I acknowledge that we are gathered here today on Jinibara country. This land includes the Blackall Range and the Glasshouse Mountains and extends out to Woodford, Kilcoy, Toogoolawah and south towards Mt Nebo. On behalf of the MVA I pay my respects to all Jinibara people and elders past, present and future and their ongoing connection to this land.
On this point I want to acknowledge Noel Blair, Ken Murphy and Edna van Hemmen, elders of the Jinibara people. I have the great privilege of crossing paths with Uncle Noel and Uncle Kenny at the Woodford Folk Festival each year and each year I get to watch as their children and grandchildren grow up. I want to acknowledge the important work that they do in ensuring that the next generation of Jinibara kids are connected to their country and their culture.
This land we stand on today, The Blackall Range, is a special place. Baroon Pocket was one of the sites of the bunya feasts hosted by the Jinibara people. This is a place where aboriginal people would gather from across South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales to share food, conduct important business and resolve conflicts. It is with the greatest respect to this spirit of gathering that we come here today and honour this history.
Each year we gather to commemorate Australia Day. It is a time to reflect on our history and contemplate what it means to be Australian and who we want to be.
The 26th of January marks the landing of Captain Arthur Phillip in Sydney Cove in 1788 and the beginning of the penal Colony of New South Wales. This date marks the beginning of a long process of colonisation that culminated in the formation of the Australian nation, a land of opportunity, the working man’s paradise, on the 1st January 1901.
For the many Indigenous peoples of this land this date marks the failure to recognise the sovereign rights of the Indigenous people as owners of this land and the beginning of a process of invasion, violent dispossession, trauma and survival.
This has created a chasm between the understanding, experience and perspectives of the colonists and indigenous people. To become a mature and truly inclusive nation we need to bridge this chasm.
As Australians we have inherited our history, we cannot change it. We do however have a responsibility to hear truths that are not our own, recognise the injustices of the past and ensure they are not perpetuated in the future.
Which brings me to our theme which, this year, is “Our Community, Our Future”.
We have the power to determine how we act within our families and our community. It is through our everyday actions and decisions within our communities that we shape the type of Australia we want to live in.
So what sort of Australia do you want to live in? When I think about the Australia, I want to live in, I think about the values that my husband and I tried to instil in our kids. These are the values I want to see enacted in Australia.
- Be respectful and courteous to all people, even those you disagree with. (Argue the idea, not the person, use evidence, not personal attack). Remember, people who disagree with you are people too.
- Your experience is not the only experience – always try to understand where someone else is coming from.
- Be responsible, speak up if something is not right – if you can’t change something yourself, reach out to someone who can help.
- Look out for each other, make sure other people are OK.
- Contribute, work out where you can make a difference and do it .
This is not an exhaustive list and by no means did I manage to enact all these principles consistently with my children.
So what has this to do with our community and our future?
We do not know exactly what the future holds. However, there are some challenges we will have to contend with:
- We are in an age of rapid technological change. How will these changes influence the way we work and how we live?
- We have an ageing community. How are we going to meet the needs of this large group of people in ways that value people and respect their dignity?
- The potential impacts of Climate Change. Rising temperature, severe weather events, rainfall pattern changes, sea level rise, vegetation changes, bushfires in rainforests that we thought could never burn and changes in the areas where we will be able to grow food. How will we respond to these challenges?
- As a country we have not yet recognised within our constitution Indigenous people as the first people of this country. How will Indigenous voices be heard in our institutions and mechanisms of government? How will we listen to what Indigenous Australians need to say and what we need to hear?
- How will we deal with migration and refugees in a way that is just and humane?
To address these issues, we need community that works. A cohesive community that can identify our own issues and work together to find appropriate solutions. A cohesive community that is able to face the uncertainties and challenges that the future holds.
So, what does a socially cohesive community look like? It is a community where we:
- protect people from life’s risks;
- can trust that our neighbours and institutions of the State will work towards a better future for themselves and families;
- strive for greater inclusiveness and opportunities to participate on an equal footing in civic and economic life;
- provide opportunities for upward mobility through equitable access to quality education.
These are essential building blocks for social cohesion. They give our community the resilience and the capacity to face the uncertainties and challenges of a swiftly changing future.
To build a socially cohesive and resilient community the one thing we need more than any other is to recognise the fundamental humanity in one another other.
We need to recognize that:
- we all have the same needs and desires
- we all want to be taken seriously, to be heard
- we want to connect with others and to belong
- and we want to be respected and loved.
When we act in ways that are kind, compassionate and respectful to others we build understanding and trust. We also build a strong and resilient foundation for ourselves and for the future of our children and grandchildren.
I leave you to contemplate today what type of community you want, what does your preferred future look like and how are you contributing to that future?
Deb Davis, President, MVA