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'Mail' Newspaper Articles

Focal Point (for publishing—15/04/08)

The Mechanics of Reconciliation

I am writing this just after the Shire’s of Yarra Ranges’ launch of its Reconciliation Strategy and Action Plan at the new Indigenous Meeting Place Garden in Healesville. It was great event with welcome to country, smoking ceremony, recognition of the elders – past and present, significant speeches by Shire personal and important Indigenous entities. This was capped off with a dance exhibition and a sausage sizzle put on by the SES. A number of speakers referred to what they believed to be the important elements in practical reconciliation. As I watched the proceedings and given that I was on the committee that brought this policy into being I wondered just what my role going forward might be. Then I met a former student from my days as Chaplain at the Worowa Aboriginal College and my musing was redirected. Yes, here was the future embodied in a young man who saw his role in his Indigenous community as vital for the survival of his culture and the mutual respect and understanding necessary for our two cultures to survive in a ‘One Australia’. 
Mechanically, for this policy to succeed, members of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities will have to actively pursue the goals set out in the document. Now if you are saying well that’s all well and good but I never really get to meet with Indigenous people. I say, visit Healesville sometime and meet some of them. Or ring the Shire and talk to Garry Detez the Indigenous Support Officer or call into the Oonah Learning Centre and meet some of the bright and inspiring young students. At the launch they were making a documentary record of the event on film and conducting interviews. More broadly speaking, reconciliation ‘with legs’, is one of mutual support towards better understanding of cultural ways. Just today on radio I heard talk about the need for the ‘housed’ people to try to walk in the shoes of the homeless. Yesterday’s topic was about the need for non-depressed members of our community to get to know a person struggling with depression and to try to walk a mile in their shoes. When we come together in this way we grow in our respect for and understanding of each other and of the particular way in which some feel disenfranchised. Of course this is the life Jesus modeled in His time here. Taking time to be a healing influence in people’s lives, standing along side strugglers, helping to bear the other’s burden and helping to alleviate pain. Being different or believing so does alienate and disenfranchise but it also allows otherwise healthy people to get involved in the healing process. Healing from us might just come from a ‘hello’ of recognition in the street although we can’t underestimate what a kick start to healing Kevin Rudd’s ‘sorry’ was.
In the words of the old Hawthorn footy coach great, John Kennedy, I say, “DO SOMETHING, don’t think, don’t dream, don’t plan to, DO SOMETHING and you will be able to say in the future, ‘I did something’”. Reconciliation needs mechanical legs.

Graeme Dawson 
Co-ordinator Focal Point & Valley Care Counsellor & Manager
Inter-Church Action 0409 517273.


Focal Point Yarra Valley 2009