After the Yumi Olgeta:Crafting a More Inclusive Democracy Workshop at the Museum of Australian democracy at Old Parliament House, Canberra held on Saturday August 17th, 2019 I was honoured to be included in a private tour. Stephanie, one of the curators at the museum has a long-standing interest in Australia's Slave Trade history and had arranged two historical photos to be placed in a current exhibition showing in one of the exhibition spaces near Kings Hall. She came up with the idea of a private tour of these photos so that Waskam Emelda Davis, Aunty Lydia George, Danny Togo and the women from Vanuatu Arts and Krafts could make sure they saw the photos and had time to discuss their history in a sensitive way.
This was a very moving experience for all involved. One image depicted a group of bare-chested men in front of a sugar mill in Queensland and there was discussion about how their ancestors may be included in these photos without their knowledge.
The second photo was of a young girl. This one was particularly painful for the group to see as many children were kidnapped and never saw their families again. The sadness of this runs very deep in the Australian South Sea Islander and Vanuatu communities. For me it was a privilege to be able to feel the sadness with them so my knowledge is no longer just thoughts but part of my heart and soul.
I commend Stephanie and the team of the Museum of Australian Democracy for taking the time to set up this special meeting that in its own small way was a very powerful act of recognition. Stephanie acknowledged that the process of educating the public about this history needs to be done slowly but it is definitely happening at this Museum. I am thrilled that the group have had a chance to develop connections with this institution as they believe in hearing the voices of all Australians and really care about making this history part of the Australian narrative.
I wish to thank the MoAD team especially Stephanie and Nanette for arranging this meeting. It completed our visit so well and the memories will remain with us all forever. I also want to thank the rest of the group for trusting me to attend this intimate gathering.