Jenni Connor reports on the forthcoming The Hidden Stories Forums - a significant cultural event that supports Indigenous Literacy Day in Tasmania.
We all have a responsibility to ensure that the ‘stories that are told’ are true and culturally respectful.
CBCA Tasmania has initiated two forums titled ‘The Hidden Stories’ to be held on September 7th and 11th at Moonah Arts Centre. The forums arose because of a concern that the long history of Tasmanian Aboriginal people’s occupation of this island and their continuing contribution to Tasmanian life and culture is not widely understood or appreciated.
For instance, a friend who grew up in Tasmania, commented recently that ‘there are no Tasmanian Aboriginal people’. This is the mythology that has become embedded in the consciousness of the broad Tasmanian community over the past 200 years.
Maggie Walter, a descendant of the Pairrebeenne people of North East Tasmania and Professor of Sociology at UTAS encountered this ‘public unconsciousness’ when she visited her people’s country and heard: ‘I don’t think there were any Aboriginal people here’ – this despite the ‘Bay of Fires’ being named because of the multitude of camp fires being observed by passing European explorers.
Maggie penned a powerful piece for Talking Point in the Mercury, 5 January, 2015, titled ‘Listen to the Stories in the Land’.
Dr Margaret Bromley, from ACT, who wrote a thesis titled Lost and Invisible: Australian Children’s Literature 1950-2001, offered to speak about the silences, confusions and mis-representations of Aboriginality in the field of literature for children and young people. Margaret’s research seemed to connect with Maggie’s personal experience.
Then, Greg Lehman, highly respected academic and Indigenous researcher wrote a Mercury article titled ‘Oath Signed in Oil on Canvas’ (2015, August 20) about the ‘historic deal underpinning a push for constitutional recognition of Tasmanian Aboriginal people’. Greg has a passion for ‘inducting young Tasmanians into the true story of our heritage’ – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – in this beautiful island state.
I began to think: ‘This is bigger than children’s literature; it’s about the public conversation in Tasmania that shapes who we are, and who we want to be as a civic community.
So, CBCA Tas. approached the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre (TWC) inviting them to collaborate on forums to inspire a public conversation about these matters of social significance for the state, potentially providing a platform for ongoing discussions that will lead to greater understanding and contribute to reconciliation.
Chris Gallagher, Director at TWC has enthusiastically supported this idea and the events.
The first forum, from 6-8.30 pm on 7 September, Indigenous Literacy Day will ‘open the conversation’ with Auntie Vicky Green sharing stories from Flinders Island, Greg Lehman giving an inspiring key note, Jim Everett showing his film with Troy Melville, Blood of Life and Maggie and Margaret in conversation about their perspectives. Madelena Andersen-Ward will sing us in and out of the event.
The second forum, from 1-5pm on Sunday 11 September will celebrate Aboriginal storytelling in film, poetry, song, dance and literature.
Details about the programs and how to book will be up on CBCA and TWC web sites soon so keep an eye on the events section of each organisation. We hope many, many people will join in this exciting cultural experience!
Writing & Education Consultant