10th anniversary of Sorry Day brings together CQ's elders
POYANA Pensio was in Canberra the moment former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised for the atrocities committed against indigenous people during colonisation.
It was a day he remembered as a moment of change for Australia.
Now 10 years later, he joined indigenous elders and locals to celebrate a day that set in a place changes.
"When the prime minister said sorry, it was very exciting for me and there was a lot of elders sitting around and I could see the smiles on their faces and the tears,” the Bidgerdii Community Health Service community relations coordinator and Torres Strait Island elder said.
"We were very happy and excited for the government to say sorry for what they did to us and at the time I was thinking 'thank god, there is a way and we are going to move forward with addressing all our issues'.
"There are some good things we have already achieved and some that still need to be addressed like the health, well-being and lifestyle of indigenous people throughout Australia.
To Mr Pensio, the biggest problem that needs to be addressed lies within the home.
"A lot of things have been taken away from us and children are being taken away from parents still,” he said.
"They go into care. I work with disadvantaged families in their homes where children are taken away.
"We work with parents and get them back on track. When children are taken away, there is an emphasis on the children but not on the parents.
"In our program we focus on working with families in their own environment. When some are very young they have no basic skills like cooking, cleaning and mentoring after school.”
Director of the Darumbal Corporation George James said before Sorry Day, "it wasn't so easy for indigenous people to get into many jobs”.
"Since that day, everything is equal opportunity and you have more opportunity to get any kind of job,” Mr James said.
"I keep in touch with the traditional things my grandmother has told me, but she always told me to make myself proud and look towards the future.”
Darumbal elder Aunty Ethel Speedy said for many indigenous people, "Sorry Day is a reminder of what happened in the past”.
"But we've still got a long way to go,” Ms Speedy said.
"If we all work together, indigenous and non-indigenous people, we can make this a very lucky country.”
However, despite the progress the country has made in terms of diversity, there are still deep rooted facets of racism and segregation that exist within our very town.
These underlying offences lie within the names of many local attractions such as Mount Jim Crow, Black Gin Creek Rd, and Mount Wheeler and Ross Ck, which were named after settlers who caused the deaths of many indigenous people.
There are many calls to change the names to their original Darumbal names.
"That was the traditional names,” Ms Speedy said.
"These were the things taken from us when colonisation came to be.”