Project Help India celebrated World Food Day this October by having lessons and a special healthy meal at each of our centres. We are thankful for our Coordinator, Mrs Shalini Singh and our teachers who made this possible. Emphasis was placed on the importance of valuing nutritious food with the slogan “bringing our hands together for needy persons.”
Sadly, we currently see the incidence of hunger growing in the slums where we work, due to the significant escalation in the cost of essential food items at the markets. The increase in the cost of living impacts the poor and needy in the slums before others.
When our kids come to class every day, they each receive a nutritious meal. For every child this is the most substantial meal that they receive every day. They are grateful for a full tummy …and boy do some eat a lot! Thank you to the generosity of our supporters who make this possible.
It was a privilege and humbling experience to speak yesterday at ‘A National Act of Recognition’. The event held at Kamay Botany Bay was what I hope to be the first of many truth-telling events, bringing recognition to the historic events around ‘Captain’ James Cook.
I acknowledge the work done by Rev Lindsay McDowell who summarises below some historic, primary source documents, around Cook. McDowell describes what was “an armed attack, entry and theft – on Country … it was the first day of our shared history.”
Most people have a general knowledge that Lieutenant James Cook came to Kamay Botany Bay in 1770. And that is one of our big problems - we have a general knowledge. But how many of us know what really happened? How many are aware no less than four (4) illegal acts took place? We suggest those same actions launched against any beach village in the UK would’ve been found to be criminal offences, all those involved convicted under British laws in force at that time, and the leaders executed.
To understand what happened at Kamay on 29th April 1770, Reverend Lindsay McDowell examines below an Endeavour Journal entry from the day. A quick, casual read of it may leave us unmoved, but when we study the text in a line by line, forensic scrutiny that first day was more invasive than we think:
1. ‘They remained resolute so a musquet was fird over them … A Musquet loaded with small
shot was now fird at the Eldest of the two … (and) … we landed on the rock.’ - This was an armed attack and entry against the Gweagal people - on Country - a criminal offence.
2. ‘Two more musquets with small shot were then fird at them on which the Eldest threw one more lance and then ran away as did the other.’ James Cook and the Endeavour crew terrorised inhabitants into fleeing their property. Firstly, forced to flee the beach, families then fled from their homes in the village – a criminal offence
3. ‘We went up to the houses, in one of which we found the children hid…’ This is a clear admission of armed trespass around very private property – a criminal offence.
4. ‘We thought it no improper measure to take away with us all the lances which we could findabout the houses, amounting in number to forty or fifty … all except one had four prongs …’ These were fishing spears! Lt. Cook and the Endeavour crew stole Gweagal food harvesting equipment – all they could find!!! A clear admission of armed robbery – a criminal offence.
There is a fifth line in the Endeavour Journal, written in Joseph Banks’ own hand that explains their underlying collective attitude toward these 4 criminal acts. This fifth line reveals the British thought they could do this to people – with no accountability:
‘We however thought it no improper measure …’ Where were their heads??? This account of day one of our joint history took place at the gateway into the country. The Truth Telling it reveals should leave every fair minded Australian deeply disturbed.
The point of that 1770 April day? It set the stage for what was to come almost two decades later. It set the trajectory for the stealing of land – and the unspeakable evil of killing the legal possessors to get it. There has never been public accountability for the 4 crimes listed above. Common sense tells us no-one living now can be blamed for actions by our forebears 252 years ago - or even 100 years ago. We who are alive now however, could choose to take ‘collective responsibility’ for stains on our nation’s past.
Truth Telling - the Recognition Way, will genuinely help the Australian people do that. We will place all early records under national scrutiny and publicly denounce these unacceptable wrongdoings.
As educators we must hold the History Syllabus to account. As a primary student in the 1970s I idolised Cook. Today, me must ensure that comfortable and convenient truths do not enter the narratives and story telling of our teachers.
On the recent occasion of Diwali, the most famous festival in India, we organised the art and craft activity of painting earthen diyas (lighted lamp) and drawing the beautiful Rangoli (traditional Indian art from using coloured sand or powder to decorate floor) to bring out the creative talents of children.
The children from across all of our centres decorated the diyas which were then donated to both needy persons, and also to some police officers at the local station.
