Why did you Walk for Reconciliation in the year 2000?

It was a perfect Sydney day: blue skies, gentle air, sunshine; yet it held the promise of a larger perfection. For in this place of dispossession and terrible forgetting it felt for a moment as if something was being put right with our lives, with our country.

I walked across the bridge with friends from a local community group. It was a slow, but purposeful meander across the Bradfield Highway. I felt alive: like I could breathe in life itself. And I felt encouraged. For it seemed as if half the city was out; ready to say “yes, we want to go on this journey”. The walk was peaceful, joyful, full of wonderment. Even the skies were emblazoned with the one word that could say it all: “Sorry.”

I have never felt better to be an Australian.

We walked with the crowds all the way to Darling Harbour under that healing word in the sky; with the blessing of the sun over our heads and led on by the strength of the land beneath our feet.

And it was then that I spotted a quiet figure sitting with some of his grandchildren - or so I guessed. No one seemed to being paying him any attention, but I knew who he was; it was Charlie Perkins. By this time he was quite sick and frail. I stood back for a few minutes, and, noting he wasn’t being harassed by people, I quietly approached him and had a brief chat with him. He had been deeply moved by what he had witnessed, by the vast crowds that had turned up.

I am glad that he lived to be there; to see this outpouring of desire for connection, for truth, for change.

It was but a moment in time, but what a step on our collective journey it remains. It is a reminder that we can come together across cultures, face pain, share in hope.

What is your vision of Reconciliation for the next 20 years?"

I hope that this journey of reconciliation will find new energy - and new faces with new commitment. That it will stretch from Sydney Harbour - my old hometown - to the lands of the Arrernte people on which I now live - and of whom Charlie Perkins was so great an ambassador - and beyond; right across this wide, beautiful, and ever-patient land.

I long for true connection - born of honesty - from which life, laughter, healing and friendship will grow between those who are the First Peoples of this land, and all of us who have since arrived.

I want justice for her sons and daughters - today, tomorrow, and for all the collective sins of the past.

I want to keep walking; believing the future lies with reconciliation, and hearts that care.


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