“It’s not that we live in the past, it’s that the past lives in us.”
Orange Aboriginal elder Pat French reflected on the history of indigenous history at the city’s Home and Community Care Centre for National Sorry Day.
This years marks the 20th anniversary of the Bringing Them Home report which lead to the creation of National Sorry Day.
Mayor John Davis joined chairman of the Aboriginal working party Jason French and community elders held a low-key event to mark National Sorry Day.
Jason French said despite 20 years since the report, the issue remained “quite raw”.
Usually marked on Friday, May 26, National Sorry Day was held early in Orange ahead of a celebration of the 50th anniversary of a referendum in 1967 which recognised Aboriginal people.
“It’s important that we take time to remember the past injustice to Aboriginal peoples and policies of forced child removal, as well as recognising the signs of resilience, healing and the power of saying sorry,” Councillor Davis said.
Pat French said an incredible amount of cultural knowledge sat around the table for the event, knowledge you couldn’t find elsewhere.
Growing up in the Gamilaroi nation in Moree, Pat French said talking with the mayor would have been impossible.
“To be able to sit down and chat with the mayor wouldn’t have been possible when we were growing up, they made decisions for us,” Pat French said.
“We’ve come a bit of a way, but there’s still a lot of hurting going on.”
Pat French said there was opportunity for people, “but they should take the knowledge of our elders”.
NAIDOC Week committee chairman Gerald Power said he was passionate about sharing the story of indigenous people’s history, including significant dates such as National Sorry Day.
“My vision is my son and his children will read in the school curriculum of the first nation people,” Mr Power said.
Mr Power said the first nation people weren’t all from one nation – but was a mix of different people.
South Sea Islanders were brought to work as slaves in Queensland sugar cane plantations.
As a descendent of South Sea Islanders and Aboriginal nation Girudala, Mr Power said embedding the stories of first nation people wasn’t about being harsh on history, but being “realistic”.