Barefoot at the Embassy

posting by Jana


Over the weekend I attended the Green Institute Conference 'Everything is Connected' in Canberra. This think-tank event covered a wide range of progressive/Green political agenda items like doughnut economics, Democracy in Colour, and 'truthiness' in politics. I was there to talk about the Cosmic Person as an image of the human-Earth relationship in law and life, on a panel about connecting with nature. 

The event began, as most do in Australia, with a welcome to country ceremony presented by the traditional owners of the area in which the meeting is being held. This one was like none other I'd ever experienced. 

We gathered in the park facing Old Parliament House, now a museum to the development of democracy in Australia. More notably, we gathered at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. 


This is a place of welcome and sovereignty for all Aboriginal people of Australia. It is an historical landmark, but it is also a working embassy where people continue to work for the recognition of the sovereignty of the hundreds of Aboriginal nations to whom this country belongs (and has belonged for over 60,000 years). This coming weekend, for instance, the embassy is hosting an event to formalise treaties amongst the first nations  as a step towards treaty recognition between these nations and Australia. 

dancing around the fire.jpg

As part of the welcome, Uncle Les Coe of the embassy invited a small number of us visitors to enter the sacred circle and share in the dance. How could I not? (black suit, orange scarf next to Uncle Les in the blue tank top and shorts)

I've never been invited to connect with someone else's country so literally. I'll never forget how humbling and gracious this single shuffling barefoot circuit around a sacred fire felt (a fire tended continuously since 1998); how honoured I felt to enter a dance with the earth that has gone on forever and will go on forever, as long as there are peoples who respond to the call to tend the fire and touch the earth.

May I - and you - may we always be counted amongst them. 

Dr Mary Graham.jpg