Many Faces gathered upon the beach at dawn, the Wayalup region of our land holding millennia of Indigenous history. The sun painted its first light on a day of change. From past to present, the Smoking Ceremony brought purification of spirit for all, avoiding the tokenistic approach seen in conventional Australia Day celebrations. For those of all backgrounds, the placement of traditional practices on a day historic for pain and trauma was moving, allowing thought and feelings of connection and empathy to be held at the forefront of those who participated.

Within the wider community of Perth, Fremantle’s One Day celebrations are controversial, with the mainstream media labelling as it as an “affront to Australian culture and capitulation to the political far left”. However, within the boundaries of the Fremantle community, few sought to criticize the event, providing breaths of life into those fighting for the reconciliation and repair.

The power and effects of music, song and dance are universal, its feeling not bound by language or knowledge. The headliners of Kate Miller-Heidke, Baker Boy, Djuki Mala and DJ Kevin Parker ramped the crowd into full gear bringing power and voice to the occasion.

Major, Brad Pettit brought light to the some of the greater outcomes of One Day.

What was especially noticeable was the really broad demographic of people we had. It was a huge mix with lots of families, including Aboriginal families from across the State and migrants.

It could be felt within the crowd. Children, young adults and the elderly. students, artist’s and workers. Everyone cheered as one, regardless of foundations or beliefs. They shared food, a Ferris ride or the lyrics from those on stage. Everyone cheered and clapped whilst artist after artist joined to support a revolution for respect. I saw many dance in bliss and comfort not seen in other public events. From understanding and acknowledgement came that comfort, settling guilt and allowing chatter and the blossoming of new relations.

Throughout the day I ventured many times to the front of the crowd where teenagers jived to traditional songs as they would modern hits. Everyone connected. Everyone jumped. Everyone brought power to the stage, proving the importance of remembrance whilst to celebrate Australia, through grit or grime, prosperity and passion.

One would walk through the crowd, a heavy bass beating into the cool grass beneath. One would see the undoubted support from tens of thousands. One would see bonds between Indigenous and other. Those would believe in a mended society, where celebrations cease to commemorate tragedy and trauma. I stood in front of Baker Boy, bouncing to the beat and smiled, truly believing in the utopia. As Kevin Parker finished the night with his club hits, the atmosphere held a bubble of hope for future Australia.

I walked away from the night beaming, my mate close behind. We were sweaty and exhausted but headed to South Beach Basketball Courts to close the night. As we arrived we noticed the courts where full and turned to leave. I heard someone call us, two young Indigenous fellas asking for a game. As the evening turned to night we rumbled and played. Finishing just points behind. We said goodbye and drove away, the bond between cultures now closer, in person, in mind and in memory.

 

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Hamish Matthews

Hamish Matthews is a young photographer, designer and IT guy working in and around Fremantle. He grew up surrounded by arts, images and electronics and loves everything sleek and trendy. His photographic work can be viewed at www.instagram.com/frementle