This is an article I wrote a few years ago and am now publishing on my blog – I have re-worded it slightly and added a few links to pump it up. Enjoy. JJ.
Through-out my high school years in Brisbane, my school had no Olympic sized pool, so swimming carnivals, swimming training and water polo were always held at the nearby Musgrave Park public pool. I recall a few Aboriginal people swimming at the pool, playing around and generally having fun in the sun. Some 20 years after leaving High School it has only recently occurred to me, there were no Aboriginal kids attending my high school. I never gave it any thought at the time, but now I wonder why we saw them at the park and in the pool, but never at school.
For 10 years I parked my car on the streets adjacent to Musgrave Park and walked through the park grounds to my work place on Melbourne Street in West End. I would often pass small gatherings of Aborigines, who to my casually observing eyes, seemed to be simply passing time – not doing “much”. I didn’t understand why they congregated there nor did I ever bother to ask or find out.
The History of Musgrave Park
Musgrave Park was our workplace’s designated emergency evacuation site, in the event of fire. A few practice runs through-out the year by our vigilant Workplace Health and Safety Officer, would result in 160 employees wandering up Cordelia Street to meet at Musgrave Park and wait for the all-clear from the fire wardens. As a working adult, I had no awareness of the significance of this piece of parkland. That 1000’s of years ago, the area surrounding South Brisbane was a lush tropical setting of rainforests, creeks and waterholes, home to an abundance of native wildlife. This rich environment became a special meeting place for many Aboriginal groups.
With the urbanisation of Brisbane and the loss of many of its natural environments, the Aboriginal people gave Musgrave Park “special meaning.
The Murri People have traditionally treated it as a sacred site because of a buried Bora Ring. The Aboriginal Community consider the park as ceremonial land – a safe haven and the “meeting” place for Aboriginal people to hold social and cultural events.
Despite all my contact with Musgrave Park over the years, I (ignorantly) had never understood the significance that patch of green in the middle of South Brisbane was and still is to the Aboriginal people – until now. So what changed my once ignorance state of mind?
Before the commencement of NAIDOC week (2011), as a QUT Journalism Student I was invited by my tutor, Heather Stewart, to participate in an opportunity to write a Feature style story during NAIDOC week. One quiet evening before the event, myself and a group of students from my class, attended a meeting at the hall in the Musgrave Park Cultural Centre. NAIDOC Committee Members, Scott Anderson, Aunty Joan Collins and Natalie Alberts spoke at the meeting. They shared stories about their life, their passions and talked about their dream for the Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Musgrave Park to come to fruition.
In just one short hour of listening to their reflections, I could not help but consider my values and contemplate my up-bringing in Australia. Realizing, with an overwhelming sense of ignorance, I have much to learn about our country and its original inhabitants. Ignorance is like a veil – it is easy to hide behind its flimsiness, until you decide it is time to lift that veil. Despite there being 20 years passing from much contact with Musgrave Park, I was looking forward to returning to the Park and the opportunity to be part of NAIDOC. A chance to listen to the elders and other members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders share their stories.
Scott Anderson, Event Co-ordinator for Musgrave Park Family Fun Day, said it was important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to tell their stories to the wider community. “Our history is basically an oral one, and the sharing of stories verbally is an intrinsic part of our culture,” says Mr Anderson. “But to help equip people from all walks of life to understand our heart and soul and to understand our problems across our communities, we need our stories to be heard outside of our culture.”
NAIDOC week offers more than thoughts and words. Whilst it allows the wider community to hear, experience, feel and enjoy first hand, the culture, the wisdom and the inspiring stories from our indigenous members, “NAIDOC week also provides the opportunity to celebrate what being indigenous means,” Mr Anderson says.
We see them on TV and read about certain issues, but how many white Australians can say they have inter-acted first hand with members of our indigenous community and gained a greater appreciation of who they are by simply spending time with them? How many white Australians take the time to try to imagine what the stolen generation felt and experienced? Intrinsically, we are not in a position to comprehend the impact this policy had on generations to follow. But still that is no excuse.
What did watching Kevin Rudd’s Sorry speech do for you? What feelings came up for you? Were you moved to tears and felt a small inkling of the pain these people suffered? Yet what have we done to make a difference, to gain greater understanding?
“Australia’s Aboriginal history is disgracefully misunderstood and unheard of,” says Brooke Potter, a Journalism student at the University of the Sunshine Coast. “Particpating in NAIDOC, can change that, if only by one person reading one story, it all starts somewhere,” she says.
A small wave of change takes just one person and a ripple effect follows. By sharing your experiences with friends and family, being touched by your story, they will then share it with their friends and family. The message is delivered via a human chain of story-telling generated by the need to understand. This lifts the veil of ignorance that for too long, we have hidden beneath.
The slogan for the 2011 NAIDOC week is: “Change the next step is ours.” Why can’t white Australians take on some of the challenges the indigenous people have set themselves during NAIDOC week and create their own next step?
It’s a simple act, step out to Musgrave Park on Friday July 8th during the Family Fun Day.
History about Musgrave Park*
Musgrave Park is a remnant of the former Kurilpa (South Brisbane) Aboriginal camping ground that stretched from Highgate Hill and on (to) the slanting slopes of Cumboomeya (= Somerville House) and additionally “sometimes they made a camp in the little scrub then situated on the river bank near the recent entrance to the Dry Dock”. From here and Woolloongabba, Aborigines in the 1840s and 1850s would go into South Brisbane to work chopping wood, carrying water, and selling fish. The South Brisbane Recreation Reserve (as it was originally known) was created in 1856.
In 1867, it was proposed to build a public grammar school (Brisbane State High School) adjacent to the reserve.
In 1998, the Brisbane City Council allocated part of the park for the establishment of an indigenous cultural centre. The council has described the park as a place for holding feasts, ceremonies and dispute resolution.