Members of the Queensland legal fraternity joined in harmony on Brisbane City’s Eagle Street this afternoon to lend their voices to a special choir performance in the spirit of reconciliation.
Proud Meriam elder Aunty Bridget Garay, along with Gerty Benjamin, taught songs in the Meriam Mer and Gunggari languages, from the traditional owners of the eastern Torres Strait and western Queensland, respectively. They also generously shared stories of the songs’ origins.
National Reconciliation Week (NRW) invites the wider community to learn more about the history and culture of First Nations peoples, and to actively explore ways to contribute to reconciliation and bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
This afternoon’s musical event, hosted by McCullough Robertson Lawyers, allowed legal practitioners to come together for the occasion in a different way than perhaps what is usually expected when commemorating the week in the corporate world.
Law graduate Alex Komarowski said this year’s NRW theme of ‘Be Brave, Make Change’ was personified in the choir and gave everyone the opportunity to leave their comfort zones.
“Aunty Bridget has this very profound ability to give you the culture and the history, while also taking the edge off with the singing,” he said. “People let their guards down when they start to perform, and you engage with the concepts of reconciliation in a way that is a bit more natural than the standard acknowledgement of country.
Alex Komarowski (centre) with Aunty Bridget Garay (right) and Gerty Benjamin.
Aunty Bridget said music workshops like today’s provide “a safe space for people to be able to participate and also ask questions” of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
She also spoke of her close familial connection to Eddie Koiki Mabo, and the importance of recognising the 30th anniversary of the landmark Mabo decision this Friday.
“It’s wonderful and it’s an important year,” Aunty Bridget said. “It’s been a big journey and, really, that decision was about recognition that we were here before… and from a long time ago.
“It wasn’t about native title – that came later, so it’s an important story. The celebration thirty years later is a little bit different, because now we’re thinking ‘where to from here?’, and ‘who are the next people to carry on that legacy of fighting for our people?’”