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Home > News > 2016 > May > Message stick on the move as part of Reconciliation Week

Message stick on the move as part of Reconciliation Week

Message_Stick_-_Mt_Isa.JPGAfter a tour across North Queensland, our Message Stick continues its important journey as we prepare to celebrate National Reconciliation Week from 30 May – 5 June.

The Message Stick —a traditional Indigenous form of communication—was kindly donated by IEUA-QNT member Thersa Nunn and is touring Queensland and Northern Territory ahead of the launch of our union’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) later this year.

Our union’s RAP was recently approved by Reconciliation Australia.

National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is a significant opportunity to celebrate and build on the respectful relationships shared by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians. A number of events will be held across the country during NRW.

NRW is bookended by two significant events in Australia’s reconciliation history:

  • 27 May, the anniversary of the 1967 referendum to empower the Commonwealth to make laws for Indigenous Australians and to recognise them in the National Census; and
  • 3 June, the anniversary of the landmark High Court decision on the Mabo case in 1992, which paved the way for Native Title.

Our Message Stick will be visiting the Ipswich branch during NRW, including a significant event at the Hymba Yumba school in Springfield that will see the Message Stick presented to community elders during the school’s Senior Bynda (school yarning circle) on Thursday 2 June.

Connections made across North Queensland

IEUA-QNT Organiser Wendy Hutchinson who travelled with the Message Stick throughout North Queensland said members were impressed with the Message Stick and very moved by our determination to ensure our RAP is proactive in creating pathways towards reconciliation.

Ms Hutchinson said her experience touring with the Message Stick through Ayr was particularly rewarding.

“Students at Burdekin Catholic High School have a very active partnership program with the region’s traditional owners, the Juru and Bindal people, including a turtle hatchling project in Bowen,” Ms Hutchinson said.

“The traditional owners asked a student involved in this project to share her experience in a written statement to accompany the Message Stick in its continued journey. The Message Stick will also travel on with a picture of their tribal totem – the giant carpet snake.

“The snake is called ‘Gubulla Munda’ and is the Aboriginal totem and protective spirit for the Birri-Gubba people. Its construction on the site at the park in Ayr honours the sacred burial ground where many of their ancestors are buried.”

Ms Hutchinson also learned of the Indigenous Youth Development Program currently being run at the Good Shepherd Catholic College in Mt Isa, and received photos and statements from students participating in the program.

Whilst in Mt Isa Ms Hutchinson met with the Kalkadoon Tribal Council as well a Kalkadoon elder and traditional indigenous artist Barbara Sam, and attended an art workshop where Ms Sam was teaching young indigenous students from the Flexi Learning Centre the traditional art techniques.  

“Ms Sam said she was born and raised in Kalkadoon country and her great-grandfather, grandfather and grandmother are traditional owners and tribal elders of the Kalkadoon people. Her artwork reflects her connection to country and she really enjoys working with young people to pass on the tradition,” Ms Hutchinson said.

Educating our future generations

IEUA-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke said our union is committed to change in relation to our role in reconciling the shared histories of the relatively new arrivals and the older caretakers of our country. 

“Our membership is intimately engaged with shaping the hearts and minds of young Territorians and Queenslanders and, as such, we are well-placed to support Australian society coming to terms with its origins,” Mr Burke said.

The Message Stick will continue to tour Queensland and Northern Territory ahead of its return to Brisbane, where it will be formally presented to our union council on 28 October.

The Message Stick, and the stories and artefacts it has collected on its travels, will then remain on display in our union’s Brisbane office.

To track the Message Stick via our online map, visit our website at www.qieu.asn.au/messagestick


Authorised by Terry Burke, Independent Education Union of Australia – Queensland & Northern Territory Branch, Brisbane.