May 26 is Sorry Day and I feel any day that impacts on our people is such a personal journey.
We might be drawn to rally, have moments of silence, express our
feelings through art or turn to other ways of allowing this tremendous
energy to run through us, which is usually misperceived by others.
Every community member is expressing their inter-generational wounds and
fears for the future in the way that feels right to them and this is
what the wider society needs to acknowledge and respect.
On top of the heavy sorry business that has ripped through communities
this year, we are then processing the additional grief of generations
both past, present and future.
Because this is what people of the land do
Not by choice but by our nature.
The grief process for our people is completely different to wider
society and these processes struggle to be compatible.
This is why sorry is never a true sorry.
Wider societies grieving process is separated into little sections,
with little titles, with expected time frames and socially acceptable
psychological and emotional attributions.
It is a blunt process based on words being the instigator for internal
processing and change.
If you say the right word or are told the right words, in the right
sequence, then you are expected to have a moment where you have “a
light bulb moment” and suddenly everything clicks and you are on your
way to recovering and reintegrating back into the emotional status quo
of wider society.
Our people, our community and our grief is significantly different.
All different mobs have their own ways to describe this but this is the
message I need to present to you all.
It is not based around words but directly on our senses. Whether we
realise this or not, as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,
our spirit, our senses flow with the seasons, with the flow of life.
To compartmentalize a community members grief, further stigmatizes our
people and our culture.
Imagine there is bushland right near the ocean. There is no one around,
the sand undisturbed, the trees standing and arching over, watching over
the landscape as the waves crash on the shore.
A fire occurs in late summer, destroying most of the bushland. In the
winter, a wild storm brutalizes the remaining bushland as the waves
crash viciously beyond the usual shore line. In the spring, with half
the demolition work already done, foot prints of man can been seen on
the shore as they stand there with a map, planning what will reside
where within the broken landscape in front of them.
They decide how long the construction will take, who will do it and
what will happen to the space in the future.
The land has had no time to recover from the fire, the shore line has
not had time to resettle, everything is now progressing, not according
to the seasons but according to the clock, to the watch the man wears.
To heal, the land needs to experience the other seasons, to be
supported by what the other seasons bring in and when the land is ready,
in the right season, new growth starts to sprout.
Nothing would stop the storm of the winter and some seasons come with
damage but it is allowing the forces of nature to work together that can
see the most weathered landscape flourish with fresh life.
However seasons and clocks are incompatible.
We cannot stand there at 11:59pm on November 30th and as soon as the
clock ticks to midnight, the temperature changes upwards instantly to a
hot balmy night.
After generations of trauma and the many years of a land unable to
regenerate, is it little wonder our community members carry so much
pain, so much grief and so much anger?
That our people look to process these inter-generational traumas and
land spirit imbalances in a confused state that usually ends in our
people being caught up with the law, in mental health wards and through
drugs and alcohol issues.
Wider society cannot comprehend our communities way of grieving because
they perceive emotions and behaviour as something that needs words to
That these words, when said in the right way in the right order, should
fix everything as they stare at their watch and daydream of somewhere
else they’d rather be.
As the men stand on the shore, scratching their heads as to the
unexpected storm that destroyed their box sized investments, they use
words to fix those emotions they had been taught get in the way of
And as they walk away, beneath the rubble in what was the foundations, a cheeky snake slivers out. Birds rest on the broken wood, waiting to spot a juicy bug to come out from the
slenders of green stems and leaves poking out from the rubble and there,
a big root is sticking out of the ground.
It leads to a tree that was away from where the construction used to
be, a tree that healed with the seasons.
Standing tall with generous branches reaching over to watch over the
landscape, knowing the past, breathing in the present and with much to
give in the future, to those who need it, regardless of how the season
has weathered them.
Entering into Reconciliation Week,
Wider society must reconcile with what lies behind their watches.
Our people all have the ability to reconcile with our inner landscape
and find our tree.
Though our grieving styles may currently be incompatible, everyone
knows the feeling of our great landscape.
Of our beaches, our red dirt, our ancient trees and rivers.
That feeling of space and serenity amongst the elements of any given
As decedents of our ancestors and Elders, our internal landscape
heritage is not your camping destination, your tourist attraction or
your new mining site.
Our land, our people, our internal landscape…
It’s Our Home!
By Nita Spedding.
Connect with Nita on Facebook here.
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