Thursday, April 24, 2014

Meeting with the Governor General!

We met at the Horsham Library before being briefed about the Governor General's meeting with some of the WOW participants. That's Yasmin Harradine's mum above, Nola Illin, and me below. Buket's mum, Canan, was there also, and Yasmin, Buket and Soe Son Di. 
Talking to the girls about the Wow theme from last year: Belonging
Being briefed by Melissa Morris, Horsham Council's Community Development manager, and the Governor General's "aide-de-camp"... Yasmin looking suss at Charee taking photos already.

Introductions and handshakes with Governor General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, and also Lady Cosgrove

Brief explanation of the Wow project

Yasmin Harradine, Wow's indigenous Australian participant, chats about her two statements installed in stainless steel:
"I love learning about my culture" and "There is so much air to share".
Hoping to catch up with Yasmin regarding their topic of conversation, as I couldn't catch what they were saying.
Will update this post then.
I am delighted to have Bernad and Harrison turn up in time to meet the Governor General.
Bernad Ngendakumana explains that he was born in Tanzania, raised in Burundi, and lives here now with his family.
Bernad reads his statement aloud: "Life is a journey. I am happy it has brought me to Horsham".
Bernad is asked by Sir Peter if his school friends know how to pronounce his surname yet. Bernad answered that most of his friends knew now how to say it.
Soe Son Di Shwe ta Lee explaining why feeling calm and safe is a part of "belonging". She talks about war and her old life in refugee camps on the Burmese/Thai border, how there is so much uncertainty as to whether you will ever have a home, and that there was so much danger each day. Soe Son Di's message was a very strong and important one to deliver to the Governor General. Sir Peter Cosgrove agreed that war is terrible and wrong, that there should not be any wars.

Buket Aziz answered Sir Peter's questions on leaving Turkey to live here in Australia, then he read her poem on the library wall:
"Every night my heart sleeps with me
Now my heart lies in this country"
Both Sir Peter and Lady Cosgrove were very impressed with the poem, especially the first line, which Sir Peter explained reminded him of what is inscribed at the Ataturk Memorial in Turakena Bay, Gallipoli.
Sir Peter called Buket's mother, Canan, over to where we were standing in front of Buket's wall poem.

He then quoted Mustafa Ataturk's full tribute to the Anzac soldiers:
Heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives! You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
                 It's Anzac Day today as I write on this blog, and I look at Ataturk's quote above and wish that it didn't take terrible wars and violent deaths to unite the Mehmets and Johnnies in this country or Turkey. 

I introduced Sir Peter to Harrison Htoo Po Kyaut. Harrison's profound piece of writing about dreams, which is installed on the wall next to Horsham's Regional Art Gallery, was too far a detour for the crowd to walk there.  When I asked Harrison if he could recite the poem, he responded that he couldn't remember it off the top of his head, which was understandable after racing to the library from a Horsham College Athletics Sports day.

So Sir Peter asked me to send him the poem, and promised that he would personally reply to Harrison after reading it. He was genuinely very interested in knowing what Harrison had written, especially after hearing that Harrison's past was spent living in a refugee camp on the Burmese/Thai border.
Here is Harrison's poem:
"Once my dreams were dull and cold
Now my dreams are bright and gold"
We will publish the Governor General's reply when Harrison receives it.
What a great moment! We were all on a bit of a high after this important meeting, especially as our esteemed guests turned out to be so friendly and genuinely interested in meeting and learning about the Wow participants present. I am so pleased that this meeting happened, for validating all the hard work put into the project by so many people, but also for reinforcing the ever-increasing need to celebrate and promote the wonderful cultural diversity in our region.

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