• Dancers performing during the Walk for Reconciliation in Brisbane, Queensland, 2000. (Jo-Anne Driessens )Source: Jo-Anne Driessens
Twenty-years ago on this day, 70,000 people marched through the streets of Brisbane in the ‘People’s Walk for Reconciliation’, which officially drawing to a close National Reconciliation Week 2000.
Douglas Smith

4 Jun 2020 - 10:36 AM  UPDATED 4 Jun 2020 - 10:37 AM

On 4 June, 2000, the People’s Walk for Reconciliation took place in Brisbane, with an estimated 70,000 people hitting the pavement in what was seen as a “changing” time by those who attended.

The march, which started early in the morning at Kurilpa Point in South Brisbane, travelled across the William Jolly Bridge and into the CBD where it halted at King George Square. 

A photographer who was there on the day, Jo-Anne Driessens, told NITV News that she had “never seen anything like it before”, as changing attitudes were starting to emerge from relations between white and black Australians. 

“Around that time in the 90’s, the change in Brisbane and the population towards this kind of support really shifted and you could feel it,” said Ms Driessens. 

“I kind of got a sense that it was going to be significant but I didn't realise till what point, obviously there was the Sydney one that occurred previously.

“To walk alongside communities who have had it tough, to meet my family who were placed on the mission and to suddenly be released into the city and have restrictions around their movement, to now be right in the heart of the city and getting permission to just claim the roads.”

Ms Driessens, who was adopted as a child, said the march came at a “significant time” for her personally, as it was around the same time as the ‘Bringing them Home Report’, which was a national inquiry into the forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their families.

“It was only about two or three years that the keys were handed over by the Lord Mayor at the time, Jim Sorley to the Council of Elders, and that was around the time of the Bringing them Home Report.

“I wasn’t just reading it or watching it on TV or hearing it on the radio, I knew that this was going to make some significant chunk in history that won't leave people’s memories very easily.”

The Chairperson of Reconciliation at the time, Ngugi man, ‘Uncle Bob’ Anderson, told NITV News that there was a  “semblance of togetherness” in Brisbane on 4 June, 2000.  

“It’s one of those things to, to walk the streets of Brisbane without having a permit to do so, and by doing so without a permit, we would’ve endured the wrath by the establishment by breaking the law, but there was that semblance of togetherness on that particular day that was supported by a great number of people,” said ‘Uncle Bob.

In the days before, one of the biggest mobilisations of people in modern history took place, with an estimated 250,000 people walking for reconciliation across the Sydney Harbour Bridge on 28 May.

Bidjara and Birri Gubba Jurru woman, Jackie Huggins, has been an activist and social justice campaigner for Indigenous people for decades. 

She attended both gatherings in the year 2000, and said 20-years later, very little has changed.  

“The council for Aboriginal reconciliation had a 10-year sunset clause, which the Government thought by then, we would’ve solved reconciliation, that reconciliation would be something in the distant past,” said Ms Huggins. 

“We know that did not happen, and we know that there’s still, very much a long way to go in terms of social justice for our people.”

Despite the Coronavirus pandemic, Ms Huggins said the reconciliation and social injustices of Indigenous people, “should not be dropped from the national agenda or the consciousness of governments.”

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