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Fremantle says it's time for truth-telling

Rhiannon Clarke -

Approximately two hundred people were present at the launch of the City of Fremantle's truth-telling program at Manjaree/Bathers Beach last Sunday.

The occasion included a smoking ceremony and a seaweed etching of the word TRUTH in the sand with attendees able to hear from local Elders and guest speakers, engage in weaving circles, join cultural tours, and share their interest in learning more about collective Indigenous history.

Noongar man Daniel Garlett commenced the event by delivering the Welcome to Country which was followed by a smoking ceremony.

As he reflected on Indigenous shared history, he emphasised the connection of Indigenous people to the entire country, spanning across Noongar country and the 14 different clans, including Whadjuk Noongar.

"The way I look at it, when we talk about truth-telling," he said.

"...We ran it and we ruled it and we did it like no one else can or will ever do it again and that's a fact, and we need to instil that type of cultural leadership, obligation and moral commitment to our country and to each other."

Noongar man Daniel Garlett opened the truth-telling event with a welcome to country and smoking ceremony (Image: Rhiannon Clarke)

Whadjuk Noongar Elder Gerrard Shaw shared stories of the economic exploitation of First Nations individuals, the forced separation of children from their families, and the women who were relocated across the state to serve as domestic workers with a powerful speech.

"There are many unresolved issues in the past and we want to tell our stories as many of our stories as we can. So that we can help the broader community listen, hear, and understand the purpose of truth-telling and the importance of that to reconciliation," Dr Shaw said.

During his speech, Dr Shaw provided a historical account of the discovery of Fremantle by Captain Fremantle in 1829. Reflecting on his own childhood, Dr. Shaw mentioned how he was taught to knock on the door and wait for an invitation to enter.

However, the British seemed to have disregarded such manners during their time in Fremantle, which eventually set off a chain of events of mistreatment to Noongar people in the area.

"...We will never abandon our dream of walking together and we are resolved, once again, to try truth-telling as the way we can do this," he said.

Whadjuk Noongar Elder Gerrard Shaw gave a powerful speech. (Image: Rhiannon Clarke)

Dr. Shaw concluded his speech by publicly expressing his thoughts, revealing what he had previously discussed in private. He made the decision to make this statement public, emphasising the importance of the king returning the land and apologising.

Fremantle Mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge said the event was just the beginning of this part of the City's indigenous-led journey.

"As a city we've built strong relationships and lasting connections with local Elders and Traditional Owners, which are helping to form the foundation of our work in truth-telling." Mayor Fitzhardinge said.

The City of Fremantle, along with neighbouring communities, are committed to recognising forgotten aspects of their histories.

The 2024-27 Reconciliation Action Plan is a key part of this dedication, now focusing on truth-telling to guide future initiatives.

Fremantle Mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge is leading the truth-telling event in WA (Image: Rhiannon Clarke)

Residents of Fremantle are urged to engage in ongoing discussions and participate in the truth-telling effort, including the upcoming enhancements at the Walyalup Aboriginal Cultural Centre.

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