A Journey to recognition experience

REGION - Being handpicked by Wadawurrung elder Uncle Bryon Powell to accept a gift of white ochre was one of the most moving and incomparable experiences of my life. 

Take it on your journey around Australia, he said to me, and paint up when you win the referendum.

This moment of pure generosity, spirit and everlasting sharing of culture was indescribable and at the core of this once in a lifetime movement.

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Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, histories and customs are something to be passed on for generations, to be shared and to be celebrated.

The first Australians are a unique part of our identity, and should be recognised as so.

Along the journey, I've crossed from Victoria's Western District to Wimmera country. I've walked through the home of the Gold Rush and Australia's so-called birth of democracy. I've covered Melbourne to Carngham, Carngham to Beaufort, Beaufort to Buangor, Buangor to Ararat, Ararat to Stawell and Stawell to Halls Gap.

I've walked the land that is home to the Wathaurong or Wada wurrung people and the 41 individual Djabwurong or Djab wurrung clans. And I've been warmly welcomed by all those I've met along the way.

From community halls to barbecues to Stawell Secondary College, each word has been generous and meaningful, each person has inspired us with hope and encouragement.

The Journey to Recognition is an epic relay across our country. It's part of a movement with a clear message - that fixing the silence of our constitution about the first people of this land is the right thing to do.

Australia's founding document still does not recognise the first chapter of our national story - it does not acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as Australia's first inhabitants.

The importance of this recognition means different things to different people.

For Ballarat Aboriginal elder Uncle Murray Harrison, acknowledgement in the Constitution would show that there was "no division between us".

For school children at Beaufort Primary school, there was no question at all that our national rule book should include our nation's first chapter.

When we do this as a nation, it will be, as the actor Aaron Pedersen put it last week, "A simple act of humanity". Footy legend Michael Long said: "It's about respect", and Lowitja O'Donoghue, that legendary campaigner for our people, said it this way: "We want to be recognised. It's just as simple as that. We've never been recognised. We are the first Australians, okay? And it is time we were recognised".

These stories are just the beginning. Over the next year and a half, we will walk, jog, cycle and drive through the very heart of our nation and to its distant reaches, in this historic quest towards the day of a referendum.

After first walking from Melbourne to Adelaide, we will head up through central Australia onto Alice Springs, Katherine and Nhulunbuy, arriving for the Garma Festival on August 9. We'll then take a break before ultimately crossing through every state and territory.

We've been so thrilled to have you as part of history. To those who have come to a local event, supported campaigners or travelled with us into your community, we thank you. Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories are something every Australian should be proud of and it's something that can unite us all.

It's part of Australia's story- just as much as the law and language in our Constitution that we inherited from Britain. Our Indigenous heritage should be in that document as well. When we write this chapter in, and unite these strands of our heritage, it will help to unite the people of Australia.

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