There are some extraordinary changes happening in Australia’s southern-most state. Dr Emma Lee has been at the heart of it – literally and figuratively. Emma is an Indigenous trawlwulwuy woman from tebrakunna country, north-east Tasmania, and is a widely awarded scholar and community leader. The article Emma recently wrote for the ABC was titled, ‘We 'love-bombed' the Tasmanian government to win Indigenous rights.’
The list of changes achieved by Emma, her community and their government needs to be seen to be believed - from dual naming policies, to a whole of government strategy called Reset the Relationship, right through to constitutional change, and all achieved in just a few years, with a notionally conservation government in power, and in the state with perhaps the darkest history of Indigenous colonial experience.
This conversation is a fascinating exploration of how it all happened, and why family, kinship and a regional approach is central to it. With this in mind, Emma has salient things to say about the implications for reconciliation and Treaty processes, the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and how to engage most meaningfully and successfully with Aboriginal communities. Well, perhaps any community.
Emma’s is a fascinating story. She was one of the first Indigenous archaeologists in this country, but she came on hard times and ended up working at a petrol station, where her life was transformed. She went on to a PhD and this story of broader transformation. And she’s now on her way to helping establish an Indigenous cultural fisheries and food market in Tasmania, with Tasmanian and Australian Government support, as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research Fellow at the Centre for Social Impact.
News of Emma and what’s been happening in Tasmania lobbed into our orbit last week via our friends at Common Cause. It’s a growing story too, reminiscent of the approach taken in the recent successful ‘YES’ campaign for same-sex marriage in Australia, for example, powerfully transcending the adversarialism that underpins so much of our dominant cultural story.