for dissecting feminism but she was legislating in NT and making cuts to single mother benefits… I couldn’t fight on those issues because I had to defend on the left re gender.  We are being compromised in these situations.

RH:  Allies need to understand the dilemma and acknowledge it. Intersectional feminism should understand that dilemma but it doesn’t. It needs to acknowledge the reasons others might be unsure and have concerns. For example, media around the Wonder Woman film discussed the Zionist views of the lead actress and called for boycott.  I didn’t advocate for that. It’s only one woman’s opinion.    It should be ok that Arab women might not be able to jump on this empowerment train. Allies need to understand.  There’s a refusal to see.  e.g. “The Wonder Woman character existed long before this actress – the movie’s still worth celebrating!” I was called racist. Intersectionality was used against me… disappointing.  This placed not just Eastern feminism against Western feminism but feminism within the West.  Behind the scenes analysis of the politics what appears and doesn’t is far more interesting to me than the actual movie.

CL: My voice can be sought out to fill a diversity quota.  e.g. speaking on Aboriginal Beauty Pageants – didn’t see celebration of Aboriginal beauty as worth working for (dress, heels, make up…) told I’m denigrating my racial identity. White panellists get slut shaming… called fat… whore… but not racial commentary.

RH: I get racial and gendered criticism. “This Ruby Hamas bitch has both clit-envy and penis-envy” – manages to be offensive on Arabic, Muslim, terrorist, gender – so many layers! I shared it on my page to diffuse it. Not about me but anyone who shares these characteristics.

CL: Comments on how I look, highly gendered, but go back to words like “quadroon”.  I sometimes take the piss or shut it down… I’d like to be called a whore for once and not something that’s dissecting my race! I was on a panel of feminists once – I said something about “smashing systems” in my introductory statements and was sidelined for the rest of the panel – the white feminists talked amongst themselves.  Those that have to navigate gender + race + disability – they are more extreme/radical because they have more to overcome. It was a horrible experience. It was a basic entry-level discussion, why weren’t we part of that conversation? I was only asked for “special comments” re race in the closing questions.

RH:  Any event invitation I receive I’m asking , am I token or not? Do they value my voice and what I have to say? And then I say, whatever… they’re still giving me a platform.  I long for the day I’m asked to talk about politics, and my experience… not as a labelled pigeon-hole “Muslim” or “Aboriginal”.

CL: The person who is Trans and Aboriginal and woman and has a disability and from a low class background… we need to amplify her voice.  Smash at all those levels at once.

RH: If they are liberated, everyone is liberated. “identity politics” shouldn’t set us against but with. I’ve always tried to bring identity politics back to broader oppression.

CL: The show the Handmaids Tale – loved it at first, then I started to see the mainstream reaction.  Women enslaved, bred, imprisoned… with religion used as justification. That was one generation ago for me. Oh, white women are going to be treated like Aboriginal and African-American women. In the book the slaves are unequivocally white, coloured people are shipped off to die from radiation.  Some kudos to the author for sticking to what she knows but in the TV show, in this Fascist, Puritan,  authoritarian world… women of colour are also selected for breeding with wealthy white men and I should believe it?! This is white-washing racial dynamics. “This is just around the corner for us” This white response is not helpful compared to that of people of colour which says: welcome to our world – this has already happened and is happening.

RH: “Can you imagine if there’ll be a war?!” [re Trump/Korea] Yes. I have already lost half my family to that. I don’t need to imagine what that’s like.

CL:  When we are blended into white narrative, we’re not given our own.

RH: Given a female Dr. Who – that was a big deal.  An Arab actor was recently cast to play the leading role in Aladdin. An Arab not in a role as a terrorist or savage illiterate – those roles that have been used to perpetuate negative stereotypes.  Can’t just think about gender (woman as Dr. Who), that an Arab man is cast in the role of Aladdin is far more significant for me.  Is feminism the new weapon of whiteness? We hardly heard anything about that casting at all.

Question: How do you balance the need to be calm to be taken seriously vs. expressing righteous/legitimate anger?

CL: A bit of anger is good, use it to tear the system apart. I have no obligation to make racist, sexist, wealthy people feel safe.  e.g  Heritier Lumumba in doco Fair Game, laughed along with racist insults in the locker room to try and fit in… you never win that way.  We need to use our anger in legitimate and practical ways.

