The painting was done in 1999 for me, and for all of us, by Letty Scott Napanunga, an Anmatyerra woman from the heart of this land recently known as ‘Australia’. On the death of her father who was, like me, Irish, the family fled but they were caught, and Letty, a small child, was stolen, taken off to some Christian institution for training as a domestic servant.
Years later, Letty’s married with a couple of kids, and her husband Doug, arrested for being drunk, apparently hangs himself in the infamous Berrima jail, in the Northern Territory. But by strange chance, police take not one but 2 sets of photos – I saw them – and in these 2 sets of police photos, the sheets are not the same. So Letty’s mission in life was justice, for her husband. After years of hard and incredibly brilliant work – she spoke at the United Nations in Geneva, she died of cancer, without achieving her aim.
In the lead-up to the Walk, we did many good things. Gatherings at ACRC’s place with songs and food and speeches, ceremony with fire, Aunty Joan Cooper and Aunty Dawn Colless speaking so clearly and kindly to lead us; the Ride for Respect, Aunty Dawn carrying the Olympic torch, Jacinta Tobin and Jonah’s Pride singing, little kids everywhere as in the Wagana dancers with Jo Clancy….. great beginnings. I filmed a lot of this, so I know, it was very good, as far as it went and that was a long way.
But my walk across Sydney Harbour Bridge was with a big question: How deeply do we mean this huge call for reconciliation? And is it reconciliation? Or treaty? What will work?As one friend here said yesterday: ‘We all had such great hopes. We thought it would lead to a treaty. I don’t think we knew really what that would involve.’ I asked: Do you think other things moved into our lives? and we kindof let them get on with it and thought it would be alright? He said, yes. For myself, I went back to N.Ireland for 10yrs, caring for my ageing parents and working for environment and when I came back I felt the sense of community purpose had scattered, dissipated.
But we’re 20 years on, we know so much more now. We’ve had so many world crises. The latest, Australia burning, and now The Virus, impending economic chaos. It tells me that the time has definitely come. I’ll be proud to do anything I can to help our first peoples take the place they so richly deserve, as our leaders, teachers, guides, helpers, friends and some day I hope, family. As Aunty Wadjula Binna told us, in ceremony after the GLObal Greens’ Conference in Canberra in 2001, It’s not going to be easy, we’re going to have to be strong. I think we can do it.