International peacemaker Harley Eagle talks about his experience bridging cultural divides


Harley Eagle spoke at the Midland Junction Arts Centre.
Picture: David Baylis www.communitypix.com.au   d478619
Harley Eagle spoke at the Midland Junction Arts Centre. Picture: David Baylis www.communitypix.com.au d478619

AN INTERNATIONAL peacemaker advocating for cultural inclusion is working with Aboriginal elders and government representatives to dismantle racism in Australia.

Harley Eagle, from Canada, was in town ahead of Australia Day to speak at the Midland Junction Arts Centre about his work addressing issues of conflict in communities across the world.

Mr Eagle, of Dakota and Ojibwe Indigenous ancestry, was invited by The Nature Code creator John Thompson to share his expertise and experiences engaging and uniting indigenous and non-|indigenous communities.

The leader in restorative justice has 20 years experience working in decolonisation, cultural integrity, healing of intergenerational trauma, dismantling racism, and has worked with the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

With the Australia Day “change the date” debate continuing across the nation, Mr Eagle’s visit was timely and although he felt he could not make a “well-informed observation” on the topic, he offered advice on finding a solution.

“What I would encourage is a process whereby that deep dialogue and discussions can happen,” he said.

“I believe that processes based on the values and principles of restorative justice just might be helpful in having those discussions.”

Looking at the process and patterns of European colonisation throughout history, the father-of-two acknowledged similarities with the issues and impacts it’s had on communities in Canada and Australia.

Mr Eagle said similarities included relationships between Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people, as well as the history and current realities of colonisation.

“One glaring similarity worth mentioning is the Stolen Generations,” he said.

“This similar process in Canada is the Indian Residential School era, one of the most dark and terrible stories in Canada’s history which the impact is still felt to this day, even though the last Indian Residential School closed in 1986.”

The systematic forced removal of children from their families in both countries ignited the historic issue of racism in both Canada and Australia.

To address embedded racism in Australia, Mr Eagle said it needed to be a collective effort with a common goal.

“If we can increase our understanding of racism’s underpinnings and understand how this notion that we are better than one another based on colour of our skin and how that understanding shows up in almost every aspect of our lives and institutions, then we can get down to the root of racism and dismantle it at those levels,” he said.

“If your efforts have common understandings and language to talk about systemic racism, then you can have common strategies and goals.”

A global framework guiding relationships with indigenous people that Mr Eagle trumpeted is the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, which seeks to ensure indigenous people are free from discrimination.

“It can be a starting point,” he said.