Question: What would your top-three recommended structural interventions be?

CL: I’m part of the union movement. Anything that draws attention to the structural issues.  Intersectional engagement is often superficial.  Highlighting – make sure other voices are heard e.g. An Aboriginal man will have different views than me, or a more conservative woman… there is not one homogenous view for women or for Aboriginal people.

RH: Acknowledge there is a problem.  Still at that level… can’t think of a list of structural changes yet when still trying to get people to acknowledge that there’s a problem. Need to be given power/influence – in media, politics… I guess I’m still trying to find that answer.  I don’t think we’re close to solving that.  Need to see more women from non-white backgrounds opinions valued… to talk in general terms.

Question: Do you have any advice for emerging voices?  How do you decide which point of view will be appropriate to speak from, how do you get past that/prevent silencing?

RH: I didn’t write about anything happening in the Arab/Muslim sphere for ages.  Mortified when something I wrote was appropriated by people who hate me.  I don’t wear a veil but cultural still encouraged to be quiet, modest… I learned to pick a time to broach it. Try to ever do it in a way that isolates Muslims, there’s sexism and racism across all cultures.  I cop a lot of backlash from my community but lovely messages from young Muslim women makes it worthwhile – scarcely – becomes ammunition for racists.  I had to learn that I can’t be responsible for how they use or mis-use my words.

CL: I was terrified to talk about violence against Aboriginal women.  That conversation is used to assimilate to whiteness and religion, a conversation owned by conservative Aboriginal people, for example if I write a piece protesting Dondale and Invasion Day turn around and say “why don’t you care about violence towards Aboriginal women?” Used to indicate that I don’t care.  Exhausting process to do but I counted the numbers over the past two years.  I need to defend space for my own voice. This argument is used to denigrate my other work.

 

 

 

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We come together today to walk the way of the Southern Cross, and visit seven sites from our shared history.  There is suffering in these events, and there are questions for us to grapple with.  We will hear the words of Christ on the cross, what might his words spoken in pain tell us?  We seek to participate in a process of learning, repentance and healing in our land.

We acknowledge that we gather today on the land of the Marabalak people of the Wurundjeri tribe of the Kulin Nations – people who have known the Creator Spirit, shared stories, and walked in this place since time immemorial – our elders past, present and future.

With the Creator Spirit
We walk the way of the Southern Cross
Under the Southern Cross
We hear again the words of Christ on the cross
With God deep among us
We seek healing and justice in our land

 

Site 1: A thirst for justice

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We are standing outside a house.  As every person has a story, so does every house.

This house was a house of comfort.
It belonged to a woman called Sally Russell Cooper. In the 1930s’s she opened its front door as a low-income boarding house and welcomed Aboriginal people to come and live with her. There were three bedrooms inside and a spare room out the back. Sally kept her front door open to her people until the 1970’s. For many Indigenous Australians, this house was, as Elders Larry Walsh and Reg Bow once said, “a refuge from loneliness and homelessness for more than 40 years.”

This house was a house of protest.
The 1930’s onwards were a time of momentum for Aboriginal people. During the Depression and the Second World War many Aboriginal people came to Melbourne seeking work. The growing political movement for Aboriginal rights also attracted people to Melbourne’s west. Sally’s father, William Cooper, was a significant local figure in the Aboriginal political movement fighting for basic civil rights. For many of the Aboriginal people who stayed in this house, there was hope of work at Kinnears Rope Factory and other factories nearby.  But the stronger hope was the hope of justice.

This house was a house of light.
Sally held lots of beautiful parties in this house. This was an important opportunity for Aboriginal people to socialise and support one another as society made it very difficult for Aboriginal people to gather together in groups.  This house was well loved as a safe gathering place.

Consider this house. The door. The windows.  The memory. Remember its story.

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Action
Choose a bushflower tube-stock from the basket, as an Indigenous version of the Hyssop plant, and take it home to a place of earth of your choice. Remember the story of the Aboriginal people in this country as you watch it grow.

 

Site 2: With and with each other

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328 family violence incidents were reported in Maribyrnong in 2013 rising to 974 in 2016 – that increase in incidents, nearly tripling, is largely due to more people speaking out.  We know that a woman is killed in Australia by her male partner or ex-partner nearly every week.  The most common myths are that violence against women is caused by alcohol and drugs, a man’s violent upbringing, living in poverty, anger management problems or mental health problems but for violence against women to become a thing of the past we need to change the causes: gender inequality and rigid gender stereotypes.

