Reconciliation – Listening to Stories
June 2, 2019
Today we thought about Reconciliation and what this means. Last week we marked Reconciliation Day – May 27. We talked about how Reconciliation means making friends again or restoring good relationships. In or country we need to make good relationships with the Aboriginal people, the people who are connected to the First Peoples of Australia. That can feel like a big thing for you or I to do – but reconciliation begins with being willing to learn and willing to be friends. Reconciliation begins with listening to stories – each other’s stories, the stories of our land and our country and all its peoples.
We are never young to learn about each other’s stories and to ask each other ‘How is life for you?’ Listening to each other’s stories begins by simply listening to the story of our family’s day, and the stories of how our friends are going and what they have been doing. It is also important to listen to bigger stories – the stories of cultures and peoples and our earth.
Today in the centre of our circle we had a new painting – a painting of the word ‘Yumalundi’. It was made by someone who is a friend of Kaleidoscope and who has Aboriginal heritage.
Yumalundi is the Ngunnawal word for ‘Hello, Welcome, it is good to see you and be together.’ We use this word as a greeting here, along with our other special word ‘Namaste – the light in me honours the light in you.’
In our Gathering Circle we told each other about someone in our lives whose story we like to hear; someone from whom we may have learnt something or whose story we enjoyed. These were some of the stories:
Hearing what my friends do on the weekends.
Hearing about other people’s families.
Finding out what my mum did when she was little.
Finding out when my mum started to love her favourite sport.
Hearing stories from friends from other countries.
Hearing how people in families help each other.
Finding out about people’s holidays in other places.
Our first story today was ‘Say Yes, A Story of Friendship, Fairness and a Vote for Hope’ (By Jennifer Castles & Paul Seden). This is a powerful story of how two little girls, the best of friends, became aware that they weren’t allowed to do everything together because they looked different, because of the laws preventing equality for Aboriginal Australians. Then there was the referendum and the hope that things would change. This is the date that Reconciliation Day marks.
Children made snap bands for their arms with the word ‘Reconciliation’ written on them. We all agreed that things that have been unfair in the past have to change. We agreed that Reconciliation was a good word – even if it was very long to write on our snap bands!!
We listened together to stories from two of our participants who wanted to share about their Aboriginal heritage and what it means to them. One of them showed us a beautiful painting. The goanna is her language group’s totem animal. We felt very honoured to see this painting and hear their stories.
Our next story was Kookoo Kookaburra (by Gregg Dreise). Written by an Australian Indigenous author, this story reminds readers that humour is something to share and enjoy not something to use to hurt others. It also contains two wise sayings which we all practised:
Kindness is like a boomerang – if you throw it often, it comes back often.
You have two eyes.
You have two ears.
You only have one mouth.
Look and listen twice as much as you speak.
We talked about why it always matters to be a good listener and to listen more than we speak. We talked about why this is especially important when it comes to reconciliation. It is REALLY important because listening is the only way to understanding and understanding leads to reconciliation – becoming friends again.
Children decorated maps of Australia and painted canvases…
We finished our time together with another wonderful book called ‘I am Human, A book of Empathy’ (By Susan Verde & Peter H Reynolds). This book describes what it means to be human – with the joys of play, wonder, friendship and possibilities as well as the struggles of sadness, hurt and worry. It reminds us that as humans we always have choices – we can choose to turn mistakes into opportunities, we can choose kindness to improve a day, we can choose forgiveness and peace, we can choose fairness and equality.
So may we choose to live, being fully human, fully alive, fully loved, trusting that our humanity is our gift, our very lives are held.
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.