By Helen Carrick
Founder of Reading for Reconciliation
In a Brisbane suburban lounge room in 2004, a diverse group aged from their 20s to 70s gathered to discuss Ros Kidd’s ‘The way we civilize’, which Professor Marcia Langton has described as a “ground-breaking history in the lives of Aboriginal people.”
Some participants belonged to social justice groups, several had tertiary qualifications (even majors in History), but all wished to learn more about Australia’s shared history – all regretted this hadn’t been learned at school. Thus, Reading for Reconciliation (R4R) came into being.
It is a specialised book club, whose goal is a better knowledge and understanding of current issues impacting on Australia’s First Peoples: gained in a friendly, informal setting. Without understanding the past, we believe it’s impossible to comprehend the present situation.
A particular source of inspiration was encapsulated in the title of the bestseller by Henry Reynolds: ‘Why weren’t we told?’. ‘Being told’ was made easier by the flourishing publication of suitable titles — especially by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors.
We continued to meet in the same lounge room, but it was evident that Kenmore (QLD) on a Friday evening was not really the optimum location or time. In 2006, kuril dhagun – the educational Indigenous space within the Queensland State Library — opened in a central location and we were able to meet there on Sunday mornings at approximately six-weekly intervals.
We relocated to a meeting room in Parliament House when kuril dhagun was renovated, and most recently have found a home in Brisbane City Council’s (BCC) Brisbane Square Library. This expands the support provided by BCC for many years. When our reading list for each following year is decided, we submit it to BCC, who then ensure 10 copies of each are available in BCC Public Libraries. Further support includes advertising our meetings in BCC’s ‘What’s On?’ program, and active support to establish spin-off R4R groups at BCC branch libraries. This year, Zillmere Library started its own R4R group.
Some highlights of R4R have been:
Becoming a finalist in the Queensland Reconciliation Awards (2012)
- Establishing our website
- Having authors of the titles we’re reading come to speak with us about their work
- Encouragement of participants to nominate a title on which they wish to lead discussion — this normally involves them doing some extra research on the work
- As well as in BCC Libraries, R4R groups have started up in Logan City Central Library and over the border in Lismore, NSW
The cumulative list of titles on our website is also valued by many individuals and organisations (including those based in NSW, VIC and ACT) who are seldom or never able to attend our meetings
Some recommended titles (in no particular order):
- Why warriors lie down and die by Richard Trudgen
- The Dreaming and other essays by W.E.H. Stanner
- The biggest estate on earth: how Aborigines made Australia by Bill Gammage
- Not just black and white by Lesley and Tammy Williams
- Talking to my country by Stan Grant
- Frontier justice: a history of the Gulf Country to 1900 by Tony Roberts
Our meeting dates and titles for 2018 will be decided upon shortly and then added to our website. Though I have stepped down from the role of Convenor of R4R, I remain happy to try to assist the Reconciliation process by meeting with and giving advice to those interested to share our experiences.