Pilgrimage 21 | Know the Past, Change the Future

Jun 30, 2021 | Community, Youth

For over 20 years, we’ve been on a journey of listening and seeking to understand the stories of our First Nations peoples, seeking to “know the past” so that we can “change the future”.

Since its beginning in 2001, Fusion’s Pilgrimage to Uluru has taken young people on a journey to the heart of our nation. The journey promotes self-discovery and a new perspective on life, empowering them to become educated, passionate, and active ambassadors of reconciliation, committed to a movement of change and transformation across Australia.

As the groups travel toward the heart of the nation physically, they consider the boundaries they are crossing. Unnseen to the naked eye, they tell us the story of the Aboriginal Nations who call the land home. Opportunities to meet with, sit at the feet of and learn from Indigenous people as they travel, help to deepen the pilgrims’ understanding of the story of the peoples who have walked this land over many generations, the hurts they’ve experienced and their hopes for the future.

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Image: Pilgrims on Country in WA

Learning the Story Closer to Home

The restrictions on travel in 2021, created opportunity to take a journey closer to home and in April this year, five state-based pilgrimages took place. Rather than journeying to Uluru, busses of young people, leaders and even families hit the road to explore their own states on a mission to better understand the local Aboriginal story.

Although on journeys that were unique to their state, the pilgrims in Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and South Australia shared a common experience as they learnt about the history of the people Indigenous to the places they visited, their culture, customs, lifestyle, and even the food they ate then and now.

Dining on kangaroo, witchetty grub, salt bush and other bush tucker, learning to skin a wallaby and throw a spear, exploring the bush with those who know the plethora of uses for the surrounding flora and hearing about social customs like intermarriage between neighbouring tribes to maintain genetic strength, all while being on country with Indigenous people, helped the pilgrims to open their minds to a new way of understanding the world around them.

For some young participants it was a learning experience like no other, taking them beyond what they’d learnt in the classroom, into new ways of understanding built on relationship.

Having people talk to me about a culture changes the way I view the culture itself. The indigenous culture that I learned was completely different to what we learn at school, and it brought more of an insight into their culture. Mitch, 15.

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Image: Exploring the Blue Mountains, NSW

I’ve become more careful about the history I read, trying to make sure I get the full story and not just one perspective. Ashlinn, 15

For many, as they took the time to understand other people, they also came to a deeper understanding of themselves and grew in self confidence and capacity to speak up and advocate for themselves and the things they care about.

I learnt that I’m more open minded than I thought and that I can adapt to a lot more than I thought I could. I’ve already started to see subtle differences from before in certain things people say or how people act and I’m noticing how I seem to be acting differently. Devlin, 15

I learnt that not everyone lives their life like I live mine. It helped me be more open-minded in the future, when meeting new people.  Martin, 15

As pilgrims opened their eyes and hearts to the experiences of others, getting inside the skin of people different from them, they understood those they were relating to better, and were empowered to express themselves so that they can impact the future of our nation, for the good of all.

As one young pilgrim reflected, “I’ve learnt that if I speak out, I feel like I can make a difference.”

What a different a place our world could be if we all took a risk, stepped outside the world we know, entered into relationship with people different from us and allowed the time to understand life from their perspective. We might get to know not only them better, but also ourselves.

Visit www.fusion.org.au to find out more about Pilgrimage 21 and the Pilgrimage to Uluru.