Songlines Tour

On August 1, the IHH Learning Community did a Melbourne Songlines walk with Nick Wight and Uncle Roy on a very wet and cold night!  Uncle Roy brought along a possum skin cloak, but we had to make do with umbrellas and huddling.  (Possums are still protected in Australia, so in recent times possum skins have been sourced from across the ditch.  I wonder where we will get possum skins from now that New Zealand/Aotearoa are planning to eradicate destructive introduced predators, including possums?)

One site we stopped at was the statue commemorating John Batman at the Queen Victoria markets.  We heard all sorts of stories about Batman and his role in ‘founding’ the village of Melbourne, but what struck me at the statue was that he was younger than my earliest ancestor to arrive in Australia, William Maum.  Batman was born in Parramatta in NSW in 1800, and died in Melbourne in 1839.  My convict forebear was born in Ireland in 1780 and arrived on Eora country in Sydney in 1800.  By 1835 when Batman made his treaty with the ngurangaeta on the banks of the Merri Creek, William was living in Clarence Plains in Tasmania (Moomairemener country) and his fifth child Mary was 1 year old.

Increasingly I realise that my history in this country is very, very recent.  Our paths back to the time when land was first stolen is not a long journey. 

- Samara

Talking on Tuesdays: 'Change the Record'

We've been partnering with North Carlton Railway Neighbourhood House, ANTaR Victoria and Yarra Libraries to host Talking on Tuesdays - education sessions about Indigenous culture, knowledge and history.

April marks 25 years since a royal commission presented a formula to prevent Aboriginal deaths in police custody. But how much has changed?

On Tuesday 26 April, ANTaR Victoria will facilitate a discussion related to the high incarceration rates of indigenous people and 'Change the Record’ Campaign. This session will provide us with an opportunity for self-education in relation to the disproportionate rates of incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the high levels of violence experienced, particularly by women and children.

Date: Tuesday 26 April
Time: 7.00 – 8.30 pm
Location: ANTaR: Father Tucker Room, Brotherhood of St. Laurence, 67 Brunswick St, Fitzroy (enter via 128 Fitzroy Street)

Background Information
Justice Reinvestment – Change The Record ANTaR is a founding member of the Change the Record Campaign launched April 2015. Friday 15th April marks the 25th anniversary of the Report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) and sadly, a generation after the Report, incarceration statistics are not improving. As will be demonstrated during the presentation, being placed in prison is all too common for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with ongoing implications for individuals, families and the whole community. With your support, we can change the record.

We need to invest in early intervention, prevention and diversion strategies. These are smarter solutions that increase safety, address the root causes of violence against women, cut reoffending and imprisonment rates, and build stronger and safer communities. We can do this. We need to implement solutions and make it happen in a way that empowers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities and services to drive these solutions.

Together, we can change the record. Together, we can build stronger and safer communities - we need to invest in holistic early intervention, prevention and diversion strategies. These are smarter, evidence-based and more cost-effective solutions that increase safety, address the root causes of violence against women and children, cut reoffending and imprisonment rates, and build stronger communities.

The National Justice Coalition
The Change the Record Campaign is a coalition of leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, community and human rights organisations referred to as the National Justice Coalition. Members include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda; Amnesty International Australia; ANTaR; Australian Council of Social Service; Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic); First Peoples Disability Network; Human Rights Law Centre; Law Council of Australia; National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services; National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations; National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples; National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum; Oxfam Australia; Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care; Sisters Inside; Victorian Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, Andrew Jackomos.

Psalm 51 and Living on Indigenous Land

I spent this weekend at Budj Bim, a land where Indigenous people were one of the first practitioners of aquaculture in the world. I had a chance to learn from conversations with others, as well as from time spent in reflection; here’s just a bit of it.

On Sunday morning, I decide to go for a walk along one of the hiking paths to find a peaceful place to read my Bible. After a quick stroll, I park myself on a bench dedicated to Reginald Saunders, the first Aboriginal general, who led a team of 150 soldiers during the Korean War. I feel like reading a psalm because I associate psalms with nature, but then I remember that in my reading plan I’m on Psalm 51, which is a psalm of repentance. At first, I don’t want to read it, thinking that land and nature don’t have much to do with repentance. But staring at Saunders’ memorial makes me reflect on the fact that I am on Indigenous land, and I change my mind.

Reg Saunders' memorial.

Reg Saunders' memorial.

The psalm opens with the lines, “Have mercy on me, O God… for I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.” My mind ponders the question, “In relation to my presence on Indigenous land, is there anything I need to repent of?” The first thing I think of is the history of colonization. In 1788, Britain sent convicts on ships to Australia, who largely mistreated Indigenous people and decimated their populations with disease and violence. In over 200 years since then, a formal treaty has never been established between Indigenous people and Australians, and the former have essentially had their land stolen.

A wrestling war in my head begins.

Yeah, but that was bad people, the convicts; good people in the church wouldn’t do that.

Actually, the church has contributed to this injustice by introducing missions that discouraged Aboriginal people from practicing their culture, destroying parts of their heritage that may never be recovered.

A cross at the Lake Condah mission we visited.

A cross at the Lake Condah mission we visited.

Yeah, but at least you’re not part of it; you’re just in Australia for ten months, you never contributed to any of this.

Actually, you’re directly benefiting from the effects of colonization, not only in Australia but also in the U.S.

