Lunch with Leaders: Discovering the story of Australia this National Reconciliation Week

  • 1 June 2022

Auspire – Australia Day Council WA, welcomed attendees online to hear from Dr Robert Isaacs AM and Alison Page during National Reconciliation Week 2022.

National Reconciliation Week encourages all of us to be aware of Australia’s history, which is incredibly personal to Aboriginal families and communities. It is important we listen to these stories, so that we may begin to understand the impact and look towards creating positive and meaningful relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people..

With this in mind, we were delighted to host Aboriginal leaders and National Australia Day Council Directors, Dr Robert Isaacs AM and Alison Page, during an online lunch, so attendees around Australia could hear their stories.

Designer and film producer, Alison, kicked us off by talking about her 2020 film, The Message: The Story from the Shore. Commissioned by the National Museum of Australia, the film recalls James Cook’s arrival at Possession Island in 1770, and how this was received by traditional owners. Joining us from Sydney, Alison spoke about her research into the film that took her along the East Coast.

“This is the story of Australia, so we can start to unpack what defines Australia and the Australia identity. We need a broad discussion about the origins of modern Australia – that way, we can start to define what we take forward into an identity that is uniquely ours. In the truth of Australia, some parts of it are amazing and some parts are painful. That’s the first thing we have to accept. A lot of what happened to us in 1776 and beyond were not our decisions.”

Attendees were then able to hear from Aboriginal Elder, Dr Robert Isaacs AM, who was calling in from Broome. Dr Robert shared insight into his book, Two Cultures, One Story.

Released last year, the memoir tells his life story, from being a member of the Stolen Generation to his determination to break down cultural barriers and improve the lives of Aboriginal Australians.

“Reconciliation, you could say, is what my life has been about. It’s not just one single piece of work, a treaty, a policy or a statement. It’s all those things and more. It’s about building trust and respect. In the institutions that I was brought up and the treatment that took place in these institutions, as a young boy, not knowing about my family, I was denied my heritage, my culture, I lost my language.

“All these years, I’ve gone though so much pain and agony, I had to figure out what my working public life was going to be. I chose public welfare and Aboriginal welfare. When you put your heart and soul and faith into these areas, reconciliation does work. I’ve seen it work for me and for Aboriginal people in the community.”

Our two knowledgeable speakers discussed the Uluru Statement and constitutional recognition, before looking at New Zealand for national identity and pride in heritage. Alison highlighted the importance of truth telling and teaching these stories to children early in school.

Attendees were given the opportunity to ask our guest speakers their questions. Inspired by what they’d just heard and National Reconciliation Week, questions included how we can ensure the right voices are heard and what the next few years might look like under a new federal government.

The conversation closed with both NADC directors giving their thoughts on the date of Australia Day.

To hear Alison’s and Dr Robert’s stories, watch the full episode here:

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