The only session I was able to attend was one in the big red marquee between the State Library and the Gallery of Modern Art, in the area known as "the Breezeway." I had no tickets for any session, and I knew that my time there was limited, so I slipped into the big marquee and did as was requested sat right in the front - not the front row, but two back.
The session was entitled "Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Illustrated" with Jacqueline Payne (a Queensland Magistrate) in the chair, and Rodney Dillon from Tasmania who was described as an "Indigenous Campaigner for Amnesty International", Michel Streich, Illustrator, and Anita Heiss, author and social commentator. I arrived soon after Rodney had started so I missed most of what he had to say, but I was interested to see Michel's sketch book of his work in the book which celebrates the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the declaration of human rights. It was a little challenging to clearly see the illustrtions but will have to buy the book to see them all.
However it was Anita Heiss that fascinated me. She spoke about and read from her book which targets 10 - 14 year old readers about an aboriginal girl Mary Talence who was given a diary for her 10th birthday, and what she wrote as she tried to make sense of her aboriginality in the midst of white people. She read excerpts from the book and I set out to find it later in the bookstore but could not. I will buy it - and read it myself before I give it as a Christmas gift to my 10 year old grand daughter. Hopefully it will help her understand a little of the history of our indigenous peoples.
I do find some of the words used by the speakers confronting. They speak of the "invasion" by white people in 1788, and they object to the words "discovery of Australia" by Captain Cook - the latter of which I do too. Why does our history not acknowledge that there were thousands of people living here before Captain Cook came?
In any case I do have some understanding of the way the aboriginal people feel about the way the country we know as Australia was taken over by the British all those years ago.
I will get Anita Heiss's book and I will try and be more open minded about some of the issues, and I would like to endorse Anita's wish for more indigenous studies to be included in schools. That is a MUST.