This sculpture is called With and With Each Other by artist Tom Bills and it feels like a fitting place to stand to think about equality.

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Action
Let’s take hands and Pass the Peace – exchanging these words:

Say: Peace be with you…
Answer: And also with you.

How can we be doing this amongst our family, friends and neighbours? We need to know what safe touch looks and feels like through education and role modelling.

In making a circle with our arms we are symbolically acknowledging the widening ripples of the impacts of family violence on individuals self esteem, self-worth, physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing… The impacts on individuals, families, neighbours and communities… As we release our hands the circle opens, representing our commitment to breaking the cycles of violence.

Let’s walk with someone new, someone you don’t know or someone you don’t see as often as we move to the next station.

 

Site 3: Finding a place to call home

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We are standing outside Foley House. This is a facility run by the Salvation Army that provides accommodation and support for 46 residents – all of whom have been homeless, and all of whom are living with a disability.

Finding a place to call home is one of our most basic needs. For our Aboriginal friends the trauma of being removed from their homes is still very real and present. For asylum seekers dislocation comes at great cost and much grief.

But homelessness does not discriminate – our social dysfunction makes it a real possibility for anyone. The loss or casualisation of a job, the breakdown of a family, the rent increase from a landlord, the need to flee violence in the home, the disintegration of health, the history of abuse or neglect that is relived on a daily basis, the self-medication through drugs or alcohol: these are all social realities that can thrust any of us into homelessness.

There were 762 people who were homeless in the electorate of Footscray on Census night in 2011. Things are getting worse: this figure is 29 per cent more than in 2006. Across Victoria, there are 22,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night.

Even this is just the tip of the iceberg. A skewed housing market benefits some greatly but places unbearable pressure on those at the bottom end. The injustice is often felt most strongly for those enduring the uncertainty of the private rental market. We live in a community where houses are seen as investments, rather than homes in which to live and thrive.

Action
Walk with a stone in your shoe as we move to our next location; as a reminder of the constant pain and anxiety faced by those who are struggling to find a place to call home. Are you facing this anxiety yourself? Give your stone to a friend to hold.

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Site 4: Room for all

Sometimes coming to Centrelink can feel like our own crucifixion; Our dependence on a system for which we detest; An experience of isolation and abandonment, judgements from ourselves and others about how we do and don’t fit in; About whether we are enough. A painful waiting that only allows you to survive – and gives no kind word, no compassion, and no understanding of who you really are.

Inequality and poverty in Australia are growing. There are now about 2.9 million people living in poverty, including 731,300 kids.  Centrelink will never be enough (not that that is new to anyone). It is like a well from which we draw water, and in Australia, it seems to be an increasing drought not only of money, but of healthy soil, and healthy people; people whose lives are rich in compassion, joy, generosity and the types of kindness that sows grace amongst the powers.

Today we remember that Christ became that spring when he called us into his family as he called John into his both spiritually and literally. He seeded in us the knowledge that we are duty bound to honour our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters in faith. To know that our own growth and ability to live is intrinsically caught up in family; a family that transcends bloodlines, a family that invites us to make bigger our sense of home, that calls us to dig our own wells.

Action
Place a dollar (provided) on the note at the foot of Centrelink:

For our debts and for their debts, we cannot pay.
Christ is enough.
Power remember Mercy;
Remember where we grow.
Remember those who hold us.
Remember those who raise us.
Remember those who crush us.
Woman here lives your son. Son here lives your mother.
Remember your way home. Remember Me.

 

Site 5: Seeking refuge and finding welcome

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Footscray is a community that generation after generation of migrant has made home. These days it is a multicultural hub with service providers such as the ASRC and community groups such as the Welcome West Wagon working alongside smaller community groups and individuals as well as movements such as Love Makes a Way to create welcome for people seeking asylum & refugees. People come to Australia with the hope of a better life but they are often left in limbo for many years.

