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A Day on Country – Budj Bim

What better way to learn about local Indigenous culture and history than a tour of the newly crowned World Heritage listed site of Budj Bim! And all the more perfect to have Tyson Lovett-Murray as our guide and tell us HIS people’s history; the good, the bad and the ugly.

There were some fascinating facts shared with us by Tyson:
Eels have been tracked migrating as far as 3000km to New Caledonia!
There are lots of different ways to catch eels, including placing wattle foliage in eel trap water which then releases something that knocks the eels out.
Totems are given to children when they’re born, Aboriginal people don’t eat their family’s animal or their totem animal. They are responsible for looking after this species. Other mobs may eat it but they/their family don’t.
Importantly we should note how harmonious the Aboriginal people were with the environment and their sustainable farming practices.

An interesting discussion arose about the changing of those local streets named after people or families we now know were responsible for persecuting local Indigenous people. One line of thought was if we did, would we run the chance of the history being lessened or forgotten? With decisions like this the most important thing to remember is to include the local indigenous people in these conversations, so we are not making the same mistake again of assuming we know what they want or what is best for them.

This could also help in the Aboriginal people’s need for self-determination. This is starting to happen; Koori Court and the push for spent convictions in Victoria are both helping Aboriginal people move towards self-determination. Aboriginal people should be responsible for deciding what is best for their people and their communities.

The massacres, genocide, poisoning, lies and mis-truths, missions, stolen generations, lack of any human rights (just to name a few), all tell of a very ugly, and not so distant, past. We regularly hear about WW1/WW2 veterans and victims (white man’s story [absolutely no disrespect intended, just trying to make a point]) and the atrocities they lived through, but very rarely do we hear the stories about the takeover of Aboriginal lands, which are just as atrocious. And for these story telling people who relive it every time the story is told there is no closing the book and picking it up again when they’re ready, they hold this in their heads and hearts forever. We should never underestimate the pain that is relived every time they tell the stories of the takeover of their land and the removal of their human rights.

Australian Indigenous history is very confronting, but for reconciliation to occur we must continue to acknowledge the injustices that occurred. This is essential for several reasons: so this ugly history is not forgotten and history doesn’t repeat itself; and to keep pushing for self-determination for Aboriginal people. They identified this is a priority need for them and it is our role as leaders to support them to achieve this.

It is encouraging to see that racism is decreasing with each generation and can only hope that this continues to be the case with each passing generation having more respect, understanding and acceptance than the last.

After all, we’re all only human doing the best we can with what we have available to us at the time.

Amy Sylvester, 2019 Participant

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