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Posted on January 26 2019


Smoking Ceremony Adelaide

The following is the speech given by Rosemary Wanganeen at the Australia Day Smoking Ceremony, 26 January 2019

Thank you, Australia Day Council SA, for partnering with Australian Institute for Loss and Grief for this opportunity. 

Together, we’d like to say it’s such an honor and a privilege to be here with you all to introduce the concept of Mourning in the Morning ceremony on a day that is special to some and contentious to others.  

In the 21st century, the Australia Day Council SA and Australian Institute are trusting the timing is right to introduce what we think could be a profound new concept of Mourning in the Morning.

We present the Mourning in the Morning using the ancient form of ‘story-telling’ because we’re cautiously confident, such a story has never been openly talked about across South Australian communities before. 

We understand Mourning in the Morning is such a new concept that could be emotionally challenging for some and so we present it using ‘story-telling’ through the lens of aspirations, explorations, reflections and invitations.

And we present this conversation in the hope we raise your curiosity and awareness, but as we depart from each other today, I’m hopeful you’ll become inspired to want to contemplate the deeper and more meaningful concepts ‘sitting behind’ this Mourning in the Morning ceremony.

So, the most significant concept ‘sitting behind’ this ceremony is ‘grief forgiveness’!  We understand ‘grief forgiveness’ is a deeply personal journey, but the journeys end could become deeply spiritual.

It can be so deep; a form of reconciliation takes place between the spirit and the physical body; liken it to the Spirit ‘coming home’!  I say this and know this, from my ‘lived experiences’ when my spirit ‘came home’, it sustained my ability to ‘live in’ my grief forgiveness.

And, when we hear the word reconciliation, we would be forgiven for automatically reflecting on the Reconciliation Australia model between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples.  

The ‘new’ reconciliation model I’ll outline below, is still a reconciliation process but not as you know it, there’s a few twists and turns to this model but it’s deeply grounded in grief forgiveness.

So, why me?  Why am I here talking to you about Mourning in the Morning, grief forgiveness, reconciliation and spirituality?  Well, why not me? It could simply be said; the timing is right!

I have over 30yrs of ‘lived experiences’ in the field of loss and grief and in so doing founded the Australian Institute for Loss and Grief in 2005.

Over these years, I’ve acquired a deep meaningful and spiritual understanding of what it means to ‘live in’ my own grief forgiveness.

I recall I had no choice in this deeply personal journey, but my journeys end did become deeply spiritual.

There was a beginning, a middle and an end to my grieving journey as I am about to describe for today’s ceremony. 

So, in the beginning it began in 1987 as a deeply painful journey and I was full of hate and resentment because ‘1788 arrived’ upon the shores of my Ancestors. 

I had learnt they had to endure genocide through unspeakable inhumane policies, practices and procedures. 

Then in 1991, the middle of my grieving journey as my grief tears ebbed and flowed, I remember asking my Spiritual Ancestors: why did Captain Cook have to find you?

Full of humility and compassion their voices simply replied: Well why not us? 

I remember thinking: “Is that it, is this all you’ve got to say?

During this deeply spiritual time, I soon realized I had a right, a role and a responsibility to respectfully continue my grieving journey to attain a deep and more meaningful understanding of what they meant when they told me: ‘well why not us’!  

So, I learnt how and why they lived in harmony with all of nature, they nurtured each other, they had conflicts but spiritually and physically thrived for over 60,000 years. Then I realized they must have been the ‘custodians’ of what it means to be human that does no harm?  Because one day they asked me: now that you know what we had and what we lost what are you going to do about it, daughter? 

I knew what they meant; what am I going to do about my broken heart that’s been harboring over 200yrs of suppressed unresolved grief hate and resentment that was now conflated with a multitude of my modern losses and unresolved grief, namely my Stolen Generation experiences! 

Nearing the end of my grieving journey in 1992, it was just a matter of time before they revealed to me, as their descendent that I was ready, willing and able to spiritually and intellectually acknowledge that I had a right, a role and a responsibility to respectfully embrace grief forgiveness for all who arrived before, during and after 1788. 

Then my spiritual ancestors whispered to me: “This is not to condone what happened to us!  We want you to ‘use’ what happened to us to ’test’ your individual ability to transform your grief fears, that is your hate and resentment into your intuitive intelligence that is your humility and compassion for what happened when ‘1788 arrived’ and consequently, your Stolen Generation experiences. Through your grief forgiveness, it will sustain the whole of who you are meant to become.” 

With this heartfelt knowledge and deep spiritual awareness, here I am today, not to speak on behalf of anyone or to convert anyone.

So, 2yrs ago I had an epiphany; there seemed to be a missing category to the Australian Reconciliation model that could be enhanced greater than it already is.  On reflection I think the missing reconciliation category we invite you to reflect on, is between you the modern non-Aboriginal Australians and your spiritual ancestors who arrived before, during and after 1788.

Imagine the lives of your ancestors: the men, women and children who ‘arrived’ with their grief being suppressed and unresolved.  Imagine them being ripped away from their country, families, cultural identity, language, foods and labelled convicts, particularly the children!

As their non-Aboriginal Australian descendants, can you tap into your humility and compassion to spiritually reconcile with your ancestors who perpetrated such violence in 1788, by tapping into your grief forgiveness?