A friend of ours, Maria, is an East Timorese woman who through a combination of civil war in her homeland, loss of family members and marriage breakdown has found herself stateless and alone with her young son in a foreign country. Under the terms of her temporary protection visa, she has limited work rights and little way to support herself and her son. She is reliant on friends and community agencies such as the Red Cross and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre for accommodation, legal advocacy and food. At the present time she’s been in limbo for over five years, with little idea of when a decision may be handed down by the minister for immigration. She may be granted permanent residency and begin the process of building a life here, or she may be forced to leave. She prays every day for a permanent home in Australia. She lives generously in our community household, lovingly raising her son and extending friendship and help to others.

We acknowledge the perseverance of those seeking asylum and the commitment of all those who go out of their way to create a sense of welcome to refugees and those seeking asylum.

Action
With this chalk we leave our mark and remember that in this multicultural neighbourhood, we are mixed together: rich and poor; Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Italian, Scottish, indigenous; students, workers and non-workers; believers, agnostics and atheists; children and adults of all ages. We acknowledge the tensions and divisions that often exist between us.

We celebrate the diversity we see around us, and how it reflects the beauty of God. We leave our symbol of welcome to be reminded that we are created for connection; for family, for friendship, for shared work, for love. We leave our mark to remember that we need each other and that we are stronger.

 

Site 6: There is a place for you

IMG_5096On a Friday night in November of 2016, three LGBT+ people were assaulted in Footscray after being chased by three men. Security did not step in to stop the attack, and the three LGBT+ had to wait for 25 minutes before deciding to walk to the police station because no patrol car showed up. When the victims reported that the assault was a hate-crime against transgender and queer people, those details were not included by police officers. Like so many others in history, the hatred against these people for their diversity was ignored. The identity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people has been ignored and persecuted in Australia.

When I was attending church, I was also asked not to raise my own questions, my doubts, my insecurities and my suffering as a gay person of faith. I was told, in person, that I was broken, and that my capacity for love was corrupted. After an act of honesty, the leadership of the church wanted me to silently accept that I would only be embraced in that faith community if I lived by standards which violated my own conscience and divine design.

We reflect on Jesus’ words to remember that ignorance, fear, and pride often stand in the way of our choice to extend Godly hospitality to our LGBT+ neighbour. In our own lack of love we fail to love our neighbour as we would ourselves. We reflect on the ways that we have excluded and silenced our LGBT+ neighbours, like the authorities attempted to silence the gospel. We reflect on the way that LGBT+ have been forsaken, like Jesus himself was on the cross.

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Action
We now stand in silent prayer for 30 seconds to honour the suffering of LGBT+ people who were forsaken.

Together we pray aloud, ‘Help us, Lord of all, to no longer forsake our LGBT+ neighbour’.

Place the rainbow crucifix with a prayer on the wall of the police station as a sign of the visibility of LGBT+ suffering.

 

Site 7: Earth out of Balance

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We all rely on the earth and its natural systems for life itself.

Its resources sustain us and grow us, yet our actions and failure to be good custodians continues to push things out of balance.  Taking more than we need, prioritising short term gain over long term sustainable thinking – we are seeing mountains and rivers be given legal identity so that they can be given a voice to speak in their own best interests.

Human activity is altering the climate, changing rainfall patterns, reducing water availability, and increasing the frequency of severe weather events such as bushfires and storms such as cyclone Debbie and Cook, we acknowledge those yet rebuilding and recovering in the wake of these storms.

To emphasise this imbalance, sea levels are predicted to rise by at least 600mm by 2070… that’s within most of our lifetimes.  At projected levels, this change in sea level will widen the Maribyrnong River, flood lower lying areas, and begin to change the face of our locality. A sea level rise of just 1m would threaten the surrounding homes and businesses and displace thousands. It would flood all of the city’s major cargo shipping docks and surrounding cargo storage areas, many of which are in our neighbourhood.

The call to be “custodians of creation” is a critical one, which drags us from the crushing weight of a global disaster to a place of restoration, respect and gratitude.

Action
Look around for something that doesn’t belong in this place; perhaps some rubbish or some weeds. Carry it with you as we start to travel to the next site, until you find a spot better suited for your rubbish to be placed.

Reflect on the ways your actions may keep creation out of balance.

Consider your role as a custodian.

Plan some simple steps to begin the healing process.

