I was born in England and came to Australia in my twenties. I am now seventy years old. I am grateful that I live in Australia and especially appreciate living next to bush land. The space and freedom I experience in nature is a source of deep joy. During my forty five years here I have studied Australian literature, history, geography and botany. I am a member of the Australian Plants Association and I marvel at the variety of the plants and animals around me.
During my life here I have admired aspects of indigenous culture, including: the Message Sticks celebrations over the years at the Sydney Opera House; the mysterious engravings on the rocks around my village; 'The Sapphires' and 'Charlie's Country' films ; Sally Morgan's 'My Place'; the Toys Change Lives work program. However, it is only in the last few years I have become aware of the lie of a peaceful European settlement. It is also in the last few years I have come to appreciate the value of certain old practices. In meeting Miriam Rose Ungemere I have observed how powerful watching before judging is. She demonstrated a way of being that is also at the heart of Buddhist and Christian teachings, deep inner listening. Listening with attention is traditional indigenous cultural behaviour, taught by Elders. I am glad that in my old age I have been given the gilt of this knowledge. Good relationships in my family depend on my remembering this practice.
There is much to learn from the way the Statement from the Heart was framed, not just the process nor the beauty of the art work but the example of the power of community that led to such a treasure. In all Australian communities there are petty differences, fear and horrendous mental disease. For indigenous communities these are understandable, generations of powerlessness and torture. Why do these mental diseases also occur in my materially wealthy community? The Bible has a quote " visiting the sins of the fathers onto the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, said the Lord." God's first demand was for social justice. (I am a Buddhist by belief but was brought up on the Bible stories) Our wealth has made us indifferent to the torment of our fellow citizens but it festers. We anew Australians re the inheritors of material wealth gained by genocide. We have destroyed both the original culture and the bounty of nature found in Australia. The bush is dying and it is due to our way of life. The endless search of an unachievable permanent material security. The only security possible is in a wide community inter-action. We need meaning in life as well as a job, food, a place to live and a basic education. For this to be secure going into this new millennium it must be for all. An unequal society will not survive for long. The Statement from the Heart has pointed to a new possibility for Australia. It is vital we listen.