THE Framlingham Aboriginal Reserve’s 150th anniversary celebrations on Saturday were overwhelmingly successful with up to 1500 people attending.
The celebrations were the first time many local people had visited the reserve and organisers said attendees were moved by the historical displays that told of the reserve’s tragic past.
They said people were also heartened by the festival’s welcoming and gentle atmosphere and positive outlook for the future.
One of the leaders of tours through the reserve, Aboriginal elder and former reserve resident Rob Lowe, said many people were not aware of the discrimination and hardship the people on the reserve had experienced.
That hardship included Aboriginal children on the reserve being taken away from their parents.
Visitors’ understanding of that sad chapter in Australia’s history was made even more poignant when renowned indigenous singer Archie Roach, also a former reserve resident, sang his song Took the Children Away at the celebrations.
Roach was part of a long list of indigenous and non-indigenous performers who kept the festival buzzing from 11am-6pm.
In the festival booklet handed to visitors, Framlingham Aboriginal Trust chairman Possum Clark-Ugle said the process of reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous people needed to involve the stories about the treatment of Aborigines being told and understood.
Mr Clark-Ugle said people could not change the past but they could shape the future.
Aborigines had survived on the Framlingham reserve for 150 years and being proud of their heritage built a strong foundation for a positive future, he said.
“Having a broader non-indigenous community around us that is interested in understanding the truth of our joint history is important,” Mr Clark-Ugle said.
Event co-organiser Julie Eagles, a reserve resident, said she was overwhelmed by the positive response to the day.
“It’s been a step forward in reconciliation,” she said.
She said some of the reserve’s neighbours were among the many to visit for the first time.
Apart from giving the surrounding community an opportunity to understand the reserve’s history, the celebrations had also given extended family members of the reserve’s residents a more positive reason for returning than the funerals that usually drew them back.
“It (the celebrations) brought descendants from across Australia,” Ms Eagles said.