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Pilgrimage for reconciliation

Pilgrimage for reconciliation

Pilgrimage for reconciliation

28 May 2019

Two participants take time out to read about Uluru on the pilgrimage to Central Australia.

By Jessica Morris

If we knew the past, could we change the future of Australia? Three young people from Frankston Salvos recently took steps to find out by taking part in a pilgrimage to Central Australia.

Jake Clancy, 19, Madi Bilham, 17, and Kiara Tennakoon, 14, joined more than 20 Victorian teenagers for the two-week pilgrimage that took in a tour of regional Victoria and South Australia before travelling to Uluru in the Northern Territory.

The trip, aimed at fostering the reconciliation process between non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians, was run by Fusion, a Christian youth and community organisation whose main aim is to teach youth how to facilitate change in their communities.

“Pilgrimage is about travelling to Uluru, meeting incredible people, hearing stories, and beginning to understand the plight of our First Nations people, but it’s also much more than that,” said Tim Gordon, Youth Engagement Coordinator at The Village Church on the Mornington Peninsula.

Four girls who went on the pilgrimage – (from left) Madi, Kiara, Olivia and Hope.

Amanda Merrett, The Salvation Army’s Policy and Social Justice Advisor, assisted Tim in leading the Victorian leg of the pilgrimage.

“We know that The Salvation Army in Australia has made a significant commitment to diversity and listening to our First Nations peoples. The Uluru pilgrimage gave these young Salvos an opportunity to learn from and seek the wisdom, patience and guidance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

Tim picked up on this theme: “Far away from home, presented with brand new experiences, our young people were able to see themselves anew,” he said. “To watch these young people begin to glimpse the beauty and potential within themselves, the compassion, the sense of adventure, the hope – that was well worth the 5000km journey.”

The Victorian group set up camp and learned from numerous Aboriginal communities on the journey to and from Uluru. This included meeting with the Budja Budja people near Halls Gap (Vic.), learning from the Dusty Feet Mob at Port Augusta (SA) and exploring the mines in Coober Pedy (SA).

The trip culminated in three days with the Anangu people in Yulara, where the pilgrims joined nearly 100 other youth from all over Australia, also on Fusion pilgrimages, to learn about the culture of Australia’s First Nations people.

“Making a bond with one of the Anangu people of Mutijulu at the Rock was my highlight,” said Jake. 

“We were learning from a person called Shirley…and there was a guy who was very racist and I found it was very challenging for me to keep my cool. [Australia’s first people have] got so many stories that aren’t told, and they’re amazing.”

A moving ceremony at Port Augusta was also pivotal for the group, where they learned a dance from the Dusty Feet Mob and sang ‘I Am Australian’ with the community. They also fellowshipped over kangaroo tail for dinner, and watched the movie Rabbit Proof Fence – a true story about the Stolen Generation.

“We went there to hear about the history, and they wanted to teach us their side of the story and show us what they have seen,” said Kiara.

The Frankston Salvos trio shared what they had learned with their church community when they got home, saying they were now determined to contribute to reconciliation.

“We’re all people and we dehumanise [Australia’s First Nations people] and take away their rights and I don’t think that’s okay,” said Maddi. “I think they should have the same rights as everyone else.”

“We need to reconcile … and see they are actually so caring and just amazing. The way they get treated is so wrong,” said Jake. “It would be good in the future if [Australia] could be better, sooner rather than later.”

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