With large public gatherings cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions, this will be an unusual Reconciliation Week for Yugara sisters Lilly and Maria Davidson.
The co-founders of Liworaji Aboriginal Corporation have been isolating at home until last week, when they reopened the doors of their not-for-profit community organisation.
“We might’ve closed the doors for safety, but we didn’t turn the phones off,” Aunty Lilly Davidson said.
“We’ve still been taking calls and ringing people we work with to make sure they’re OK.
“It’s been really challenging, and while we all want to get together for Reconciliation Week and hear stories from elders, we can’t do that right now.”
The sisters are performing the Welcome to Country for the Mayor and Councillors on Tuesday to mark the start of Reconciliation Week and are encouraging all Australians to educate themselves about Indigenous history.
“We know through DNA sequencing that Australian Aboriginals have had a continuous connection to the land for 120,000 years,” Aunty Maria said.
“That’s long before the Roman Empire, before the Egyptian pyramids were built, before the Chinese dynasties, and that’s worth acknowledging.
“I think Australians as a whole need to learn more about our history, be a part of it, and be proud of it.”
Aunty Lilly said that there were lessons to learn from the COVID-19 crisis which were important to take into Reconciliation Week.
“It’s been sad to see the whole world stopped in its tracks, but it’s been good for families and nature,” she said.
“Families are sitting down to eat meals together and people have more time for each other, so it will have some positives for relationships.
“What I’d like to see out of all of this is that everyone stops and reflects, where have we come from and where are we heading, and what’s important to us in life.”
The sense of community and family has been at the heart of Liworaji since it opened in Ipswich three years ago, connecting people with services and providing food and clothes to those in need.
“As Yugara people, we’re custodians of this land and we feel responsible for all 14,000 Indigenous people who are part of this community,” Aunty Maria said.
“But we’re not just here for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. We have quite a few non-Indigenous people who come in, and a few African women who have claimed us as their sisters.
“We don’t care who you are. If you need help, we’ll help you.”
Liworaji Aboriginal Corporation have been partnering with the Queensland Police Service to provide cultural support and help with domestic violence referrals.
Aunty Lilly said she hopes the enforced slowdown of restrictions will have a positive effect on connecting people more to the land.
“We all come in different shades, but every one of us lives here, so let’s embrace the culture and the history we have, and all show our respect to the land.”
The theme of this year’s Reconciliation Week is ‘In this Together’. For more information on how to get involved, visit the Reconciliation Australia website for virtual events, resources and information.