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Photo credit: Maya Stark

Closure

Creator Spirit
Help us to uncover our hidden stories
Suffering God
Help our tears to flow for the pain
Reconciling Spirit
Heal our shame and our wounds, and call us into action.
Remember that justice is coming; God’s reign is coming

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Acknowledgements and Story

Aunty Doreen Wandin renamed Spencer St station to Southern Cross because they were able to see stars at the homestead in Coranderrk. Aunty Joy Wandin named Wurundjeri Way… We identify this constellation with “home”, and commit to the journey of finding and following the way home under these stars.

Uncle Wanta Jampijimpa has preached on the correlation of the stars of the Southern Cross to the wounds on Jesus’ body… We acknowledge the terrible and complex legacy of the church as colonisers in this place and give deep thanks for elders wisdom and grace in leading us to deeper truth and understanding the Creator Spirit who has always been here in this place.

Bill Wylie Kellerman, co-author of “Resistance and Public Liturgy”, role models and teaches us that liturgy implicates. Undertaking activism on high holidays gives layers of meaning to the action. He said: “We believe God has already intervened, breaking in to break out on behalf of human kind.  We recognise the authority of God [as bigger/beyond figureheads of power], we believe this is the meaning of the resurrection and we have come to say so”…  What does it mean for us – in this time, this place, this context – to be mindful of and respond well to matters of justice from a framework of hope as people of all faiths and none?

The Indigenous Hospitality House (IHH) community who shared their resource with us based on the work of Dr Norman Habel, the author of “Reconciliation: Searching for Australia’s Soul” which outlines the model for combining storytelling to action as a means for right relationship between people and with the land… We seek to participate in a process of learning, repentance and healing in our land.

 

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JUDE KELLY

My grandmother did two things for me: let me use teatowels as costumes (we had no dress-up box) and encouraged my singing… she taught me that I was entitled to dreams and hopes and that those hopes and dreams were valid.

What have we done to make the
umbilical cord of history so thin?
[of voice/story]

We have a WOW because we want to celebrate what women are doing.
It starts with a “Think In” – what does WOW look like where you are?
They are a network of caring.  Two things you can say about women:
they are tired and they’re frightened.

When Somaliland’s First Lady wanted to
build a maternity hospital
the builders said they didn’t have time.
She answered: “Teach me to make a brick”.

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HANA ASSAFIRI

Social justice is not discretionary.

The future is ours to make.

Intersectionality is embodied in the margins.
Social context, empowerment, employment and education
are where social change meets intersectionality in a practical way.

Where we feel an intuitive connection
we have an intuitive intelligence. We need
to back ourselves on what we feel and what we know.

Communities are strengthened through diversity.

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MARIA KATSONIS

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live” – Joan Didion

I have to be authentic to who I am.

The nature of my ambition has changed.
I believe in the power of one to affect social change.

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TANIA CANAS

We are theory and theory is ours.
Arts, politics… theory is everyday life.

Education in Australia separated self and theory.  
Theory became externalised from the body.
It went from everywhere to nowhere.
Not ‘by us’ but ‘to us’. Not changing, but static.
Institution imposed a hierarchy of knowledge.
The indigenous people of Central America knew  astrology, geography, how to make chocolate.  They wrote in hieroglyphics and were writers, philosophers, theorists… there has been a genocide of knowledge = epistemicide.
They have colonised not just our bodies but our minds.

In my culture, cooking is at the centre of community.
With white feminism – I didn’t want to learn my mother’s cooking.
Now I am looking to bruja feminism, because the white feminism didn’t
acknowledge my ancestors, my mother or the role of hospitality as resistance – my mother cooked for the group that met at the house.

Not buried, didn’t die, not lost –
these ways of knowing are resistance.

It’s not known or recognised how strong women of colour are.
You will be marginalised: you need to ask:
will I notice, will I do something?

It’s hard. That’s why we need you to be there.

Research is embodied.  We write struggle.
When we theorise, we write with our bodies.
To write/use a theory, you need to embody it. Resist epistemicide.  
You write and exist in the in-between. Don’t lose yourself.

 

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ELAINE BROWN

There is no such thing as a part-time revolution.

We’re not here for black liberation but for all liberation.

We didn’t come here for a better life,
or religious freedom [like migrants to US],
we came kicking and screaming.

We provided the conditions for people to bring about the revolution –
gave them free education, a free breakfast, access to a free clinic…
they have the human right to food, to health care –
we gave them the experience of something worth fighting for.

