In recognition of Sorry Day (Friday 26 May, 2017) and Reconciliation Week (Saturday 27 May – Saturday 3 June 2017), a consortia of prominent Melbourne civic, sporting and cultural organisations has come together to present WE | HERE | NOW, a week-long program of free-to-the-public activities and events in Federation Square at the heart of Melbourne’s community.
The WE | HERE | NOW consortia, initiated by and including Fed Square, comprises The Koorie Heritage Trust, ACMI, SBS and NITV, NGV, Moondani Balluk Indigenous Academic Unit at Victoria University, The Long Walk and Reconciliation Victoria.
The WE | HERE | NOW program acknowledges two momentous milestones in modern Australian history: the 50th Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum on 27 May, which changed the Australian Constitution to count Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the census; and the 25th Anniversary of the High Court of Australia’s 1992 Mabo decision on 3 June, which overturned the assumption of terra nullius and recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ land rights.
Fed Square’s inaugural WE | HERE | NOW program commences on Saturday 27 May, with the first permanent raising of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags at Fed Square, celebrating the significant contributions and achievements of our country’s First Nations peoples and acknowledging our commitment to maintaining strong relationships with our Indigenous communities. To celebrate this historic occasion, we are proudly joined by Gail Mabo, daughter of Eddie Mabo, and our local Aboriginal Elders to honour Australia’s First Nations peoples.
Directly following the flag raising ceremony, The Long Walk will commence its “We Walk Together 2017” event which will include performances on Fed Square’s main stage by Casey Donovan and other amazing artists as well as a range of cultural and sporting workshops including a marngrook (Aboriginal Football) demonstration by the Koorie Heritage Trust. Everyone is then invited to join AFL legend Michael Long to “Walk” to Melbourne’s iconic MCG in a show of solidarity and celebration.
Those not into footy can join the Koorie Heritage Trust’s colouring table featuring local Koorie designs and stories or go on a cultural tour of the Trust and learn more about its unique collections. More details at: koorieheritagetrust.com.au
Amplifying the day’s celebrations, 3KND, Melbourne’s Indigenous Radio Station, will broadcast live from Fed Square on the day, and SBS will have a marquee on-site where the public can get a free printed photo from the SBS photo booth, and SBS Radio’s Living Black program will record on-the-spot interviews that will be broadcast across SBS’s social media platforms. Additionally, in a unique contribution to the WE | HERE | NOW program, broadcasters from eighteen SBS language programs have each recorded a special Acknowledgement of Country in their first language. These acknowledgements will be played on Fed Square’s Big Screen throughout the week, along with a curated program of films, documentaries, animations, archival footage and TV honouring the Indigenous Australian experience, past and present.
On Monday 29 May, Fed Square and Moondani Balluk will co-present RIGHTS | NOW, a public talk in Deakin Edge facilitated by Kirstyn Lindsay from SBS Radio’s Living Black program. A panel of distinguished artists, activists and academics – Gary Foley, Kim Kruger and Rebecca Gerrett-Magee – will share family experiences of the 1967 Referendum and ask how far Indigenous Australia has come in the last 50 years. Immediately preceding the panellists’ talk, Fed Square will present a special screening of the documentary The Fair Go: winning the 1967 Referendum, providing additional context for this not-to-be-missed discussion. Narrated by Deborah Mailman, and told through personal interviews and rare archival footage, this documentary tells the story of the people who were behind this monumental change to the Constitution.
On Wednesday 31 May, Fed Square invites the public to pull up a deck chair, sit back and enjoy an Aussie film night under the stars as the Big Screen plays host to a program of Indigenous-focused films, including Don Featherstone’s classic satirical ‘mockumentary’ BabaKiueria. Throughout the week, Fed Square will also show a curated program of films, documentaries, animations, archival footage and TV honouring the Indigenous Australian experience, past and present.
The cinematic fare continues at ACMI with free screening for schools and the broader community of Satellite Boy and Mabo. Shot on location in the remote and unspoilt Kimberley region of North Western Australia, and featuring acclaimed actor David Gulpilil, Satellite Boy is the first feature to be given permission to film in this world heritage listed area. The Rachel Perkins’ biopic Mabo tells the story of Eddie Koiki Mabo, the Torres Strait Islander and national hero who spearheaded a High Court challenge that changed the course of modern Australia. Both screenings will be immediately preceded by a short introduction on the themes of each film. More details at: acmi.net.au/events/national-reconciliation-week/
Complementing the cinema screenings, the Australian Mediatheque, ACMI’s onsite resource centre run in partnership with the National Film and Sound Archive, will present Reconciliation, Referendum and Mabo, a curated program of archival screen content focussing on the importance of both the 1967 Referendum and the Mabo decision.
Visual art will also be well represented as part of the WE | HERE | NOW program with exhibitions and installations by a range of established and emerging Indigenous artists. Throughout Reconciliation Week, the Koorie Heritage Trust will present a new exhibition called The Blak Matriarchy by artists Arika Waulu and Gabi Briggs (collectively known as Real Blak Tingz). In this exhibition Real Blak Tingz respond to the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum by activating the Trust’s gallery through an elixir of portraiture, projection and sculpture. The exhibition is open daily but the public is also invited to meet the artists and hear them talk at the exhibition’s official launch on Thursday June 1.
Across the Square at the NGV, the Brook Andrew exhibition The Right to Offend is Sacred will be on display. Andrew’s work often confronts dangerous ideas and challenges stereotypical notions of history, identity and race. This exhibition includes many of the artist’s most memorable works alongside formative works that have had limited exposure. The curious can find out more about Brook Andrew’s work on one of three guided tours happening throughout the week. More details at: ngv.vic.gov.au/exhibition/brook-andrew
Meanwhile, in The Atrium, award-winning artist Robyne Latham will invite members of the public to participate in two open workshops as part of her ephemeral installation Remembering the Empty Coolamons. A powerful tribute to the stolen generations, Remembering the Empty Coolamons will then be exhibited in Fed Square’s Fracture Gallery until Friday June 30.
If art al fesco is more your thing, why not join the Koorie Heritage Trust for a Birrarung Wilam Walk. On Thursday 1 and Friday 2 June, this free guided walk takes you through Fed Square and down to the Birrarung Wilam (Common Ground) Aboriginal art installations, experiencing the Aboriginal history of the Birrarung Marr (Beside the river of mists) and Aboriginal Peoples of the Kulin Nation. With one of the Trust’s friendly Koorie guides, you will learn how the land on which Melbourne is located has changed over time and learn the significance of the Birrarung Wilam to the local Kulin peoples.
Closing out the week on Saturday 3 June, Fed Square and the Koorie Heritage Trust invite you to bring a picnic and share Mabo Day with Victoria’s Torres Strait Islander community. Come along to the Mabo Day Community Picnic and Celebration by the Birrarung (River Terrace, Fed Square), where the whole family will enjoy a program of live music and performances, as well as kids’ activities, cooking demonstrations and more.
For further information about WE | HERE | NOW, go to: fedsquare.com/programs/reconciliation-week-in-fed-square