Voice. A notion that is taking centre stage in our world today. Contemplating the notion of voice means contemplating the practice of listening. In order to listen, gazing at one another in silence with attentive hearts, minds and souls must become the new norm in order for us to walk together. Earlier this year, Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann was named 2021 Senior Australian of the Year, and in her acceptance speech, she reiterated;
… for years we have walked on a one-way street to learn the white peoples’ way. I have learned to walk in two worlds and live in towns and cities, and even worked in them. Now is the time for you to come closer to understand us and to understand how we live, and listen to the needs in our communities.
It is not surprising that listening is at the heart of our First Nations Australians’ way of proceeding. Indigenous Australians, represented by over 300 nations and 600 languages groups, have lived and died in this Great Southern Land for over 2,000 generations. This land we call Australia has been inhabited by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for over 60,000 years. Justice is relational; it is about coming together after a struggle (Makarrata), finding creative and effective ways to make past relationships right, exploring new ways of listening and dialoguing. The Uluru Statement from the Heart is the declaration and truth we need to live by in order for reconciliation to take place. Anne Pattel-Gray believes that, as Australians, we have gone from apology to reconciliation, bypassing all the imperative processes in between, thus disregarding the full and transformative pilgrimage to reconciliation. In order for there to be justice, reconciliation and a spirit of Makarrata, it is imperative that a complete version of truth be told, a sincere apology made, and systematic change effected.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples strongly voice their desire in the Uluru Statement:
We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny, our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds, and their culture will be a gift to their country.
Australia remains the only Commonwealth nation that has not yet signed a treaty with its First Nations people. Justice is about action, and a Treaty is the action that Australia needs to take. Sherry Balcombe highlights the importance of a Treaty to First Nations Australians:
A Treaty can give us dignity. It can help us decide what we need. It can help to restore our culture, our ceremonies, our rituals, and to find new hope for the future. It can give our young people pride in who they are.
David Tacey asserts that:
Reconciliation demands more from us than we so far imagined. We must make a genuine attempt to view the world as our indigenous people do. Reconciliation must then be imbued with transformative power. When our hearts have changed, we will be in a position to change our minds and our social and political policies as well.
There is still hope and future dreaming! First Nations Australians and non-Indigenous Australians can come together; the spirit of Dreaming is still alive. It is time we accept the invitation to sit around the campfire and listen to stories about the Creator Spirit from First Nations Australians who have lived and breathed a creative, life-affirming spirituality for over sixty millennia. As followers of Mary Ward, we know the importance of justice, truth, freedom and integrity. May these qualities find a home in the call of our Indigenous sisters and brothers, so their voice may be truly heard. May our listening lead us to Makarrata and just relationships.
Author: Jwan Kada | Novice, Loreto Australia and South East Asia province