I have been connected with the WRN pretty much from its beginning. I was very happy when Elaine Telford, one of the coordinators of “Australians for Reconciliation” in NSW, a federal government program, along with a few others initiated the WRN. I attended a powerful first meeting in the State Library of NSW in 1997. It seemed timely to have women connect with each other, listening to and learning from their Aboriginal sisters and hopefully make a significant contribution on the path to real reconciliation and justice.
Being part of an international human development organisation committed to a one world perspective (the ICA, Institute of Cultural Affairs) and coming from a country like Germany with its immediate need of coming to terms with its recent horrific past after WWII , I was quite aware of the challenges of change. It takes courage to face the past truthfully, develop relationships of respect and equality and start building new systems that would reflect that.
I kept abreast of what the WRN was doing and developing and attended occasional meetings while more engaged on the local level in Western Sydney as well as consulting and training, including with Aboriginal communities and organisations. Along with a few others, my husband and I had founded “Reconciliation for Western Sydney” at the same time in 1997 that also is still going now. Next to our other voluntary and professional engagements it took quite a bit of time to develop and expand it, connect with other organisations and people in the same field of endeavours and provide opportunities for the community at large to learn from Indigenous people, such as our annual “Building Bridges” course with Indigenous presenters that we have offered since 1988 in different forms.
I am glad and grateful for the way the WRN, in spite of weathering some storms- particularly through conservative governments and denialists- kept going with its deep commitment and attracted new people while others moved on or died. My lifeblood is in this, even when time restraints and other commitments to justice and the wellbeing of our world often make my direct participation difficult.
I believe that the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the way it came about and is continued by wonderful people across the nation, sets a trustworthy platform for a new relationship based on taking Voice, Treaty and Truth seriously. It is an opportunity towards justice for Indigenous nations and for all convicts, invaders and old settlers along with more recent migrants that we are part of, to receive some integrity for being here and being welcomed to coming home in a continent that indeed did not belong to us or any white forefathers. It is high time for change, with no minute to spare.
The time is now and if we, the “People’s Movement”, invited by the Uluru Statement from the Heart and its follow-up workers and heroes and supported by our Aboriginal Sisters and (most) Brothers keep at it, our government will indeed have to follow. According to my personal experience as well as public research the population is more ready to pursue this path now than it ever has been. It is coming closer to the bone and also to the heart, I sense.
Hopefully rather sooner than later, the referendum is very likely to win, especially if we continue to (“humanly”) connect and converse with people of all kinds of background and previous “standpoints”. We need to believe in our “power” as citizens in order to address their “power”. We definitely cannot wait for “them” to hand power to us, even if it is called “empowerment”. In fact any “us and/versus them” thinking is outdated, the future calls for something else, from each one of us and on all levels of life and society.
Hurrah for WRN- May it blossom in hope and effective action, in the midst of struggle and even actual pain on the way.