We were privileged at the December meeting of Council to have the opportunity to hear a presentation about Reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people from one of our members. Mark Waters completed the trail with E2E8 in August and worked within Reconciliation SA for eight years. The presentation initially arose from members of E2E8 asking questions about what Aboriginal country we cross as we walk along the trail. This led the group to decide to commence its walks with an Acknowledgement of Country. It seems awareness was growing among Friends as similar discussions had occurred during a couple of other E2E walks I joined last year. Mark took the initiative to write to the Friends about generating a broader discussion.
The Reconciliation SA website outlines the following information:
‘Reconciliation’ is about Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians talking, walking and working together to overcome the reasons that there is division and inequality between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. Reconciliation has both symbolic and practical elements. A spirit of goodwill, mutual respect and recognition of the effects of colonisation on Australia’s first people are the symbolic cornerstones of reconciliation effort.
In South Australia, an Acknowledgement of Country is a way of showing respect and awareness of Aboriginal owners of the land on which a meeting or event is being held, and of recognising the continuing connection of Aboriginal peoples to their Country. It is a demonstration of respect dedicated to the traditional custodians of the land or sea where the gathering of participants is being conducted. Government agencies and community organisations are adopting the practice of acknowledging the traditional custodians of Country at events, ceremonies, meetings and functions.
Awareness about Aboriginal history in SA and connection to country has grown since the Heysen Trail was developed 30 years ago. Council members were very interested and receptive to the discussion and felt that it was a good opportunity for the Friends to consider how we can understand more about the deep history of the areas we traverse. This is likely to be an ongoing conversation within the Friends and will also be raised at our next meeting with senior officers from the Department for Environment and Water, as owners of the trail.
Our new book Heysen Highlights includes a map identifying Aboriginal language groups along the Heysen Trail. Members are strongly encouraged to find out more and to consider showing respect through an Acknowledgement of Country at relevant times during the walk season. Council will provide further information about the Aboriginal lands that the trail traverses and a guide for appropriate words that may be used by walking groups.
President, Friends of the Heysen trail