There were two sessions I attended at the conference that I knew as I sat listening to the presenters would have a profound and lasting effect on me.
The first was with the indigenous author and Australian laureate Boori Monty Pryor who spoke of his text Shake a Leg, which he created with the artist Jan Ormerod.
We all love picture books, they are always for colourful and full of energy, but as Boori deconstructed his text for us, I came to realise how many layers crafted his storytelling.
It wasn’t only his text, it was also his oral storytelling, his personality, his charisma and connection to the audience, that turned the moment into something special for me. Here was a man, who rose above all stereotypes of an indigenous person, who used words, pictures, humour and identity to confront the truth. but also to move forward from the past. As an experience it was a true gift.
Many people would be honoured to experience such a moment once in a lifetime, but I was given the gift of it twice, and twice in one day!
The last session of the day was with Willie Brim, also an indigenous person and the subject of connecting with country, culture and history, to uncover the inaccuracies, clichés and tokenism of Australian history and our treatment of indigenous since European settlement.
Willie discussed how indigenous are always portrayed as hunter gatherers when in fact they closely managed their land. He spoke about the indigenous connection to land and how white settlement disrupted and perverted that connection.
The entire time I sat enthralled by the passion of those men, and at the same time I couldn’t help reflecting that there is so much emphasis on introducing multiple intelligences and new literacies, such a oral and visual literacy to the school curriculum, and yet it has been present in the Australian indigenous culture for thousands of years!
Western culture prides itself on superiority and claims of being at the pinnacle of human civilisation, but in many ways, we are really at its lowest ebb, as we have separated ourselves from our environment, privileging the individual over community.
Consider, if the power went off for a month, how would we survive? Superior? I think not.