Acknowledgement of Country: Heal Country

July 9, 2021

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Heal Country. Heal Our Nation.

Is the 2021 theme for NAIDOC.

“While we can’t change history, through telling the truth about our nation’s past we certainly can change the way history is viewed.” – NAIDOC 2021 Theme

Twenty10 is located on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation. We pay respect to Elders, past, present and emerging.

As we reflect on this year’s NAIDOC theme, we reflect on how this land around us and beyond us, expertly cared for and delicately balanced over tens of thousands of years, has been utterly transformed in just a few hundred years through European settlement and colonisation.

So many stories have been forged across this slice of country, before and since. So many things that may not seem apparent at first glance, require our closer reflection: listening, learning and, for many of us, unlearning.

The building we work and connect with you from was built on what was once wetland and forest. Nearby, the University of Sydney lies on marsh and swampland. A short walk away, what is known now as Victoria Park was dense with temperate rainforest vegetation. The lake in the middle is a remnant of one of the many creeks that flowed tidally into Blackwattle Bay. In the opposite direction, Blackwattle Creek ran along Mountain Street. Either side was thick with wattle trees -hence the name of Wattle Street.

The language of the area is sometimes called the Eora language, but is generally referred to as the Sydney language and has a lot of commonalities with the neighbouring Darug language.

In the European Settlement of Australia there were no treaties. Aboriginal Sovereignty was never ceded. It was taken.

Between 1788-1791 Europeans brought smallpox, influenza and syphilis, which devastated the Gadigal population. Land was cleared, waterways were overfished and polluted. Food was short. People starved and were killed.

The European name for where we are based from, “Chippendale“, refers to William Chippendale, a colonist and farmer who took over a large portion of the land for farming. The land was later transformed further, becoming an industrial zone with a brickfield and claypit, brewery, sugar refinery and flour mill, all of which led to further pollution of waterways, clearing of land and desecration. Narrow streets with substandard housing were built for workers and their families, much of which was burnt down to expand the factories further.

This area has long been a meeting space, a creative space, where Elders and communities have connected, organised, resisted, advocated, marched and fought.

Starting in 1792, Pemulwuy, a Bidgigal man and resistance fighter, led a 12-year war against colonists until his assassination. In excess of 100 Eora, Tharawal and Darug people collaborated in numerous campaigns against settlers, from Port Botany to Toongabbie, including Brickfield Hill.  The new housing development by Redfern station is on Pemulwuy Park and is called the Pemulwuy project in his honour.

Charles Perkins, one of the first Aboriginal university graduates, was one of the key members of the 1965 freedom rides, which left from the University to go to rural towns to protest discrimination and living conditions. He was a key figure fighting for the 1967 referendum and held prominent positions in government providing necessary critique to policies on Aboriginal affairs.

Charles “Chicca” Dixson, a prominent Aboriginal activist, dedicated his life to justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. He was instrumental in establishing the first Aboriginal Legal Service in Redfern and in 1972 was a co-founder of the Tent Embassy in Canberra, which is a permanent protest for the political rights of Aboriginal Australia.

Victoria Park housed a tent embassy from 2000 to push recognition for Aboriginal sovereignty during the Olympics. The park has been the home of Yabun festival since 2002, honouring survival every 26th of January.

Close by, Koori Radio was established in 1993 and was formerly known as the Gadigal Information service

Black Theatre was established in 1972 as a response to the land rights movement.

The National Centre of Indigenous Excellence is a non-for-profit social enterprise in Redfern where all services are majority controlled and led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Amongst other organisations and initiatives, the centre is the home of BlaQ, which works to address the need for strengthened visibility and authentic representation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTQ+ community, in ways that positively impact social and emotional wellbeing.

These are just some of the many stories that have been woven through this place we work on. We encourage you to explore those that exist around you. We invite you to join us in celebrating and elevating the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and in fighting for substantive institutional, structural and collaborative reform, and working to redress historical injustice.

By acknowledging the history of this place, and places like it around so-called Australia, we hope to create space for healing of the land and its original inhabitants.

For further reading:

Sydney Barani

Redfern Oral History

History of First Nations entries in Mardi Gras

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