Breaking down the boundaries
Every time I come across a Boundary Street or a Boundary Road, which circle Brisbane’s CBD, I’m now reminded of the importance of reconciliation.
On Wednesday 4 October, Joe Kirk, an Aboriginal Elder of the Turrbal people, performed a Welcome to Country at our Boondall Depot in Brisbane to formally recognise the traditional owners of the land on which it is built. While this acknowledgement ceremony has been initiated across many Telstra Stores and Business Centres around Australia, this is a first for an operational Telstra depot.
The Boondall Depot is located in the northern suburbs of Brisbane and has been a Telstra depot since it was opened in 1989. The depot is shared by around a hundred Telstra Network Construction and Service Delivery staff and services field teams.
During his presentation Uncle Joe explained to the team gathered how most of the streets and roads around Brisbane were called Boundary because they represented the former town boundaries that Indigenous people were not permitted to cross at certain times on certain days in 19th-century Brisbane.
Uncle Joe said, while a lot has changed since then, more needs to happen. He explained that there were many ways to preserve Indigenous heritage and culture, and that recognising the traditional owners of the land was one way to keep his people’s culture and history alive. Uncle Joe said he was happy to see Telstra doing this.
Brendon Riley, Telstra’s Chief Operations Officer, was present at the ceremony and spoke about how the more you learn about the traditional owners of the land, the more sophisticated and steeped in history you discover their spiritual connection to the land and culture is.
Telstra’s Chief Operations Officer Brendon Riley and Regional Manager Qld Mark Pettiford
While the ceremony was quite a learning experience, there was a sudden burst of laughter when Uncle Joe’s own mobile phone interrupted him, to which he responded by holding up the ringing phone and saying, “These modern message sticks will drive you nuts.”
The Turrbal people have a rich history in and around Brisbane; and it was very special to hear some of their stories, which have been passed down through many generations.
I would like to thank Uncle Joe for sharing some wonderful insights and also Dave Kenna, from our Network Construction team, who organised the event and a commemorative plaque containing the specially designed artwork below and the Telstra acknowledgement statement: Telstra acknowledges the Traditional Owners of this land, their Ancestors and Elders – and is committed to reconciliation among all Australians.
The plaque will be mounted in the entry foyer at Boondall Depot. The Telstra Reconciliation Action Plan artwork represents connection.
Each circle on the perimeter represents different Country, connected by the three pillars of Telstra’s Reconciliation Action Plan – Our Customers, Our Communities, Our People. These pillars merge at the centre point of the artwork, the place of ceremony.
Three coolamon lie side by side. These are wooden vessels carrying artefacts of the celebration: seeds and yams, ochre and paint, or even a new born baby. These three pieces represent the core values of the Reconciliation Action Plan – Opportunities, Relationships and Respect.
At the centre of the piece, a man hurls a bull roarer – a traditional device used to hail people far and wide to join the celebration. Telstra’s Reconciliation Action Plan is like that bull roarer; it calls for connection, it calls for celebration, and it calls for action.
The Artist is Riki Salam, Creative Director of Gilimbaa. Riki created his artwork for Telstra from a dream he had that was all about communities connecting.