Reconciliation : Becoming Friends Again
May 27, 2018
On the first weekend that Australia has officially marked a Reconciliation Day and (in Canberra) given it the importance of a public holiday, we felt it mattered greatly to gather our Kaleidoscope community for an afternoon of learning and honouring.
One of the marks, the intentions of the wider Benedictus Community that hosts Kaleidoscope, is Reconciliation. It matters deeply that we are all on the journey of reconciliation at many levels – personally, spiritually, communally and in understanding what it means to participate in the reconciliation of the peoples of our country. Our Kaleidoscope afternoon was about exploring what this means for children.
Here is how we explained this theme:
Today we are thinking about Reconciliation. We are thinking about this because today is National Reconciliation Day – the first time in Australia that we have had a special day to remember the importance of the Aboriginal People of our county. For thousands of years, countries all over the world have wanted to count the people that live in their country. When white people first came to Australia, they only counted the white people who lived here. This was very hurtful to Aboriginal people. It was not inclusive at all. But 51 years ago, on this date, laws were passed to say that Aboriginal people would now be counted too. Laws were passed to say that Aboriginal people would be treated more fairly.
This is something to celebrate! It marked a good beginning in Australia’s journey with Reconciliation. Aboriginal people are the first Australians. All other Australians, of any skin colour or from any country, live on Aboriginal land. As we learn to live together in harmony, we can learn from each other, celebrate culture and acknowledge the history of this beautiful country.
The most important way we can live peacefully with each other is to listen to each other. We all have a story to tell and we need to hear each other. Sometimes when we hear someone else’s story, we realise there is something to be sad about as well as glad about.
Reconciliation means to become friends again. Friends listen to each other and honour each other. They learn to accept all the parts of each other’s stories. In our country we want there to be friendship between all people, especially the first Australians. We want to be able to tell and hear the stories, hear the sadness and the gladness and be friends. In our own lives we want there to be friendship between all of us – the people in our family, our schools and our communities.
Honouring each other
The children in our community with Aboriginal heritage or connections were given the opportunity to share. It was good to hear some of their stories.
We learned how a family with an adopted baby is helping her learn her Aboriginal family’s language – Wiradjuri. We practised a few words together. At the end of our afternoon we used the Wiradjuri word for goodnight, to farewell each other: “marang ngurung”
We heard a little of the story of two sisters whose Aboriginal mum lives in a different place. They told us that she is a great artist and that they think their drawing skills are inherited from her. They described one of her pictures for us. They shared that they feel glad to be part of more than one family.
What we love about our country
As always in our Gathering Circle, we respond to a particular question. Today we each shared what we love or value about our country Australia. Many thoughtful responses were given:
“I like that this is a country where people are free to be themselves.”
“I am glad that we are safe here.”
“I like that our country has so many unique animals.”
“I love all the trees we have that don’t grow anywhere else.”
“I love how big our sky is.”
“I like that different people can all live together here.”
“I just love that Kaleidoscope is in our country.”
“I like the school here, that there are lots of different schools.”
“I am glad that there are no slaves here.”
“I like how much freedom there is.”
“I love that we are surrounded by water and have so many beaches.”
“I like that we accept each other here.”
Reconciliation, becoming friends again, relies on us being able to say sorry to each other when we need to and being able to forgive each other when we need to. Janet Holmes’ book ‘Blue Sky, Yellow Kite’ wonderfully captures this message for children. The story tells of one child taking the kite belonging to another child, realising that this was wrong, returning the kite and saying sorry, and then having the forgiveness of the other child shown through being helped to make a kite of her own.
We talked about this story and what it is like to say sorry, to forgive and be forgiven. We acknowledged how important this is for friendships, for peace. Then we all made kites of our own, a little like the ones in the story, and flew them together outside.
A traditional craft of many Aboriginal peoples is the carving and painting of clapping or message sticks. These sticks are then used as part of ceremonies and songs, often to accompany the playing of a didgeridoo. They could also be used to convey messages. We celebrated this ancient tradition by decorating some clapsticks of our own… and playing them with great gusto! (They are louder than you might expect!)
Reconciliation – It’s Up To Us
This message, though simple, is powerful and is at the heart of the call to create wholeness and a spirit of acceptance and inclusivity in our country. Reconciliation begins with the attitude of each individual and the spirit in which we each choose to relate. Our posters captured this message through the image of hands of different sizes and colours reaching towards each other.
‘Say Yes: A story of Friendship, Fairness and a Vote for Hope’
(by Jennifer Castles & Paul Seden) is a powerful book, set in 1967, the year of the referendum. It tells the story of two little girls – one Aboriginal, one non-Aboriginal and their delightful friendship. These little girls want to go to the pool, the cinema and school together, but are shocked to discover they are not allowed, that there is a law excluding the Aboriginal girl from such places. They cannot believe how unfair this is! They then learn that there is to be a vote so that people can say ‘YES’ to changing such laws, say ‘YES’ to counting Aboriginal people as part of the Australian population. It is a story with great impact. As they listened, children exclaimed ‘But that’s not fair! That is so racist!’ They understood that this was never the way things should have been.
May we have a generation of children who grow up with open hearts and open minds, able to participate in the work of reconciliation in our country.