“I am a proud Wadawurrung woman. Today is about peace among our people and to lead by good example to the rest of the world. To show that yes, peoples from different cultural backgrounds can work, live, grow and love together harmoniously as one body.

“This is not a battle of white versus black. This is not a battle of race versus race. This a battle of everyone against racism and discrimination specifically targeting our black brothers and sisters.

“Gathered here today, we reflect all the injustices we face and continue to face daily. Today’s protest is silent, as are our actions in standing together in solidarity – seeking bolder measures and not hateful words. But don’t mistake our silence for weakness. We have faced and triumphed so much in adversity. Nothing will silence us longer.”

Wadawurrung Traditional Owner, Macaylah Johnson – speech excerpt from at Black Lives Matter protest in Ballarat on Saturday 6 June 2020.

The world is in outrage. In the midst of a global pandemic, people have been marching and protesting. This outrage is squarely focused on the inequality faced by black people through racism and discrimination in predominantly white countries. Emotions are high and governments are grappling with how to tackle the issue.

In Australia, Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt has predicted a delay to the referendum on constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians. Minister Wyatt also said options for an Indigenous voice to parliament would be presented to the Government by November this year.

“Constitutional recognition is too important [to] rush and too important to fail. We will not be placing a timeline on this process,” Minister Wyatt said.

Australia is the only Commonwealth nation that does not have a treaty with its Indigenous people and is now potentially delaying progress to change our constitution and give Indigenous Australians a voice to Parliament. There is no doubt that this process is vital for our country and must continue.

So, what can we do here in Geelong? The response I have consistently heard from Indigenous Australians and from Wadawurrung is that we need to learn. We need to read, listen and respect Aboriginal cultural heritage.  

This year, one of the Leaders for Geelong projects is called ‘Promoting Djilang.’ Geelong was originally named after the local Aboriginal word Djillong, which is thought to mean “land” or “cliffs” or “tongue of land.” Wadawurrung approached the Committee for Geelong to work with the Leaders for Geelong program on a ‘Promoting Djilang’ project. As a result, we have already seen a collaboration with Villawood Properties with ‘Wadawurrung Country’ lettering now proudly standing on the Barrabool Hills above the Geelong Ring Road. At the launch, a smoking ceremony was performed by Corrina Eccles who said, “I know who I am, I know where I belong. I am Wadawurrung. This is my country, my family’s country, and the spirit of my people.”

Congratulations to the Leaders for Geelong team, Villawood Properties, the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners and Marsha Uphill from Arranyinha for bringing this initiative to life to raise awareness and celebrate Aboriginal culture and language.

Due to COVID-19, NAIDOC Week 2020 activities have been postponed for July. Why not commit to battling against racism and discrimination and take the time to learn about First Australians? As a start, watch First Australians via SBS On Demand and read www.CommonGround.org.au

Jennifer Cromarty
Chief Executive Officer
Committee for Geelong

Artwork: Aimee Howell.