25 June, 2024

Writing a way forward

A new book by local Jinibara elder Uncle Noel Blair should be placed on the school curriculum of ‘every high school’. ‘Man on a Mission - From Cherbourg to Lake Gkula’ was launched at the Kilcoy Information Centre on June 22.

Uncle Noel (sitting) with speakers Bill Hauritz, Dr Tom Doolan, Mayor Jason Wendt, Shayne Neumann MP and co-author Geoff Evans.
Uncle Noel (sitting) with speakers Bill Hauritz, Dr Tom Doolan, Mayor Jason Wendt, Shayne Neumann MP and co-author Geoff Evans.

The ‘street view’ autobiography tells in harsh detail how Indigenous people were treated by police and authorities during the 1970s and 80s, exposing the practices of bureaucracy that categorised the Stolen Generation and reserves era.

It tells the story of Uncle Noel, his childhood in Cherbourg, fighting in boxing tents, then fighting governments and campaigning for social justice.

“It is a book that I hope Black and White Australians read, and from which they can learn about the strengths of my people and our determination to stand together and achieve justice,” Uncle Noel wrote in the foreword.

Kilcoy local and Aboriginal health services advocate, Dr Tom Doolan, said the book should be included on the curriculum of every Australian high school.

“This book tells the truth of what’s happened in this country, particularly in this state, particularly in this region over the past 70-plus years,” he said.

Woodford Folk Festival founder, Bill Hauritz, said his organisation learned if it wanted to embrace Australian culture, this had to include Aboriginal people.

“Racism is not about one person disliking another person or thinking less of them because they are from a different culture or have a different colour skin or because they’re Aboriginal people,” he said.

“That’s not racism.

“That’s outright bigotry.

“Australia is a racist nation, but Australians are not bigoted people.

“They are big hearted generous people. Racism is when a whole culture displaces a whole culture.”

He explained how his passion for folk music, particularly the oral tradition of sharing stories, inspired him to fight racism by including indigenous people in the festival.

“I made a statement that if the folk movement and the Maleny Folk Festival (now Woodford) in particular, were concerning ourselves with the development of Australian culture in a positive way, we could not leave Aboriginal people out.”

Mr Hauritz pointed out for the first few years the inclusion came from a place of fairness, “we should do it because it was the right thing to do”, instead of looking deeper into what was on offer.

When he explored it further, he learned lore and folk are a cultural mortar, as it’s the heritage of every culture, including where language comes from.

“I learned and saw that in the indigenous world. It pro-founded my life,” he said.

“It’s the flaws in our cultures, added together and working together, that makes us strong.

“I learned cultural diversity is a great tool that Australia has as a developing nation, which should start with indigenous people. This book is a great way to get started.”

Co-author Geoff Evans added this book helps the healing process of a region deeply traumatised, as well as progressing the community.

“Progress isn’t just about building a new public toilet or something like that in a town,” he said.

“Progress is about people coming together and moving forward in their ideas and relationships. “That’s more important than infrastructure.

Infrastructure comes and goes but relationships are critical to building strong communities.”

Federal Member for Blair, Shayne Neumann, echoed the sentiment, calling the book a very honest depiction of Australian history.

“In a society in which people are too timid and too apathetic at times, when we don’t tell the truth about our history, when we don’t tell the truth about frontier wars... we need to be honest with each other,” he said.

Somerset Mayor Jason Wendt said it was important to hear about a man’s life in his lifetime.

Uncle Noel’s cousin, Jason Murphy, sent a message about the importance of sharing of knowledge.

“Without elders to put that information out to us we would be limited in the way we engage with country,” he said.


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