Journey of Friendship

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By Cr Serge Thomann, Deputy Mayor

Over the past few months, I have had the honour of being involved in several events which made me proud to be part of an inclusive, welcoming city like Port Phillip.

First and foremost, I am proud that I was instrumental in organising the first Iftar dinner in our City to celebrate our friendship with our Muslim brothers. Iftar is the moment Muslims break their fast during Ramadan.

After prayers, about 60 of us had a wonderful, friendly dinner which demonstrated our strong friendship. The Port Phillip Multi Faith Network (PPMFN), which I chair, also organised a bus tour which visited several places of worship in our City. Thank you to the more than 130 people who came to our journey of friendship and enjoyed learning about other faiths. And thank you to the dedicated PPMFN members who want to make a difference in our City.

I was moved by the exhibition organised by Space2be at the St Kilda Town Hall about new migrants, supported by a Cultural Development Grant from the City of Port Phillip. Great photos by Andy Dewitt as well as powerful “mementos” from all the artists and designers who took part in the exhibition. Please visit the new exhibition at the St Kilda Town Hall Gallery, “Homework”, presented by six artists with strong connections to our City and who all paint from home.

There have also been several opportunities to spend time with our Indigenous community with National Reconciliation Week, including Mabo Day events. This reminded me of the fascination I always had for the Aboriginal people and their rich history.

I came to Australia in 1983. When my parents visited me from France, my Dad was very keen to gain a better understanding of the Indigenous culture so we spent a day in an Indigenous community close to Cairns.

I also spent ten days in Arnhem Land with Mr Yunupingu, before his band Yothu Yindi released their first album, Tribal Voices. I took many photographs and Mushroom used them for the album cover.

I also bought a couple of didgeridoos and attached one on the ceiling of my apartment. The day Mr Yunupingu died, the didgeridoo fell on the ground, making a frightening noise.

Mr Yunupingu made me his blood brother and gave me the name Gutjuk, which means the hawk, as I had a sharp eye and was not afraid of fire. I’ll cherish this for the rest of my life. I also spent several days in another part of Arnhem Land with a friend of mine and even took an elder from that region to Paris for a week. A very interesting experience to say the least… I salute all our wonderful leaders, among them Arweet Carolyn Briggs and the exuberant Aunty Jacko.

I have to say that I have paid a lot more attention to the issues facing Indigenous people since becoming a Councillor. Our Reconciliation Action Plan won an award from the Prime Minister a couple of years ago. The wonderful mural by Adnate at the back of the Peanut Farm is a great way to celebrate our Indigenous community. I also recommend to everyone to read the article written by Mr Yunupingu’s elder brother, Mr G. Yunupingu, “The Law of the Land”, in the July issue of The Monthly.

I met Mr G. Yunupingu when I was in Arnhem Land; in fact, we camped next to his house and travelled in his 4WD. He certainly looked after me, preparing a feast on the beach with amazing dishes.

His question is very pertinent: “How do we balance the wrongs that have been done with a need to work together in the future?”

Last, but not least, please take a look at the new tree we have planted at the St Kilda Botanical Gardens in honour of Nelson Mandela. We are the first Council to do so! I have always admired the great Madiba who inspired so many in public life. “Truth and Reconciliation.”

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