AllGrid and DICE Australia had an amazing time in Sydney at our fund-raising event “Illuminating the Environmental: Healing from the Inside out.” With minds cast towards a hopeful future, it was a night of stimulating conversation and illuminating speeches from inspired people working within the fields of mental health and sustainability. Out installing solar panels and batteries, AllGrid has seen first hand the troubles that rural communities face, so our aim was to raise funds for further research and development into an Indigenous-specific mental health and suicide prevention program to be delivered in these communities. The event was a symposium of indigenous leaders discussing the topics of depression and anxiety in Aboriginal communities, but along the way the conversation touched on topics such as sustainability, refreshing ancient cultures, and creating a healthier society with indigenous wisdom.
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Dr David Suzuki was man of the hour when he arrived. The wise old grandfather in the room, dispensing stories of his bus trips through Canada attempting to institute a healthy environment into the Canadian constitution, or telling of adventures he’d gone on where they’d fished in negative fifty degrees, having to cut holes in the ice just to drop a line in. It was an absolute privilege to hear the tales of such a veteran of the environmental cause. Along one table of the side wall of the beautiful SMC conference room, were a variety of free resources for our guests; magazines, reference sheets, and information booklets, from “evidence based solutions for rural communities,” to psychological self-evaluations. Drinks and nibbles were set out on tables through the middle, and groups clustered while guests flitted around shaking hands with our esteemed guests and fellow climate change champions.
Our panel was dispersed through the crowd. Josh Gilbert with a silver badge on his chest – an imprint of a wood chip from a forest he’s campaigning to save. Amelia Telford, a representative of her mob Seed, the network of young indigenous people, with her trademark enthusiastic smile and engaging conversation. Nathan Blacklock, laid-back but sincere in person, looking smart in a suit instead of footy gear. Our wise women Olga Havnen and Kirstie Parker brought their wisdom and incredible wealth of experience to the event. And the upstanding young gentleman Elijah Douglas took the time off from his work with Save the Children to grace the room with gentle presence. As well as these amazing panelists, we had a range of special guests. From the NSW Mental Health Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner, John Feneley and Dr Robyn Shields, to world renown artist Stan Dryden and Elders Isaac Gordon and Bradley Steadman from Brewarrina.
First up on the podium was the Elder Uncle Allen Madden who gave a warm and sincere welcome to the Gadigal lands of the Eora Nation. Paying his respects to Indigenous Elders past, present, and future, and welcoming the event and our guests on behalf of the Gadigal mob and the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council.
A last minute arrival was the Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore, who kicked off the formal side of the night with the first key note address. Moore, the first popularly elected woman for the job, was just coming off a landslide victory and record fourth election win for the office. With her pioneering grassroots approach and excellent negotiating skills she has managed to unite the city behind a progressively sustainable plan for the future, with the aim to source fifty percent renewable energy for the area by 2030. It is inspiring to hear from someone in such an important position pushing hard to make fundamentally positive changes, and exciting that she is a woman succeeding so spectacularly. Clover Moore we applaud you.
Dr David Suzuki was next up to the podium. With his dulcet tones trained from his prolific appearances on Canadian radio and television, he spoke passionately about his experience of campaigning. He told a tale of humanity’s troubled journey into this modern age, the stumbling of the environmental movement and the dire warnings of science, and the fact that hope is not lost. He told anecdotes of his meetings with CEO’s over the gas seam mining in the Alberta tar sands that were both light-hearted and incredibly serious. He provided a wonderful easing into a night of discussion between our panelists, seamlessly facilitated by NANA Australia CEO, Rod Gonzales.
Events like this are so important. Not only do they provide a wide range of tools and skills for people working with and for indigenous communities, they bring the voices of a wise and ancient culture to a land where only whispers remain. Part of bringing this dialogue into the open is about creating a common language that we can all speak that allows us to empower indigenous people everywhere. Indigenous wisdom for localized healing for remote communities and the people who need it there, and indigenous wisdom for the world as a whole. With events such as these we breathe new life into our culture.
We will provide a thorough briefing of the panels discussion in a later article. Thank you to all the VIPs, special guests, panelists, and speakers that came to our event. It was a pleasure hosting you, and we hope to see you next year. Our sincere gratitude for our other awesome sponsors included Indigenous Business Australia, Alpha Technologies, Impact 20T80, Dice Renascant, Red Center Manufacturing and the Commonwealth Bank, we couldn’t have done it without you. Proceeds from the event have been donated to NSW based “Centre for Remote and Rural Mental Health” and Black Arm Band.
All photos are courtesy of the wonderful Francesco from Organic Photo
So today we leave you with four and a half minutes of spine tingling inspiration from Black Arm Band who are “gently awakening some of Australia’s sleeping languages”.