Martu Man Melvin Farmer on why reconciliation is a shared journey

• Conversations

National Reconciliation Week is a time to come together and elevate the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as we work together to forge a path forward that is inclusive, just and equitable.  

The week marks two separate occasions – the success of the 1967 referendum and the 1992 High Court Mabo decision, both significant milestones in the reconciliation journey.   

At Creating Communities we have the privilege of working with people who have committed their lives to creating a better future where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Aboriginal people can share their histories, cultures and achievements working towards a nation built on mutual respect.  

One of those people is Melvin Farmer, a Martu man from Jigalong who is the Chair of Jamukurnu-Yapalikunu Aboriginal Corporation (JYAC), formally known as WDLAC,and a valued Cultural Advisor to Creating Communities. Melvin has been instrumental in guiding our work on the Newman Futures project. He played a major part in developing the Ngaa Ngayunkkarnu Kapukurri – This is Our Dream Declaration, uniting the Martu and Nyiyaparli people in a new way of doing business in Newman.   

Melvin joined us in our Perth office to talk about reconciliation.

What does reconciliation mean to you?

It’s a big word for us, really it is to talk about coming from the past, into the future to reconcile with people.  

Reconciliation is very important –  especially when we have people who want to work together to walk our way forward into the future, there are a lot of issues that have faced us and that are facing us. We need to reconcile with the people.. Moving forward we need to hold hands and walk together for a brighter future for all, always. 

The theme this year is Be Brave, Make Change how can people be brave and make change in their own communities this reconciliation week?

Stand up and be counted, for a long time people had this fear standing up and talking in public and places, I've been there, but you know this is a time to have no fear.   

Once you start doing something you think there is nothing to fear anyway. It’s mainly about standing up and being counted and talking up for yourself and everyone who matters, particularly people who do not have a voice. Push certain people up, so that they can get to that time where they can feel comfortable and feel empowered by someone else who has done that to go forward.

 It’s good to sometimes lead from behind than to lead in front. 

— Melvin Farmer

It’s good to have that voice and respect for the Elders and the older people, that has guided you the whole way, to where you are now and that opportunity to stand up now, this is your opportunity and your chance to shine.

What does reconciliation look like?

It’s about two worlds coming together, walking on pathway forward, It is very important for us to do that, because it is critical at this time, in a state now in Newman where a lot of things are happening. 

In one part we are doing something good and another part there is loss, going in a different direction. That is where we need to steer that into this direction where they can walk together, hold hands and walk together going forward to make Newman a better place.  

I’m glad I’m a part of this team and have the opportunity to do this, I know some of us can make a difference in these challenging times. 

How is the work being done in Newman leading the way forward?

I can see Newman as a place where we are starting and where people are watching and listening.

I myself, and I know other people who give it 110 per cent to make right, make Newman like a beacon and shine it right around Australia and show we can do it. If we can do it in Newman, we can do it right around Australia and all around the world. There has to come a point where we have to start somewhere and at this point, Newman is where we started. 

You work as a cultural advisor, how can people, businesses and organisations listen and learn from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and why is it important to do so?

You can sit down and have a yarn and talk about things and get to understand each other, and you will know where that person is coming from and if there is a difference, you can sit down and talk and work it out.

Some people might think it is weird to sit down and talk to a total stranger, it is not. It is just two human beings talking to one another about issues that matters and put aside our differences and work together.  

Arrogance is on both sides and ignorance it is on both sides, until we build a bridge, we can understand together.