Reconciliation only on white terms?

Akarna Bowers, Sale


THE outcome of councillor Carolyn Crossley’s motion to remove the McMillan cairns from our community is a tragedy.

We didn’t have a majority vote to “save” history, we voted to oppose reconciliation.

I listened to a lot of presumptuous rhetoric which, amidst other arguments, supposed that the Gunaikurnai people don’t “need” us to remove the cairns for reconciliation in Wellington.

There’s even been suggestions that our First Peoples should simply be satisfied with the acts of reconciliation which the community is willing to give, in an unthinking and indifferent gesture of negotiating reconciliation only on white terms.

National Reconciliation Week was just four weeks ago, and yet it is crystal clear that there are people on our local council and within our community who don’t actually understand the intent required behind reconciliation.

After reading clich̩ rants on social media about how our Aboriginal community should simply get over the evil and deliberate genocide of their ancestors, it is also obvious that much of Wellington needs to undertake a crash course in cultural awareness Рand respect.

White history is not more important than black history.

Our precious history of colonial expansion does not have more significance than the Gunaikurnai’s oral memory of their displacement and suffering which they endured (and are still enduring) because of the British invasion of their tribal lands.

I know this will be hard for some of you to read, but the world does not just contain white people, with minorities existing only on the fringes of our society.

We do not matter more than everyone else, simply because we are greater in numbers.

The Gunaikurnai people have told us how they want to be reconciled with, and it’s now up to us to demonstrate that we really mean it when we claim that we want to work together.

They should not have to accept reconciliation on our terms only – and nor should we expect them to.

We white people must realise that we cannot control reconciliation, and that our Western versions of it are both often insincere, inadequate and unwanted.

We need to destroy the McMillan cairns because Aboriginal deaths matter.

We need to destroy the cairns because Aboriginal people are part of our community.

Everyone in our community requires consideration, not just those of us who feel that a murderous white explorer deserves glorification.

We need to be kind.

I, for one, will not let this go.

The lost motion is a setback, not a failure.

A heart-warming 55 per cent of 239 respondents by the time of the fateful council meeting were supportive of removing the McMillan cairns in consideration of his crimes against Aboriginal people.

Change is insistent on happening, and a time is coming when nothing will hold it back.

We only have to keep trying.