My ancestral connection stretches across Victoria and connects me with Gunditjmara, Dajab Wurung, Kire Wurrung, Boon Wurrung, Wemba Wemba and Tangurung. I grew up in the Framingham Aboriginal settlements and my knowledge of my ancestors, country, culture and history is considered a source of strength and pride.
As an aboriginal youth, I focused my career on human rights and the rights of the people first. The foundation of all my work lies in my desire to help our communities and Victoria achieve truth and justice. This desire led me to become a lawyer and policy advisor for government and non-profit organizations, and guided me through senior roles in youth justice, child protection, and the first human and cultural rights inquiry.
The most recent of these was “Our Youth, Our Path”, a systematic inquiry into the over-representation of Indigenous children and youth in Victoria’s youth justice system. I had first heard the pain and trauma stories of young people, but I saw their strength and resilience and also heard their aspirations for a just future.
We must not forget that their stories are a symptom of the colonial project, which puts our youth in conditions that did not exist before the European occupation. Previously, there was no prison, and because of the strength of our social structures, children never slipped into the caring embrace of their families and communities. Justice means a return to that caring embrace.
The work of the Commission on Justice in Europe provides an opportunity once in a lifetime to compile an official report on the grave injustices that have befallen our people. Many of them are included in our collective memory of the past two centuries. However, aboriginal stories of existence and success must also be shared.
Until now, non-Australian aborigines have tried to push the truth aside or lose the truth. There is a clear disconnect between what our people first learned that our history should be passed down from generation to generation and what is taught in our educational systems.
Our history is your history. It is shared history. This truth is not easy, but we can not be y. We all need to hear it, understand it and take ownership of it. The role of U-Rook’s historical truth-telling process is crucial in achieving this. It provides an opportunity for first people to listen to their truths and to share the truths of their ancestors. As a member of U-Rook’s Expert Advisory Committee, I am an advisor to our nation’s first formal truth – telling process.
This is an important opportunity for all first-timers, but it is a special promise to young people like me who see the results of U-Rook in our lifetime. The denial of our histories, which is so essential to our identity, must cause a break with the passage of time that our future generations will not be able to experience.