• Waverley Greens councillor Dominic Wy Kanak at the Bondi Wall. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
In a long battle to preserve Aboriginal history on a reconciliation wall in Bondi, local Indigenous activist, David Keig has helped facilitate a new Heritage listing for the entire Bondi Wall.
By
David Keig

Source:
NITV News
23 Dec 2016 - 12:34 PM  UPDATED 23 Dec 2016 - 1:38 PM

David Keig, amongst other things, is an Aboriginal activist. He is white but has been described by Indigenous people as ‘colour blind’. He strongly believes in truth, integrity and social justice and has been one of the leading locals involved in protecting the Bondi Reconciliation Wall. He is also a poet and writes about Indigenous issues. His work has been used as material for multicultural studies and events in schools and communities both in Australia and overseas.

Last month the Wayside Chapel painted over the Reconciliation mural in Bondi’s Roscoe St, on the side of the Chapel by the Sea. They did so despite the fact that a Heritage listing application was in process.

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In defending these actions, Rev Graham Long has denied that he knew of this application. Yet what baffles me is that after a conversation with an employee from the heritage council, I was informed that the Wayside chapel emailed the Heritage Council within hours of the whitewashing to advise them that the mural had been destroyed therefore highlighting that the application was redundant.

In a statement, Wayside Chapel claimed that the mural was ‘culturally inappropriate’ and ‘deeply disrespectful’ to Aboriginal people, because the artists had not sought the consent the families of the deceased Aboriginal people featured in the mural.

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For us, the truth is quite the opposite. It is Wayside’s actions that have been deeply disrespectful and provoked considerable outrage and sadness within our Indigenous community.

Peter Smith, grandson of Mum Shirl Smith said that it was like ‘attending a funeral for Mum Shirl all over again.’

Roy Ah-See, NSW Aboriginal Land Council chair, says that destroying the mural is a ‘real kick in the guts to the Aboriginal community.’

Maurie Ryan, Vincent Lingiari’s grandson has described the whitewash as ‘sacrilege’ and ‘vandalism.’

Rev Long has apologised but for us locals, his words seem very empty, similar to the way the Bondi mural looks now without it's splashes of colour.

But the mural has not been destroyed. It’s just been hidden. Its spirit lives on. What’s more so does the story of its desecration. This Bondi wall is now unique ‘living history’.

That’s why a new Heritage listing, not for the mural which was destroyed, but now for the entire Bondi Wall has been applied for and is now in process.

Each layer of the Wall is now a part of history and the mural’s message of the need for social justice and reconciliation remains and the importance of this has been amplified by Wayside’s actions. Moreover, it is possible that Wayside’s paint layers can be removed revealing the mural once again.

The Bondi Wall and its story will be, as local Indigenous leader, Dominic Wy Kanak says, “an inspiration to the young and a real learning ground” as study groups have already been to the site to learn about Aboriginal history in Bondi.

For how much longer can we live in ‘the land of the long white lie’? Long? Yes, 228 years long and that’s far too long.

Sadly, incidents like these – in which Indigenous history and culture are regarded as essentially disposable - are all too commonplace. So much Aboriginal history has been whitewashed out as though it’s not seen as being ‘real history’ and so not worthy of commemoration. Yet ‘colonial history’ is seemingly sacrosanct.

Too many times I have heard people say “Australia’s not got that much history” and “don’t blame me, I didn’t kill any Aborigines,” in fact the Lord Mayor of Hobart said this just this week.

For how much longer can we live in ‘the land of the long white lie’? Long? Yes, 228 years long and that’s far too long.

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A Broken Heart:

“Double standards. Aboriginal history is disposable, white history is sacrosanct." Mr Keig has selected this poem of his to highlight the whitewashing of history.

I fought for King and country
On the battlefields in France 
I’d volunteered for active service
For I saw this as a chance
To earn respect from those around me
And stare death full in the face
Being brave was nothing strange to me
And fear is no disgrace
I saw the clouds of chlorine rising
As we put those gas masks on
I saw men torn from their bodies
I’ve been deafened by the guns
There was mustard gas and shrapnel
And more barbed wire than in the bush
There was dysentery and typhus
And bodies oozing pus
That mud clung to your belly
And the rats they seemed to thrive
On bodies out in no-man’s land
Of soldiers not alive
My mates - some of them blinded
Some of them blown apart
And others they just disappeared
When the barrages did start
Some days, it would fall silent
And you could hear the German side
I’d guess they would be blokes like us
Just trying to survive
You’d put your head up in the trenches
And the odds were pretty high
That a sniper that you couldn’t see
Would send you to the sky.
Some of us were lucky
But so many badly died
It didn’t seem like murder
More like wilful suicide
It was hell there in those trenches
There was no glory in that war
No victory in battle
Just stripped naked and red raw
I didn’t go alone you know
I’d gone off there with some mates
We’d gone to show our bravery
And then were told to wait.
There was so much bloody paperwork
Before we could go to fight
They didn’t make it easy
Because we were not white
I’m back now in Australia
Sometimes at night I wake in fear
I can hear the guns and all y’know
And they still seem very near
In the army I was Billy
I had a real name
Now, once again, I’m just an Abo
And my life is much the same
The white men, they look down on us
Then give our women rum
They often take advantage
Then threaten us with guns.
Man! If I just had my life again
And all my mates were here
I don’t think I’d fight in that war
Nor lose myself in beer.
For I thought I’d be respected
By the whitefellas and such
But now I simply realise
We don’t matter very much
For the war, they’d made us citizens
So we could play our part
Now it’s over that’s been taken back
And I have a broken heart.