The Doctrine of Discovery and Reconciliation

I was taken in by the breathtaking film clip I saw on the news this morning during National Reconciliation week. Panoramic views of Cadi (Sydney Harbour)  as Singer/song writer Ziggy Ramo stood at the high point of the iconic Opera House that stands on Djubuguli (Bennelong Point). Ziggy was singing his latest version of the Kev Carmody song  “From little things big things grow” that features the voice of Paul Kelly. The history and message of the song is such important opportunity for pausing in this National Week of Reconciliation.

From Little things Big things Grown Ziggy Ramon

It speaks of The Doctrine of Discovery written in 1493 by the then leader of the Christian Church Pope Alexander the VI which was used by the Monarchs of Europe to take possession of  any lands discovered as long as they were not under the Dominion of any Christian Rulers. From this document the world has seen the invasion and disregard of so many of the earth’s nations and cultures as well as the systematic dis-empowerment of first peoples and the rise of white privilege bases on religious doctrine.

In our context this Doctrine of the Church is the basis on which this land now called Australia was declared Terra Nullius and hides the war waged on this continent against the 500+ nations that lived here before the arrival of Captain Cook leaving these nations defeated dis-empowered and invisible.

Some might say that was a long time ago and we should move on even though there are Hymns from our Australian Hymn Book and Together in Song that are as old as this Doctrine, we have not moved on from them. In many ways as a nation, we have not moved on for as recently as September 2007 Australia was one of only 4 nations on the planet who voted against a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which had been advocated for by Indigenous peoples and was worked on for more than 20 years before it was adopted (Miller, Ruru, Behrendt and Lindberg, 2014).

Racial profiling, racist humour and degrading stereotypes are still part of our culture and media. Deaths in custody still occur without explanation and the gap between first and second peoples is still so very wide.

From little things big things grow sing in 1993 Kelly and Carmody and again with Ramo today and they remind us again today  More than a word. Reconciliation takes action .

How did you feel when you saw Ziggy singing his song in the clip above?

How can you take seriously our history both visible and invisible and seek to right so many past wrongs?

What actions might you take this year to move towards reconciliation?

Miller, R., Ruru, J., Behrendt, L. and Lindberg, T., 2014. Discovering Indigenous Lands. Oxford: OUP Oxford.

One thought on “The Doctrine of Discovery and Reconciliation

  1. Thank you for reminding us of the story of the first people’s lives. Always was, always will be. Sovereignty was never ceded.


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