I need to believe if your non-Aboriginal spiritual ancestors could whisper in your ear, I think they would plead with you: Please forgive us? In 1788, we didn’t know what we didn’t know, that you now know!  We didn’t know our bodies had been harboring grief anger, grief rage and how it escalated into grief violence and inhumane atrocities to commit invasions upon First Nations people on this continent and around the world.  We also didn’t know our Mother-land had also experienced a violent invasion in 43AD – in so doing we didn’t know we had lost all aspects of our traditional culture!  We also didn’t know violence begets violence and we share this to explain what we think happened, not to excuse what happened.   

Similarly, as modern non-Aboriginal Australians, if my Aboriginal spiritual ancestors could whisper in your ear, I need to believe, they would say: It’s time!  What if harboring your grief anger and rage and grief guilt for what happened in 1788 has been a catalyst to divide many of us as Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people for generations?

So, if the ‘new’ missing reconciliation category is between your spiritual ancestors and you as non-Aboriginal descendants, we too encourage you to forgive them, for they didn’t know what they didn’t know.

And for all the migrants who have chosen to come to this deeply spiritual continent, reflect on the ancientness’ of this continent and its people; what happened in 1788 and the modern-ness and safety that’s afforded us all.

To my Aboriginal community, thank you for being here today! I know this one day of the year can be a conundrum for many, however could I invite you to also reflect on the following? 

If our spiritual ancestors could whisper in your ear today, I need to believe they would want you to explore the following: Down the generations we know what happened to us! For you to forgive 1788, is not to condone what happened either!  Being able to embrace grief forgiveness for what happened to us won’t diminish your Aboriginal identity: it will only empower and strengthen it and in so doing, sustain your physical and spiritual health and wellbeing.  If you can do this for us, we won’t have died in vein. 

Many of us fought hard and died so you can be our modern descendants, but we don’t want you to just survive – as in ‘just hanging onto dear life’, we want you to thrive - as in ‘become empowered & inspired’ today and tomorrow and for our future generations.  Grief forgiveness is not about ‘forgiving and forgetting’ it’s humanly impossible to forget and grief forgiveness is not a betrayal of us!

To all of us as Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians; we can support each other to bring our past into our present so our future generations can ‘live in’ the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth together.

And so, today’s Mourning in the Morning ceremony is to encourage you as non-Aboriginal descendants to mourn for your spiritual ancestors who ‘arrived’ in 1788 and forgive the powers to be.  You have a right, a role, and a responsibility to respectfully mourn them and forgive them and in so doing you could create a missing reconciliation category so there is a truer and a more wholesome and balanced version of the Australian Reconciliation model!

And secondly, for us as Aboriginal people, can we spiritually hold our non-Aboriginal brothers and sisters as they mourn for their ancestors of 1788 and parallel this with forgiveness for them?

I have a saying: we cannot heal as a family, a community, a society, a cultural group, a nation of people until one heals as an individual because we as a family, a community, a society, a cultural group, a nation of people are made-up of individuals.

Hence why we need humility, compassion and patients for each other.

So, when the timing is right for you as an Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal individual, find your grieving journey toward grief forgiveness!  Aspire to be the pebble that’s thrown into the pond who’s ‘living in’ your own grief forgiveness, because the ripple effect has a greater chance of permeating the consciousness of family, friends, colleagues and strangers across and down the generations to grieve, heal and become inspired to want to forgive.  You be the change you want to ‘live in’!

The true purpose for loss and grief is to spiritually evolve in this the physical world; after all loss and grief does not discriminate because it’s a human experience from the cradle to the grave!

I believe this is how we will truly reconcile with each other as human beings because in unity we will have no fears of each other, and we will emerge as the real one nation of peoples, spiritually reconciled under our Great Southern Cross! 

As I conclude, I thank you so much for listening and would you please join us in a 1minute silence in honor of all our ancestors and before we participate in it, please remember that every living human being on this planet is standing on the shoulders of our ancestors. 

So, in your 1min silence, remember your ancestors who lived and died for us where ever that was, give thanks to them because we would not be here without them, period!

Please join us in the one-minute silence. 

Thank you again Australia Day Council SA for this opportunity and partnership and thank you all for listening.




  • Deb Jarvis : February 12, 2019

    Just WOW. Hit the nail on the head so powerfully but with a feather. Beautifully done. Hope this becomes reading and discussion for all schools because that is where the best healing begins outside the home.

  • Susan McAuliffe: February 12, 2019

    Thank you Rosemary for such a wise perspective on this troubling history. I will follow you to reconcile my personal and community grief forgiveness.

  • Philippa: February 07, 2019

    Thank you for your words Auntie Rosemary. There is healing at the heart of what you say. You offer us non-Aboriginal Australians a way out of our grief and shame.

  • Ellanita Arlee: February 01, 2019

    I am deeply moved
    I will breathe those words into my being to be cherished in my heart and soul.
    “… this is how we will truly reconcile with each other as human beings because in unity we will have no fears of each other, and we will emerge as the real one nation of peoples, spiritually reconciled under our Great Southern Cross! “
    This message will be like a mantra, always available and visible on the canvas of my mind.
    Thank you Australia, for the many gifts, you truly are a Sacred Land
    Thank you and many blessings to you Rosemary Wanganeen

  • Fiona: February 01, 2019

    Rosemary Wanganeen these words are so important for us all…what are with and winderful woman you have become throygh you listening and acting on what you hear….thankyou….a have chager for sure

  • Deanna : February 01, 2019

    thank you Rosemary for ‘the missing bit’. Your words resonate strongly and I know what I need to do as a non-Aboriginal modern Australian. It will not be easy as the grief goes deep, but what is on the other side of truth and forgiveness is profoundly worth it.
    Thank you.

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