SHARING: Maclean High School student Samantha Willis receives some words of encouragement from Yaegl elder Lenore Parker during the commemoration of the apology ceremony at Port Of Yamba Historical Society. Photo: Adam Hourigan
SHARING: Maclean High School student Samantha Willis receives some words of encouragement from Yaegl elder Lenore Parker during the commemoration of the apology ceremony at Port Of Yamba Historical Society. Photo: Adam Hourigan

Student’s words of friendship makes Yaegl elder proud

"OUR friendship would never been as strong as it was if the road to reconciliation had never been driven upon."

After these words, 16-year-old Maclean High School student Samantha Willis paused.

The words from her address were inspired by an argument with her indigenous best friend, but for those of the Yaegl community gathered at the Port of Yamba Historical Society to mark the seventh anniversary of then prime minister Kevin Rudd's historic apology, they conveyed much more.

Yaegl elder Rev Lenore Parker said the words from someone so young made her proud.

"The words do mean a lot because these young people come from a place where they have been able to listen to the stories of our people," she said.

"And for them to embrace the importance of the apology to our people, and to spread the word to their and future generations of our stories breathes new life into our stories."

The commemoration ceremony on Friday at the Port of Yamba Historical Society was proposed by the local Yaegl community and president Marea Buist said it was an honour for the society to present the event.

The ceremony included talks from local elders, music and craft from Yamba Public School students.

"We've tried to get as many people from all ages to contribute to ceremony and I think that helps every-one really reflect on what the apology means for everyone," Ms Buist said.

"The apology was a turning point in our history; it brought a sense of closure and hope to many Aboriginal people and has made the wider Australian community aware of the injustices they have suffered.

"And while it's important to commemorate the day, it is also an opportunity to recognise that saying sorry is just the first step."

As the line of people passed by Samantha Willis after the ceremony to quietly thank and congratulate her for her chosen words, she reflected her own contribution.

"I only think they liked it because I cried," she said.

"But a lot of people could've done it, because I think a lot of people certainly feel sorry for what has happened."



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