On returning home from Canberra I've found the events of the last few days have left me with a mixture of feelings. Overwhelmed, honoured, humbled I feel words entirely inadequate to express the experience.
Later in the day I walked down to the shops wearing a T shirt with the word THANKS printed boldly on the front. People were going about their business in the usual way. I wondered whether anything had changed for them. A few days earlier in conversation with a woman who told me of her lost family, I tried to imagine a white family in this situation - a family that lived in a community where all the babies were taken. Not just by anyone but by the police and the welfare. Who would one turn to if the authorities stole the babies? I learnt how some of the women would make a small incision in the babies skin, so that if the baby was taken they would be able to identify their child by this scarred mark. I thought about an email I received some months ago about a 6 year old white boy who had disappeared on his way home from school – I remembered all the publicity about this – the shock, horror and outrage in the community. Yet by contrast the wails and sobs of aboriginal families were never heard. I cannot express what I felt. I am truly sorry for what happened in my lifetime.
On Wednesday we rose early to take the bus to parliament. Entering through the Prime Minister’s entrance we were greeted by Kevin Rudd where he stood together with his wife Theresa and Jenny Macklin shaking the hand of every single one of the 300 or so invited elders. Shuffled down the long corridors through security checks, into lifts siphoned off into the various galleries or for the few the floor of the chamber. And as each of the former PM’s entered the chamber we stood and clapped. The PM walked in we rose in one and applauded. Preliminaries attended to he then began to speak. It was riveting. Around the galleries and on the floor people wiped their eyes. Some crumpled and wept openly, some fixed their stare. Silence listening silence. And then the words! Cheers, applauds! And to the opposition, Brendan Nelson stood. I thought to myself just say YES. No more was necessary. To the end we all stood together to applaud this great moment. A gathering for morning tea politicians everywhere and the press….families, friends, hugs, laughter, tears all together. An hour or more passed we were gathered up and bussed to the tent embassy for lunch.Everyone was relaxed, the music played and the rain didn’t fall.
That evening at dinner the mood was bouyant lighthearted, chatting, and friendly, a weight had been lifted. Groups of women got up and sang in their native language. We were honoured to have Bob Randall with us, who sang My brown skin baby they took him away…………….this time I heard all the words, not just the music. And now back in Sydney, I feel a shift in myself, a shift I hope in the Australian consciousness and so much to do.