Hōkūleʻa’s delayed arrival into Sydney, Australia provided an unplanned opportunity for members of Hālau Mōhala ʻIlima and a handful of Kanu O Ka ʻĀina haumāna to visit the Aboriginal community of Redfern, where residents have formed the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy to occupy and protest the proposed development of commercial shops and university student housing, on what is legally Aboriginal land.
After participating in the necessary protocol of the smoke cleansing ceremony, the group sat down to learn about the struggle taking place in this community.
Jenny Munro, Redfern Aboriginal Community elder said, “It was a beautiful, thriving, safe Aboriginal community initially, and the problems only came, under the current CEO’s watch. The demolition of the houses, the dysfunction in the community, the notoriety, the drugs; rather than repair the houses when they became vacant, he demolished them. So we’re back to square one, you have to build from the ground up. Our housing leads at a crisis level right around the country, not just here in Sydney. And yet, an organization that was created to maintain houses for the community, is now championing commercial shops and student accommodations. It’s not planning that will take into account the community that was here. So myself and four of the other local grandmothers set up on the 26th of May last year. We make the stand here, for the last twelve months, the movement continued as long as we can. We’ve had our second notice of eviction served upon us now, so we’ve got two weeks to vacate. We’re prepared to stay, get arrested, and then still come back and try and stop the construction anyway.”
Similarities were drawn between this struggle and the struggle currently being experienced in Hawaiʻi.
Kay-ala Kahaulelio, a student at Kanu O Ka ʻĀina Public Charter School said, “I think the connection to our mauna here, is that they, they’re both standing strong, you know like the people here are fighting for what’s right and what they believe in, and I’m glad that we can connect in a way that we can share with each other, and have that reciprocal relationship of understanding that land and our culture is very important to us, and how it involves natural resources and taking care of them. So I feel like that’s what we mostly connected on.”
Not only were hula and mele presented as gifts to the community, but special kāhili were also given to memorialize the solidarity fortified on this day.
Munro said, “It’s a very moving experience. To be able to tell the story of the common experience bonds us and binds us together. So I mean, all of the similarities make us more like brothers and sisters than anything else.”