Walking Together as First and Second Peoples

Reconciliation Week – What does it mean to ‘listen deeply’?

Photo: Ali Abdul Rahman, Unsplash
This is one of a series of posts from the Uniting Church Action for Society and Environment Group (UCASE) for National Reconciliation Week. The series aims to engage, inform and inspire you in your own journey of true and heartfelt (re)conciliation between Australia’s First and Second Peoples.
By Lynda Cameron 
In the course of discussions about what could and should be included in this series, the theme of ‘listening’ emerged.
It struck me that the kind of listening people were talking about was not something especially common in day-to-day western culture, so I invited two leaders from within the church community to comment on this.
Mark Kickett is a Nyoongar man from the southwest of Western Australia. Currently he is Development & Outreach Officer for the Uniting Aboriginal & Islander Christian Congress in SA, as well as being National UAICC Interim Chair.
Stuart McMillan is National Consultant – Covenanting with the Assembly Resourcing Unit, and the Immediate Past President.
Posting this on Sorry Day makes this point, listening deeply, especially critical. After reading the responses below, please take some time to read the poetry by Alison Overeem and listen deeply to the messages it holds.

Q. What does it mean to ‘listen deeply’ in the Australian reconciliation context?

Mark Kickett –
Kadadjiny is a Nyoongar word that can be interpreted as “thinking, listening, learning” and is one of a number of Nyoongar words that reflect the importance of learning to the Nyoongar people and culture. Other words include katta djinoong (see us, understand us), kadjaniny (hearing, understanding, knowing), and kaartdijin (knowledge).
Listening In the Nyoongar context reflects a deep listening that is holistic in nature and is embedded within the cultural, community and family context. One of the most significant times when this type of listening is practiced is when Nyoongar people share the warmth and healing that sitting around an open fire offers. The fire is seen as a place of healing and where families can reflect on a loved one who has ‘passed on’ as issues of grief, loss and the challenges of life are thought through.
Deep listening for Nyoongar people (and indeed for all our Indigenous nations) comes deep from within, where voices of the past, the present and also the future assist to guide, re-energise and re-educate a person’s journey forward.
Stuart McMillan –
So often Yolŋu elders would say when they were teaching me or when we were together reflecting on conversations and issues: “ŋayi buthuru dhumuk” – he has a ‘blunt’ ear. This is to say, he is hearing but not really listening.
I have learnt that ‘deep listening’ is done with our ŋayaŋu (mind, heart and soul). It is not just to hear but to feel. To listen to the land, the waters, the whole creation, and to the Creator Spirit; as we listen to each other, or in our times of quiet reflection.
To grow good relationships deep listening is the essential ingredient; whether it’s in our families, or interculturally and intergenerationally. So, our walking together as First and Second Peoples must be characterised by deep listening. So too creation longs for us to deeply listen to her and understand the rhythms of life she shares.

A reflection by Alison Overeem, UAICC Tasmania Leprena Centre

Watch a trailer from Aunty Miriam-Rose. In Miriam’s language, ‘Dadirri’, is the practise of Deep Inner Listening and quiet still awareness, which connects us and nurtures spiritual well-being.