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Mayor's Proclamation Day Speech

Mayor's Proclamation Day Speech

Mayor's Proclamation Day Speech

Thursday 28 December 2023
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Each year, I look forward to this day – the 28th of December – and what we know as Proclamation Day.

Despite all the busyness of Christmas and summer celebrations with family and friends, today offers us a chance to pause...

It offers us a time for reflection and a place to ponder the events of the past …

Of the challenges faced by the First Nations people, whose lives were changed forever in 1836…

And the challenges encountered by the early settlers, who left their homes, travelled across the seas to a land that was entirely unknown.

Among them were my own ancestors including my great, great, great grandmother, Emma Amy Anne Mills Whitbread.

Emma arrived in Adelaide in June 1840 on board the Charles Kerr, with her then-husband Issac Kerr and five children – one of whom was born at sea just a month earlier.

Issac died suddenly on arrival in Adelaide, leaving Emma, then aged 33, with no means of support and five children to feed.

She lived in the parklands and then in a dugout on the banks of the River Torrens, near the site of the old Adelaide Gaol.

In 1845, she married John Wilson, who had arrived on the Buckinghamshire in 1839 with his first wife Elizabeth and five children of his own. Elizabeth died in 1844.

Together, Emma and John had two more children - George, my direct relative – and John junior.

I can only imagine the hardships Emma was faced with, as a young mother and widow in the mid-1800s.

But I also wonder if she dreamt of how her life would turn out, when she boarded that ship and sailed across the globe to start a new chapter in South Australia.

On this day, I believe we have the chance to dream of what the future might hold for us all… particularly as we continue on the path of reconciliation.

At the City of Holdfast Bay, we started our journey many years ago and have arrived at a place of mutual respect and friendship with Kaurna Elders, among them Aunty Lynette Crocker, Uncle Jeffrey Newchurch and Aunty Merle Simpson, just to name a few.

Today we’re here under Patha Yukuna – the Kaurna name for crooked gum – and as I look around at us all sitting and standing together, side by side, I’m prompted to think about the colonial ships carrying the early settlers arriving and dropping anchor early morning December 28th.

It is said that on that sweltering summer day, the new settlers gathered under the shade of a ‘huge gum tree’ to hear the reading of the Proclamation Document.

Today, 187 years later, we’re again here for Banbanbalya – to do important business.

But the nature of the business has evolved to ensure our shared histories are told and acknowledged together.

The most rapid change has only happened in the past few years though, when Uncle Jeffrey first stood by my side to co-host this commemoration and I thank him for being here again today.

This year, we’ll see another first for Proclamation Day with a series of signal fires to be lit along the coastline this afternoon.

This cultural practice is being led by Kaurna Elders and the Kaurna Fire Team from Firesticks, an Indigenous alliance across Australia reviving cultural burning.

I was lucky enough to be invited to one of the smaller cultural fires held in the lead-up to today and was honoured to witness the sharing of knowledge by Kaurna Elders to the next generation.

It is widely documented that signal fires were a form of communication for First Nations People across Australia.

Plumes of smoke would be sent into the sky as a warning among Aboriginal groups that something of importance was happening.

Today, we are all invited to take part in the signal fire events, which will acknowledge acts that took place in 1836, upon the arrival of colonial ships along South Australia’s coastline.

They will be held from 1pm on the beach at Kingston Park and North Brighton and I would encourage you all to attend and avail yourself of the opportunity to support reconciliation through learning and understanding.

Looking ahead to 2024, my hope is that we as a community continue to meet together, to talk, to share ideas and support each other with compassion and respect that allows us all to live in harmony.