Newcastle City launch of the Yes23 campaign

Newcastle City launch of the Yes23 campaign by Ros Madden and Tracy DeGeer

Hundreds of supporters gathered in Gregson Park, Hamilton to attend the Newcastle launch of the Yes23 campaign on 26 February. A beautiful welcome to country was followed by children dancing, didgeridoo music and, towards the end, enthusiastic speeches by local politicians from three levels of government. The highlights however were the speeches, the first from Luke Russell, Wylaa Buuranliyn, and Chairperson of the Guraki Aboriginal Advisory Committee to the Newcastle City Council.

Sean Gordon, a Wangkumarra/Barkindji man and signatory of the Uluru Statement, gave the keynote address. He shared with a spellbound audience his personal story. Unforgettably, his people were shipped, in 1938, hundreds of kilometres from their country to Brewarrina, where Sean was later born and grew up in an orphanage on the old Brewarrina mission. If you have ever wondered how this could have been done, here is how Sean’s people were moved. One day as school finished, the children were told to get into the back of a truck. When their mothers came to pick them up from school, they were told if they wanted to keep their children, to get into the back of a truck. When the men came home (many from working on farms and stations on their own country), they were told that, if they wanted to keep their family together, to get into the back of a truck. Then off the trucks went, hundreds of kilometres away to Brewarrina. 1938 was, of course, just before Australians went off to fight Nazis in a war which also resulted in people being shipped away to be corralled in camps and given numbers to replace their names. Sean had much more to say of course, about his life and his work and why he supports the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament and executive government. Inspirational! A privilege to hear his story – a story that should be known by all Australians. 

The launch was a meticulously organised event; there was also a popular sausage sizzle courtesy of the unions, a van dispensing excellent free coffee courtesy of Newcastle City Council, and Yes23 badges and stickers – forerunners of the merchandise to come on the national Yes23 website. It was also a great opportunity for networking and conversations among participants.

Ros Madden (NSAUS) and Tracy de Geer (WRN and Voice from the Heart Alliance)