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Working towards healing a nation


Zoe Satherley
19 May 2010
National Sorry Day will be marked across campuses of Southern Cross University next Wednesday, May 26 and members of the public are invited to attend.

A special guest lecture will be delivered by Florence Onus, a ‘stolen generation’ survivor, whose inspiring personal story will address the theme ‘The journey of healing continues’.

Florence, chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation Ltd, has walked her own journey of healing and will share how she has broken the cycle of pain and trauma that encompassed her family for four generations.

There will also be a presentation by Professor Judy Atkinson, director, Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples and also a board member of the Healing Foundation.

Judy is a passionate woman who has been delivering healing programs in communities for more than 20 years, addressing the effects of trans-generational trauma.

She believes that the journey of healing is one that enables people to be restored to wellbeing and wholeness. It is a spiritual process that can involve recovery from addiction and cultural renewal activities such as strengthening and re-connecting with identity, language, land, dance and song.

“Sorry Day is not just about saying ‘sorry’, it is also about acknowledging that a lot of work has yet to be done for healing to continue,” she said.

“Although the Prime Minister gave an apology to the stolen generations in 2007, and subsequently funded the new Healing Foundation as a response to the needs of people who were forcibly removed from their families as children, there is still a long way to go to undo the pain and suffering of that period in our history and the traumatic impact of colonisation across many generations.

“I believe the way forward is truly though education at every level – from early childhood to tertiary level study and that there needs to be access to lifelong learning for all Indigenous people.

“But there also needs to be an understanding that there is a unique Indigenous pedagogy. I would like to progress research further into these Indigenous ways of learning and the Indigenous worldview, because while we continue to package programs and educational responses from a white paradigm, we continue to diminish Indigenous people.

“The Healing Foundation is a good beginning and I will be talking about the work it is doing. Its aim is to support community-based healing initiatives, conduct healing promotion and public education activities and contribute to evidence-based research and evaluation.”

Judy and Florence will be speaking from 12pm-2pm on Wednesday, May 26, at the Zest Function Centre, Southern Cross University, Lismore campus, Military Road, East Lismore.

Prior to the Lismore event, Judy and Florence will give a joint talk that will be streamed live to both the Gold Coast and Coffs Harbour campuses from 10.30am-11.30am.

The talk can be viewed in room A-2.20 at the Gold Coast campus. The campus is located on Southern Cross Drive, Bilinga; access is via Terminal Drive, Gold Coast Airport.

The talk can be viewed in room MLG-13 at the Coffs Harbour campus, Hogbin Drive, Coffs Harbour.

National Sorry Day is an Australia-wide event which commemorates the ‘Bringing Them Home’ report, handed to the federal government on May 26, 1997.

The National Sorry Day Committee invites all Australians to participate in Sorry Day activities and to walk across their local bridges, while carrying the symbolic ‘stolen generations track home’ feet. This year, they also ask that people stop halfway across the bridge to symbolise that ‘only half the job has been done and there is still unfinished business for the stolen generations’.

Photo: Florence Onus, a stolen generation survivor, who will speak at Sorry Day at Southern Cross University’s Lismore campus on Wednesday, May 26 from 12pm-2pm and via video link to the Gold Coast and Coffs Harbour campuses from 10.30am to 11.30am. For more information and to RSVP for the talks contact Virginia Ingham at [email protected] or phone Gnibi on 6620 3955.