He’s been walking for 359 days, and he’s almost there. Well, sort of.
Alwyn Doolan, a Gooreng Gooreng Wakka Wakka man from North Queensland, set out from Bamaga, a remote Aboriginal community on the tip of Cape York on May 18, 2018 with a message from his elders.
Bound for the nation’s capital, Doolan’s mission is to deliver the ‘Message Sticks of Creation, Colonisation and Healing’, which focuses around a call for Treaty as a way forward.
Message sticks have been a ‘thing’ for tens of thousands of years on this continent. Before the British arrived, Aboriginal people from different nations would set out across the lands with a message stick for another nation.
Sometimes it would take weeks to deliver, sometimes a lot longer. This occasion is definitely the latter.
As fate would have it, Doolan is due to arrive in Canberra on the date of the federal election, a year to the day after he left the Cape. He plans to stay in the capital until a new parliament is sworn in, deliver his message sticks, and then hit the road again, this time bound for Uluru.
Doolan’s journey – which he’s dubbed ‘12 million steps in the right direction’ – has received scant media interest so far, and he’ll likely struggle to attract much media attention on a day journalists will be focussed on the polls.
But it hasn’t entirely been ignored by politicians, the people the message sticks are intended for.
Australian Greens Indigenous affairs spokesperson, Senator Rachel Siewert said her party would stand with the Message Stick Walk to “take care of unfinished business” and start a treaty process to heal the nation.
“As part of addressing our unfinished business, we need to negotiate treaties with First Nations peoples now,” Senator Siewert said.
“Resolving the issues of sovereignty and treaty is more than a legal necessity, it’s a responsibility.
“Accepting the message sticks would send a powerful message that the Australian Government is committed to a truly meaningful treaty process.
“We need Government policies and practices to respect the right of First Nations peoples to self-determination, to free, prior informed consent, improvement of their social and economic conditions, to be part of decision-making.
“It’s time that all political parties acknowledged the truth about our shared history, listen to First Nation peoples when they tell this truth and be part of addressing the contemporary consequences of invasion and the intergenerational trauma, the resulting dispossession and marginalisation that is part of our unfinished business.”
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