Local fires are burning

Local fires are burning
Simon Harvey

Following the failed 2023 Referendum there is a sense that, while the dust of bitter discussion has settled, the fire for ever deeper “reconciliation” with our Indigenous peoples is burning even brighter.

The ongoing Yoorook Justice Commission and the coming months of celebration and commemoration are emblematic of this feeling. May 26 is National Sorry Day. Since 1998 this day has been a reminder of how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were “stolen” from their parents through a cruel and ignorant assimilationist policy.

May 27 to June 3 is National Reconciliation Week. The theme for 2024 is Now More Than Ever, a reminder to all of us that no matter what, the fight for justice and the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people must continue. 

July 7 to 14 is NAIDOC week. The theme is Keep the Fire Burning! Blak, Loud and Proud.

Locally the Kensington Reconciliation Action Group (KRAG) has been meeting and stoking the fire. Since mid-2022, in anticipation of the 2023 Referendum, KRAG has been a meeting place for those with a passion for reconciliation.

In October 2022, the KRAG joined the Kensington Association petition to City of Melbourne to have “culturally sensitivity statements” displayed to explain the “Honour Boards” in Kensington Town Hall conference room.

The City of Melbourne consulted with the Woiwurrung and Bunurong Elders, who supported the inclusion of cultural statements and moving the boards into a less used room. It was an important symbolic local initiative (reported on by Kate Kennedy in the April 2023 edition of North West City News). KRAG will continue to advocate for truth telling and action in this space. The displays will be further refined with the council soon to take back the management.

During the past year KRAG joined Reconciliation Victoria and other “rec” groups leading to the Referendum. We screened the film Still We Rise about the establishment of the “Tent Embassy” in Canberra. KRAG received a grant from the City of Melbourne to support YES campaign events.

We attempted to listen to a range of views in the community leading to the Referendum through round table “Together Yes” conversations during NAIDOC week in July 2023. During September and October, we joined the electorate of Maribyrnong in door knocking in support of the YES campaign.

Following the unsuccessful Referendum it was as if our “flame” – though never extinguished – stood still. In November we held a debrief and reflection for the KRAG community at The Venny where we shared our disappointments and hopes.

So far in 2024 our fires are clearly burning. In March during Cultural Diversity Week, the KRAG community and Kensington Neighbourhood House hosted a wonderful Ngarra – Dance Workshop with Djirri DjirriCultural Services, celebrating dance in culture. This will be extended further on May 14 in the lead-up to National Reconciliation Week, with a Wurundjeri cultural discussion led by Djirri Djirri. Then on July 9 during NADIOC Week, KRAG will host a community gathering to reflect on our learning from the preceding year. In the Referendum, Melbourne, and Kensington in particular, returned one of the highest “YES” votes in Australia, so there is a much to process.

Other nearby happenings include an event on June 3 at Flemington Library from 6.30pm to 7.30pm with Indigenous writer John Morrissey when he will investigate colonialism, identity, and experiences of First Peoples, as per his remarkable debut collection of short stories, Firelight.

Further afield in Coburg, Merri-Bek Council is holding an event called Let’s Talk Treaty on May 23 from 6pm to 8pm at the Coburg Civic Centre.

Any interested reader who would like to participate in KRAG activities can contact Esther Sadek at Kensington Neighbourhood House – 9376 6366, or email. •


Simon Harvey on behalf of KRAG and Kensington Association

The Bridal Lament opens at Arts House

The Bridal Lament opens at Arts House

May 15th, 2024 - Georgie Atkins
Like us on Facebook