Are we breaking the glass ceiling to be oppressors ourselves?!
No. We have a common enemy.
Can’t see ourselves in competition with anyone else.
What is our agenda as women?
To find solidarity with the others who are suppressed.

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PAOLA BALLA

Learn how to situate yourself.

Do not let your feminism drive your racism.

Mind and heart, mine is a matriarchal tradition – 
you experience yourself as a part of others.

Activism is radical self-care.
It is a form of activism to thrive, not just survive.
Art is not living but living can be art.

“The world will crumble one day.
It’s ok. We know how to be poor.
We know how to live without electricity…”
– Rosie Egan

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NAYUKA GORRIE

(of WOW/speakers)
To see your reality reflected back you.
Very powerful.

How much of my gender came out of a book? A ship?
The convent that beat my grandmother?
We need to consider: how is gender colonised?

Your black body is never quite yours in this country.
Hyper-sexualised vs. not attractive at all. Strong vs. not strong at all.
Used for labour (work) vs. in labour (baby)
A shaved head means either a Britney melt down (dysfunctional)
vs. fundraising for cancer (held up as a role model) –
What other personal reclamations can I make of my own body?

Keep this flesh vessel tight [runs regularly].
Doing well is resistance.

Just in case you missed it – the Sovereignty exhibition at ACCA was stunning.

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We need to keep leaning into the truth that colonisation isn’t a “once upon a time…” story of something that happened long ago and far away but is still happening here and now. On land that was never ceded – what does being “Australian” look like or mean? You see in the piece by Clinton Nain Water Bottle Bags something beautiful made of found objects: plastic bottles, emu eggs, emu feathers, electrical cable, wire, string… a mix of  what is natural and man-made, a mix of traditional and contemporary.  What does it mean that the contemporary is waste, or is it in the hands of the custodians? What does traditionally acquired knowledge – a different understanding of the world and how to engage it have to teach us? This exhibition provoked this reflection and many more. See more photos and read the (highly recommended!) Sovereignty publication on the ACCA website:

 

To be sovereign is in fact to act with love and
resistance simultaneously. Uncle Banjo Clarke, the
late Gunditjmara statesman, said we must ‘fight
hate with love.’2 If there is a thread that connects
all the artists across the wide diversity of practices
represented in Sovereignty it is this deep love for
family, for truth telling and for beauty.

– Paola Balla –


Sovereignty

ACCA is proud to present Sovereignty, an exhibition focusing upon contemporary art of First Nations peoples of South East Australia, alongside keynote historical works, to explore culturally and linguistically diverse narratives of self-determination, identity, sovereignty and resistance.

Taking the example of Ngurungaeta (Elder) and Wurundjeri leader William Barak (c.1824–1903) as a model – in particular Barak’s role as an artist, activist, leader, diplomat and translator – the exhibition presents the vibrant and diverse visual art and culture of the continuous and distinct nations, language groups and communities of Victoria’s sovereign, Indigenous peoples.

Bringing together new commissions, recent and historical works by over thirty artists, Sovereignty is structured around a set of practices and relationships in which art and society, community and family, history and politics are inextricably connected. A diverse range of discursive and thematic contexts are elaborated: the celebration and assertion of cultural identity and resistance; the significance and inter-connectedness of Country, people and place; the renewal and re-inscription of cultural languages and practices; the importance of matriarchal culture and wisdom; the dynamic relations between activism and aesthetics; and a playfulness with language and signs in contemporary society.

Sovereignty provides an opportunity to engage with critical historical and contemporary issues in Australian society. The exhibition takes place against a backdrop of cultural, political and historical debates related to questions of colonialism and de-colonisation, constitutional recognition, sovereignty and treaty.

Curators
Paola Balla and Max Delany

 

ArtistsIMG_4154

Brook Andrew
William Barak
Lisa Bellear
Jim Berg
Briggs
Trevor Turbo Brown
Amiel Courtin-Wilson / Uncle Jack Charles
Maree Clark
Vicky Couzens
Destiny Deacon & Virginia Fraser
Marlene Gilson
Korin Gamadji Institute
Brian Martin
Kent MorrisIMG_4420
Clinton Nain
Glenda Nicholls
Bill Onus
Steaphan Paton
Bronwyn Razem
Reko Rennie
Steven Rhall
Yhonnie Scarce
Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance (WAR)
Peter Waples-Crowe
Lucy Williams-Connelly