If Americans never decimated the Native American population, and if Australians never took over Indigenous land, I might have never had the chance to travel from the U.S. to Australia on an exchange scholarship. As a research exchange scholar, I am a direct beneficiary from colonization in two countries, and my previous ignorance of this is something of which I need to repent. Even as just a resident in the US, I have benefitted from the mere fact that I live on stolen land, something I never seriously considered up until now. I need to repent of thinking that I am innocent, of turning a blind eye to all the Native Americans and Indigenous Australians that have been oppressed so that I could be in this position of privilege. My wrongdoing is analogous to watching Person A beating up Person B, then going out with Person A for dinner using Person B’s money, all the while without acknowledging Person B at all.

So what am I, are we supposed to do in light of this dark history?

David pleads to God, “Create in me a clean heart... Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.” The situation indeed is bleak, and with our darkened hearts there’s little that we can offer. Our only hope is for God to transform our hearts and to be reminded of God’s perfect plan of salvation. It’s a salvation that isn’t limited just to the souls of Christians, but a salvation that brings peace for all, including Indigenous Australians, Native Americans, and their stolen land.

It’s easy to want to do a lot, at least for myself, when I realize that I’m also culpable. It’s a way to ease my conscience, to quell my guilt. But David says, “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” My heart can be calloused, insensitive to injustices that seem removed from me; instead of springing into action immediately, I need to sit in the sadness and allow room for my heart to be changed.

I’ll admit that I don’t know the way going forward. If anything, this weekend I’ve learned that issues surrounding land sovereignty, self-determination, and reconciliation are so complex. Learning from his experience of sin and repentance, David promises, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.” In a sense, we are all collectively transgressors: as Americans, as Australians, as Christians who have wronged Indigenous peoples. At the very least, I hope to open the eyes of other “transgressors,” and I invite you to join me in this journey of confession and repentance. 

- Ben

IHH Trivia Night 2016

The IHH has a tradition of holding a trivia night on the last night of term two. This year's IHH Trivia Night will be from 6:30pm on Friday June 24 at the West Coburg Bowling Club - 24 Lindsey Street, West Coburg. 


Funds raised will support the IHH in accommodating and hosting Indigenous hospital patients and their families.

Tables of 8
Tickets $20
Unwaged $10
Kids over 8 years $5Please bring cash as there are no credit card facilities

Great silent auction items!
Don’t forget your gold coins and nibbles
Drinks at bar prices

RSVP on (03) 9387 7557
or to an IHH resident

Welsh words about longing and be-longing

A homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past.
A Welsh word for a place where a being feels it ought to live. It is where nature around you feels right and welcoming.

My friend Steve put me onto these words about home and belonging.  He was researching Welsh saints, and made the observation that many saints who are identified with particular places weren't actually born there.

For example, St Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, but he came as a slave from Great Britain, kidnapped by Irish pirates. St Piran is supposed to have been flung into the sea in Ireland with a millstone around his neck before floating to shore in Cornwall. St George, patron saint of England, was born in Turkey or Palestine to Greek parents. St David, patron saint of Wales, was born in what is now Wales, but he would not have recognized or identified with that entity. He was probably a native of a particular area called Henvynyw (Vetus-Menevia) in Cardiganshire, who then left home and founded monasteries and churches across modern day Wales.

I think these ideas are interesting in the light of our difficulties with belonging as Settler people in a country that is not our own. How do we relate to the places our ancestors came from? Are our impressions of those places accurate?  What do we have to offer in this place?

Patti Smith wrote in her book The Mind of a Thief, 'I come from a transplanted people. It might mean we always grow a little crooked and ill at ease.'

The stories of those saints might remind us that God's people have often been exiled people. Perhaps they found ways to be at home in places that were not where they came from. Or perhaps they were able to act in ways that would not have been possible had they not left home.  

I wonder how it feels for Aboriginal people who do not feel at home in the nation state of Australia, but who have a deep affinity with particular parts of the land. I wonder whether some people have been able to offer particular insights, coming from a place on the margins.

And while we have a tendency to claim people who have done great things as being 'one of us', the insight they offer may come because they do not quite belong, and can thus see more clearly what needs to be done.

- Samara

Healing Rites for Seven Sites - a walking liturgy on Holy Saturday

26 March 2016

We walk the way of the Southern Cross and hear again the words of Christ on the cross.

On this walk we will hear the 'seven last words' spoken by Christ, and participate in words and actions of lament as we hear stories from Aboriginal people experiencing violence, suffering and injustice in our land. 

Those who have ears to hear... listen.

The walk will start at 2pm from Rushall Station (North Fitzroy) and end at approximately 3:30pm for afternoon tea at the IHH. 

Children are very welcome, but some guidance may be required.

RSVP by Wednesday March 23 to the Indigenous Hospitality House
1/907 Drummond St
Carlton North
Ph: 9387 7557

What if it's not written for us?

On Thursday nights during Lent we've been opening up unit 2 for dinner and discussion of the Bible.  At our most recent discussion last week we were talking about a story that just seemed strange and difficult to interpret. It was talking about demon possession and prayer, ideas which don't sit easily in our society, and the details of the story were hard to make sense of. We talked about whether we were finding it hard because the story just wasn't written for us. It was a story from a foreign culture, separated from us by two-thousand years.

We talked a bit about how Beyoncé's recent song 'Formation' (and particularly the music video that accompanies it) have been caused a stir in the United States, and that seems to have been because Beyoncé's music has often been made to be mass-marketed, and has depended on being appealing to the white majority. It is pretty clear that this song (and particularly the film clip) is not made primarily for European Americans but for African Americans, and for people unfamiliar with African American culture it may be hard to understand what the song is saying.

There is often something similar going on with the Australian ABC's Black Comedy. While people from different cultures might watch the show, some of the jokes are going to be missed by Settler people who aren't familiar with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. That's okay, because those jokes aren't written for us. It may make us feel uncomfortable, but it might also help to make us more aware that we're used to media being tailored for the majority culture.