The Federation Press

Lighting the Way

Reconciliation stories

Overview

Lighting the Way: Reconciliation Stories captures the spirit of reconciliation. A collection of stories about individual and community acts of reconciliation, it is honest and engaging, and shows what reconciliation means and why so many Australians wish to achieve it.

Each story is personal and immediate. Some trace families and relationships over generations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. This book reveals Australia for all that it is, has been and can be.

Reviews

Dianne Johnson’s achievement is to tell, simply and clearly, a series of tales that show reconciliation in action: real Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, doing what they see as appropriate in their part of the country to heal the divisions from the past. The stories are inspirational. - Professor Garth Nettheim, member, NSW State Reconciliation Council, 2002

Dianne Johnson has written a wonderful, eclectic collection of reconciliation stories. To those who ask, what can I do?, my answer is read these and be inspired. They capture the strength, trust and humility of the reconciliation process and remind us that it is time to put reconciliation back on the agenda or we are all diminished. - Wendy McCarthy AO, Chancellor, University of Canberra, 2002

These beautifully told stories of personal courage and integrity show us what is possible. They make the heart beat fast and they stir us to action, with optimism and a sense of renewal. How vital it is that we can know in this way about each other’s actions! Lighting the Way is such a spur for our collective determination. - Gillian Moon, ANTaR

A fabulously diverse collection of recent and compelling stories from all over Australia presented in a very clear, straightforward, yet very engaging style. They are unified, not just by the important theme of acknowledging “the more painful aspects” of our past in order for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to “be free to move forward together,” but also by acknowledging all those people who over the years “have reached out to one another across the racial divisions” in the true spirit of reconciliation. - Michael Raper, President, Australian Council for Social Services, 2002

The task of true reconciliation remains ahead. As a nation we need to understand the consequences of our history upon Indigenous lives throughout Australia. Lighting the Way is a book comprising some of our work together for the future. Stories of strength and struggle, of standing up and facing our past, extend all of us so that we can move forward together. - Phil Glendenning, Director, Edmund Rice Centre for Justice & Community Education, 2002

Lighting the Way tells of a sustained, entrenched denial of much of the history of colonial Australia, a denial which characterises our society. The paucity of recorded history of Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal relations and the failure to teach it in any substantial way are evidence of this denial. Behind the inspiring individual stories in Lighting the Way is a ’larger’ story in which the task of recognising and confirming essential parts of Australia’s history has fallen on and been taken up by ordinary people in local communities. Johnson has ensured that their stories will not be lost to the twilight-world of unrecorded history. Lighting the Way also tells a second ’larger’ story - that of people experiencing the shock of realisation, the personal discovery of official brutality, deceit and the pervasive denial, extending even to today’s governments and institutions. The cavalier loss of so many languages and so much culture, the abandonment of so many Aboriginal people to poverty and despair and, perhaps above all, the on-going failure to identify at the personal level with Aboriginal suffering, are also aspects or consequences of this entrenched denial. Discovering this betrayal can be deeply challenging. Some so challenged - the Myall Massacre descendants, for example - have responded in defiance of the denial with remarkable gestures. As have Tasmanian Debra Chandler, grazier Camilla Cowley and many others whose stories are told in Lighting the Way. Dianne Johnson captures not only the people but the common spirit which has found expression in unrelated actors and different places. It is a rich and revealing story. - Civil Liberty, September 2002

Captures the essence and human dimension of reconciliation ... The stories from across Australia explore what reconciliation means at both personal and local levels and are a great inspiration for action. - Tracks (Reconciliation Australia), 2002

A ’feel good’ collection of real-life, grass-roots Australian reconciliation stories [in a book which] contains 23 chapters of proof that any Australians are living out social reconciliation. We are taken from a wall mural at a Fitzroy barbershop to new Indigenous glass artworks at Uluru, to sharing the land in south-west Queensland and life in the ’other world’ at Coolamon in Central Australia. ... In Lighting the Way, there are wonderfully warm stories of reconciliation, a persuasive, well-written and presented work that will convince fair-minded people that change must begin with the invader. - Good Reading, July 2002

The varied yarns paint a frank picture of Australia’s history, and offer hope for our future. The individuals in Johnson’s accounts are inspirational. Their stories and backgrounds are diverse yet they share a common will to reconcile. The book represents a journey of peace-making fraught with difficulties but still pressing forward. Lighting the Way places the sometimes-vague notion of reconciliation into the context of personal experience, allowing the reader to relate to the movement. - Australian Catholics, Spring 2002

Lighting the Way brings Australia into sharp, three-dimensional focus with its examples of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people working together to promote reconciliation. Their collective efforts might involve collaborative artworks, community projects or political activism. ... The stories give an Aboriginal perspective on our shared history. It’s distressing for white Australians to confront past and present injustices and personal ignorance. But it’s also a relief. Lighting the Way is interested in healing individuals, reuniting families and re-sanctifying the land ... [It] looks at real situations where people have made it work. It’s written in a roundabout style. This is confusing and sometimes makes the information less accessible. But Lighting the Way does succeed in demonstrating the human potential to love radically. If this book is any indication, the reconciliation movement is one of the best things ever to happen to Australia. - Eureka Street, July-August 2002

Contained in Lighting the Way: Reconciliation Stories is the rejoicing of possibilities, of personal journeys, of great ideas and kind acts. The content sets the book apart and makes it as must read. Lighting the Way contains more than just stories of how someone painted a picture or worked with a community group or set up a healing centre for Aboriginal women; it contains the spirit of reconciliation. It traces journeys that would otherwise take two or three lifetimes ... Dianne Johnson records the smaller heartfelt gestures and looks into the lives of some of the people who have been involved in the larger gestures ... Lighting the Way offers an alternative to material that potentially distances the reader; it allows the reader an opportunity to become personally involved. It would be difficult to read this book cover to cover and not feel there are many ways one can contribute ... - David Jobling Community arts website Qstage, 2002

“... stories of how ordinary people can do extraordinary things...” (foreword by Linda Burney). The stories “come from different age groups, from diverse ethnicities, from varied spiritual traditions, from a spread of political perspectives, from every state and territory and involve artworks, song-writing, memorials, political actions, land returns as well as personal and collective journeys” ...(preface). 205 page paperback with b/w illustrations. Highly recommended for senior years and educators. - Department of Education and Children’s Services (South Australia), June 2003

Table of Contents

Foreword by Linda Burney, Director General, NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs

Sharing the Spirit
The Precious Waterhole of Illmargani
Bunjil and the Barber Shop
Fighting with Joy and Laughing
The Serpent Cope
Fire in Ice
Sea of Hands in the Mist
Painting Partners

Recovering History
Protecting the Warrior Spirit
Remembering Myall Creek
The Torchbearer

Saying Sorry
The Legacy of a Tribal Foremother
Jonah's Pride and the Magpie
The Healing House
Mirrilingki

Taking Sides
Raising the Flag
Stolen Pencils
The Sacred Lagoon
A Win for the Mutawintji Mob
Walking the Land

Celebrating Diversity
The Clasping Hand
The Poisoned Well
When I Grow Up
Coexistence
The Giant Coolamon

Of interest...