During Reconciliation Week in 2022, Deborah shared her poems with Women’s
Reconciliation Network. Her poems were her reflections eight months after the government
said ‘Sorry’ on 13 February 2008, and fourteen years later, in 2022.
Eight months on, still sorry
Day of atonement, a blip in empty space
a wilderness that held us in awe,
a paradise to steal from the ‘noble savage’
so we poisoned their waterholes, used their women,
took the ‘half-caste’ away, worked them for rations,
their outreached hand yearned for understanding
with their tales writ on the land, painted on canvas
with symbols alien to our eyes,
so we sent the anthropologists and musicologists
to the bush to find the translation,
then we harvested their art designs for a profit,
ignoring their meaning … we gathered the smoke of the gum leaves
onto our faces, usurping their ritual blessing with hardened hearts,
and still we turned our heads away, biding our time,
their stories of pain falling on deaf ears,
but behind the façade was a cry
from the depths that rang in our ears,
disturbed our restful slumber,
left us no peace until we turned around and listened …
some of us struggled to retrace our steps
and remember where we stumbled whilst in the throes
of founding a nation, where in the groove of history
we could pick ourselves up, and begin to set things right,
and so it was, in Canberra,
alongside screens from across the globe,
where many eyes focused on this fateful day to witness
a new national leader seize the first opportunity
to begin his regime with one word
offered to those who were hardly a blip in empty space,
and bound to be bred out and consigned to oblivion!
on this day, our peace offering began with one word
that reverberated from beyond the grave to the living.
what past, what present, what future
could be conceived
with a simple acknowledgement
that realises, that to trample on our first people’s rights
would sow the seeds of our own destruction,
for they are at the core of our collective soul —
theirs was the gift of oneness with the land;
oneness with the Spirit.
with one word that creates a ray of hope,
that respects their sacred presence in our midst,
oh what a mighty word this has become
to begin Australia’s healing;
their song lines now await
our spiritual re-birth!
Time to hear their silenced voices
Still water runs deep, silenced rocks speaking now,
disclosing ancient foot trails enduringly inscribed on Country
storying stolen land and stolen people who managed to survive.
Tear-drenched survivors evoked relief, yearning to be free of the ghost
of the past, aching to heal and forgive past transgressions
when at long last, they heard the word, ‘Sorry’,
a powerful word that symbolised so much,
uttered in a ritual inside the halls of Parliament.
Faith and hope were rescued from the dark recesses of the soul.
And years had gone by.
Alas, the word with so much promise had been ensnared,
trapped as a vacant sign, utterly emptied of meaning
for it failed to bind wounds or shift intractable
tiered ways of seeing.
The time has now come for the Voice of Truth to ring loud
and awaken the dead cells of the nation’s hearing.
We await Peace to come with its blessings
when the original people of this land can walk the land once more
with pride and dignity so that they can truly welcome us all,
new settlers to walk with them and hear their Voice
that will shape our becoming a future together —
embracing and nurturing Country with peace and joy.
(Note: Written a few years after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology to First Nations Australians on behalf of the Australian Government)
You say we are all equal.
You say we need to learn to listen.
But some voices are heard like a gong;
others muted, silenced by possessors
of stolen and un-ceded land.
Voices unheard echo in the wind
From the horrors of the blood-stained land,
History white-washed by new arrivals
who say we are all equal.
How do we learn to seize the shadow
that lurks from the past and hear the whispers
from the light breeze like thunderous voices,
hear the unheard, see the unseen
if the chains of the besieged
remain impenetrable and invisible to us?
The entitled say, bury the past,
stop rocking the boat, rip off the black arm band.
Ancient people still colonised, unrecognised
are standing here right now
offering a pathway for all of us to heal
and hear the repressed voices
from our Motherland.
Faith in humankind disintegrates
when trust is lost because pride, power,
subjugation have assumed sovereignty, muted
and oppressed the vulnerable.
Yes, colonisation has stripped many of dignity,
stolen their name and identity,
badly bruised the land and rivers
that breathed our earthly home.
An outcry for the muted Voice of the first peoples
is mounting now like crushing oceanic waves
in the stillness of the night.
When else will the hard of heart listen to the wailing
of mothers and children of a Dream,
whose hearts were broken,
torn apart from one generation to the next,
if we keep smashing peacemakers’ efforts
to bind the wounds that have kept us apart?
Our bloodline has crossed each other now
though we do not desecrate and forget
the truth of our becoming.
The blood spilt land remains witness to the birthing
and storying of its history, and never forgets.
Time is now to look deeper into what unifies our spirit
beyond the surface materialism of skin.
Not peace at any cost. But unblemished peace
that springs from the pure of heart,
from unconditional divine light and love
that began the spark of all life.
Time is now to break through the cloud of unknowing,
and let the winds of change blow for the good of all.
(Note: Written in anticipation of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s election promise to hold a Referendum to enshrine in the Constitution First Nations people’s Voice in Parliament)