On ANZAC eve, Wednesday 24th April, some 30 people of aboriginal and non-indigenous descent gathered at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture for reflection and a creative wreath making workshop, plus yarning about how best to commemorate Aboriginal lives lost during colonization including battles, acts of resistance as well as open and covert massacres. ‘This was a wonderful group connecting with communities in a safe place to share knowledge’ commented one participant.
Ngambri elder Shane Mortimer welcomed the group with an ochre sprinkling. Frontier Wars specialist Arrernte elder Chris Tomlin shared how Central Desert peoples were less affected by the genocidal effects of cultural fracturing and are taking a leading role in the healing process. Chris explained, ‘To understand that we have a past that’s built on genocide and slaughter is something we must come to terms with and learn about .That way we can grieve and heal and move forward together. At the moment it’s all hidden secrets. We need to heal this country and to heal the country we need to heal the people and to heal the people we need to look right back into our past and go from there.’
The grouped looked at how the rightful memorial and the pain of Australia’s military losses were validated and commemorated on days such as ANZAC Day under the Lest We Forget ode, yet our nation struggled to find an equivalent place of dignity for its war dead first peoples, on their country.
After lunch wreaths were made from fresh Australian native flowers incorporating the hand made Desert Pea Frontier Wars memorial flower and handmade Flanders poppies.
Refreshing aromas of eucalyptus filled the room as people worked and chatted. Ribbon tributes were signed over good conversations.
Next day, several of the wreaths were laid in non-military time at the Australian War Memorial stone of remembrance. Laying the tributes in public time respects the ANZAC space and is a further reminder that these losses remain outside of Australian military history, and an increasing contingent of mourners still wander the land looking for a place to commemorate. Amongst the workshop group were a number of indigenous peoples who had ‘never been given the opportunity to publicly grieve’. One woman reflected, ‘It feels so good to be able to do this finally after so many years stranding in the Lest We Forget space as one of the forgotten’ … and she fastened some hand made poppies next to the blood red desert peas in a ring of pungent eucalyptus. More on this journey of remembering and healing on Facebook @ desetpeabloodflower.
BY REVEREND HAZEL DAVIES