To celebrate the Day of Mourning on Sunday 19 January, Rev Saimoni Davui recalls his experiences at Mornington Island in the 1980s.
We accept our present and at the same time we mourn our past.
It becomes our truth and with our genuine knowledge and understanding our past and skills can begin to guide us as we rebuild, reconstruct and move along in the present journey together.
Although we may not understand what has transpired throughout our history, we can allow ourselves to mourn in our spirit of our past, the great loss of land and identity which confronts our Indigenous people. Everyday we endeavour to support one another, picking up the pieces of what is left, continuously committing our gifts and skills to engage in reconstructing and rebuilding relationships at the community level as we continue our journey together.
I was at Mornington Island during the late 1980s. People on the island normally went about their daily family and community obligations or businesses without fuss. Two old men whom I truly respect and love, I called them “Uncle”, asked me to take them to visit their homeland at Sydney Island. We jumped into the boat, a brother from the Roughsea family was our dingy captain guiding us to their homeland. It was a beautiful journey where the wind and weather seemingly approved our voyage.
As we came closer to their land, my Uncle began to feel uncomfortable in the boat. I felt their anxiety and their longing to step on shore. Our dingy captain called out to them, “We are still in the boat,” and asked them to be still. He did not want the boat capsized. Before we reached shore, my uncle jumped out from the boat and into the water, not needing our support.
He started rolling themselves on the land at the seashore. He cried out, “My land, my land, oh how I missed you my mother my land.” We sat quietly, allowing him to have the experience mixed with joy, sorry and mourning. There were so many emotions at that time, hurt from being forced out of his land and taken in the mission by police or missionaries, some without permission.
The spirit of happiness started to crawl back in my Uncle as he opened himself to land, memories and images from family, and past met present on his traditional land.
He was able to confront his past, being on the land of the socialising era; memories become a source of strength. He was able to have his connection to his tribal reaffirmed. While he was reminded of his emptiness, he was able to take back stories to his grandchildren. Despite what was an extraordinary time of loss, my Uncle displayed dignity and strength
I was amazed of the dignity and strength displayed that during such of loss, the old man can still guide us home. He was my hero and my closest friend, and sharing his lament with the land was important for all.
I have learnt that each experience is valuable and worth listening to, a source of empowerment to our present and guiding light into our future together. If only we have the time not feeling guilty and have a receptive mood to listen, make friends, and with generosity mourn our past, accept our present and move on with hope.
Rev Saimoni Davui
Rev Saimoni Davui is the Minister at Zillmere Uniting Church, a Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress congregation.