Michael Corbett, Queensland Regional Meeting
At the beginning of the Standing Committee Meeting on the 21st January, I offered my owns words from heart as follows.
In 5 days’ time it will be the 26th January – Australia Day – celebrated to millions but not by me, I recognise this as Invasion Day.
I don’t blame the First Fleeters, they were under orders to invade, conquer and settle. This was before human rights, land rights and social justice – the terms had not been invented. The blame and shame of this invasion rests with the countless generations that have followed, from the First Fleet to today. Friends, we share this blame.
I then read the Acknowledgement of Country from the Australia Yearly Meeting Handbook of Practice and Procedure which reads:
Quakers in Australia acknowledge that we live and worship on the land of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, country that gives them physical and spiritual identity and is filled with the spirit presence of their ancestors.
The sovereignty of Australia’s First Peoples over the land we inhabit.
That land was taken from them at devastating cost, with no just resolution.
That this trauma is ongoing and diminishes us all.
That our testimonies call on us to be in right relationships with all people, the land and our environment.
Therefore, we seek in our daily lives:
To educate ourselves about the history and the present reality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and uphold their right to self-determination.
To acknowledge within ourselves, and bring into the light, that which contributes to the debilitating effects of racism, lack of awareness and misrepresentation.
To work towards justice and peace, and healing or us all.
I am convinced that any acknowledgement of Country should come from the heart, not just a “token” offering similar to what one sees on TV, just before the news. It is almost mechanical and without any feeling. I did receive comments of support for my offering and it started a reaction from our Friend Liz Field of NSW RM. Liz had been to an exhibit in a museum and sent me a copy of the secret instructions given to James Cook in 1768 by the British Admiralty before his voyages of ‘discovery’ into the South Pacific, and was used in her giving an Acknowledgement of Country. I thought you would be interested to read this.
You are likewise to observe the Genius, Temper. Disposition and Number of Natives, if there be any and endeavour by all proper means to cultivate a Friendship and Alliance with them, making them presents of such trifles as they may value inviting them the Traffic, and Shewing them every kind of Civility; taking Care however not to suffer yourself to be surprised by them, but to be always upon your guard against any Accidents.
You are also with the consent of the Natives to take Possession of Convenient Situations in the Country in the name of the King of Great Britain: Or: If you find the Country uninhabited take possession for his Majesty be setting up Proper Marks and Inscriptions, as first discovers and possessors.
National Library of Australia.
In Liz Fields’ words, ‘Sadly, we know that the country was inhabited but the was no consent given: so in the words of a Darug Elder
These words mean “Always was, always will be Darug land”.
Liz went on to say that these words have been reiterated in many First Nations lands and languages around Australia. We acknowledge the truth of these words and hope to continue to stand alongside Aboriginal people as they seek justice, acknowledgement and restitution for the harm done to them and their country by colonisation.