Our Director Mr. Amit Samuel said the main objective of this activity was to explore the student’s imagination and creativity and explain the word ‘equality’ to the children and to reinforce the importance of showing respect and having an understanding of community religions and important celebrations.
As an opportunity to share love some of the students of our Bijnor Center) also took part and visited to respected Officers (District Magistrate (DM) Mr Umesh Tyagi, Mrs. Indoo -Superintendent of Police, and Sanjiv Tyagi) bringing their best wishes, decorated diyas, sweets and colourful greeting cards.
Mr Umesh Tyagi returned the blessing giving gift hampers to the children. Mrs. Indoo gave Rs 500 to each child 500 rupees as a token of love and to buy a Diwali gift.It was a very special moment.
The officers honoured and appreciated the remarkable work done by Project Help India in their locality of Bijnor and for its role in helping humanity, and specifically the poor and needy in one of Bijnor’s poorest slums.
I want to thank our fabulous teachers at Project Help India for your hard work in making this happen. Through this celebration we bring joy, honour and an important sense of identity and pride for our Hindu students, their families and community ...and so much fun too!
I am a teacher, and a Principal. I love education and learning is my passion. I was a school student in the 1970s.
As a small boy I recall watching the re-enactment of Cook’s arrival at Sydney harbour. We came here to celebrate this achievement in Australian history. We were told that it was a glorious most wonderful moment. I was taught as a primary student that this happened peacefully and with the consent of First Nations peoples. I was lied to, I was taught that Cook was a hero. I was lied to. How could I have been so stupid?
As a teacher a few decades later I initially continued to tell the lie. Our history curriculum both then and for many years later perpetuated this myth. I am profoundly sorry for this. It was a Year 4 student who I was teaching at the time who put up her hand and asked? "But Mr Thomas, isn't that stealing? It's like someone comes into your house and kicks you out, and now they live there". It took the simple perspective of a child to see it for what it was. This moment for me was powerful and confronting. It was like I was clobbered, there was a sense of revelation and realisation, and in that one moment I realised that I had been lied to, and as a teacher I continued to tell the lie to the next generation.
Consent has become an important and powerful word in so many contexts. Yet it did certainly was not considered when my teacher(s) back in the Seventies and Eighties taught me about the 'glorious' Captain Cook. I am pleased to say that our current curriculum now tells the truth. I am proud to say that I work with a generation of teachers who know and seek to tell the truth we are hearing today. But I give this warning, there is opposition by many. There are many who describe the curriculum as liberal, provocative and dangerous.
As I listen to the stories of the First Nation people speaking today, and hear of the trauma and grief that you have experienced, that which continues to impact you today, I say...
We have heard you
We do not want to leave you to struggle for truth and justice on your own
We want to stand with you
We want to struggle with you.
I want to acknowledge after hearing stories of what has been stolen from you, I recognise that for many of you I represent the one who stole from you. I am white, I am male, I am the Principal of a church school, a religious organisation - an organisation that for generations has stolen from you, caused trauma and abuse, stolen family members. I represent fear, pain and unhealed wounds.
I have heard you, and I am truly sorry.
I live and work in Coogee/Randwick, the land of the Mura Ora Dial clan. Where I live there are 2 monuments standing that for me represent the impact of possession. In the main shopping centre of Randwick stands a monument to Cook and down the hill a concrete storm water drain flows into the ocean at the north end of Coogee Beach. To me this concrete drain pipe represents intrusion and abuse - a gross destruction of place, a place that had been cared for, loved - a source of food, a place of connection for tens of thousands of years.
James Baldwin, an African-American activist worked tirelessly for public awareness of racial and colonial oppression worth. He wrote;
History is not our past, it is our present. We carry this history with us. We are our history. If we pretend otherwise we are literally criminals.
Today, here at Kamay Botany Bay we recognise that when Cook took possession he did so without consent. He committed a crime, not a glorious deed. We continue to commit and repeat Cook’s crime, when we tell the narrative of this false history. and we perpetuate ongoing trauma, we are responsible for keeping the wound open when we continue tell the lie.
I acknowledge and renounce the many injustices. Today, we recognise the crime, the lie has been brought into the light, we pray for healing. We work with a shared commitment to tell the truth, with a common memory and a united imagination for the future.