Conveniently, the last week of lectures for my Indigenous Australia class overlapped with National Reconciliation Week. The week aims to bring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues to the forefront, while recognizing their culture and history. Over the course of the, er, course, we discussed the disadvantages and injustices faced by Indigenous Australians in the past and still today.
Sometimes the discussions were really depressing. These are people who have had their land stolen, were victims of what was essentially genocide, have had generations of children taken away from them, and are still fighting notions of being second-rate citizens. But this last week has been especially positive, focusing on recent changes and optimism for the future. The Sea of Hands really embodies that.
The Sea of Hands, which began in 1997, is a series of public art installations meant to symbolize support for reconciliation between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. People write their names on plastic hands (red, black and yellow like the Aboriginal flag; green and blue like the Torres Strait Islander flag; and blue, white and red like the Australian flag) and add them to designs across the country. Right now there is a display on the front lawn of Sydney Uni’s Great Hall.
The design seems to be a lizard and includes the word “Sorry” since in February the prime minister gave a national apology for the “Stolen Generations” of children taken by the government away from families.
We also learned about GetUp! which is an advocacy organization that supports a range of causes, including those of Indigenous Australians. The GetUp Mob remade a Paul Kelly song, “From Little Things Big Things Grow,” that makes a good point and has been stuck in my head since we heard it in lecture.
“It seems to me if we can imagine the injustice, then we can imagine the opposite. And we CAN have justice.”
Paul Keating, Redfern Speech 1992