Notes from Garma: Day 2

At first light I was woken by the familiar sound of the blue-winged kookaburra. There is a distinct difference in the call of this kookaburra, it doesn’t laugh like other kookaburras. Its sound is closer to the call of the northern curlew, without the distinct rhythms displayed by its southern and eastern cousins.

With my first breath, I felt the suffocation of the city lift. I am still coming to terms with living in Sydney full time. Being on Country and being outdoors will always be the place I can truly be myself.

Gulkula is the home of Garma, a spiritual home to many of the Yolgnu. Garma is the meeting place where cultural protocol takes precedent over all other agendas.

I unzipped my tent and was greeted by the gentle embrace of smoke drifting across camp from fires that continually burn. Fires are the heartbeat of the festival. Where there is fire there is life, laughter and conversation.

Friday was going to be a massive day. After nine months of hard work, community consultation and personal investment from a variety of people, the ‘Creating Parity’ review was about to be released in the heart of Sydney’s west.

I spent an extra 10 minutes that morning just composing my thoughts and being still. I knew we were about to be met with a cyclone of media and community interest. We had all been waiting for the release of the review.

While feeling a sense of disappointment that I was not in Sydney supporting the team that day, I knew that being in Gulkula – on Country, with red soil seeping into my heels – was equally as important.

The fog had barely lifted over the escarpment that stretches down to the ocean when the trails of media begin to hit. At Garma, the review became a central part of the campfire conversations and was discussed at almost every table in the communal dining area.

The recommendations were dissected by traditional and online media outlets, local radio, morning TV and discussed at every interested breakfast table and water cooler across the country.

I felt a great sense of relief once all our hard work was finally out in the open. We are all now be part of the conversations around the review’s recommendations and the national movement towards ending the disparity.

There is no doubt in my mind that serious change is required to see our Mob rise from the suffocation of welfare, which for multiple generations has done nothing more than entrap so many of our people in trauma and unemployment.

The review’s recommendations offer a window of hope that opens to parity.

There is no single recommendation more valuable than the other. However, a complicated web of previously failed policies must be undone. For real change to happen, community has to be a key driver. It must be an echo of voices from the people that these recommendations will affect.

Within my own family, I have asked the question: ‘What future do you want for your children and grandchildren?’

I have also asked myself that question.

I want my children to have the best opportunity in education, something that I failed to achieve. I want them to live in a world where Indigenous excellence is the norm.

I want for them to be able to pursue their dreams and know that racial policies of the past will not impede their lives and their success. I want them to be able to go home to Country and know that no matter where they travel or how long they are away, their country will always be just that: their country. I want that knowledge to travel with them no matter where they go.

As the dust settles on the release of the review, community conversation and leadership will be critical. We must listen to voices from across Australia, we must be prepared to talk about the recommendations with the view that to create parity we must be bold and ambitious in our approach to change.

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