"This has opened the door to more opportunities for change, for us to grow together, to face the truths that need to be faced, to listen and to learn from our Biripi people."
These are the words of Matty Zarb, who welcomed the recording of Biripi man, Jay Davis, singing the national anthem in Gathang at Taree's Australia Day function held at the riverbank last Wednesday.
Jay, who sadly passed away at the end of 2021, was a proud Biripi man, Gathang language holder and leader in the Manning community.
Matty said it was Jay's dream that one day the national anthem would be sung in Gathang as part of all celebrations in the Manning community.
And to have that as part of the January 26 celebrations in Taree was just the beginning of moving forward as a community, he said.
"One of the words to describe my feelings would be 'inspired', the other would be 'completely humbled', and now 'determined' that we don't let this be the end, but the beginning, of conversations and listening to our Biripi people.
"If they are prepared to come to the table and perform what they did on Australia Day, then it is really our duty to walk forward together and with each other."
This has opened the door to more opportunities for change, for us to grow together, to face the truths that need to be faced, to listen and to learn from our Biripi people.- Taree local Matty Zarb
Although it was a step in the right direction, Matty said until we have a day where everyone can celebrate without any heartache, then we still have a long way to go.
"To stand up there with Uncle Russell Saunders, Jeremy (Saunders), and Hope, was very humbling because I know traditionally what that day means to Aboriginal people.
"Jay left us a lot of work to do, and now with people like Uncle Russ showing us the way, we can really find new ground in where we are going as a community."
Matty pointed to the address from the school captains of Mid Coast Christian College on the day, and said it summed up incredibly how the younger generation in the community are feeling.
From their words, "sadly, we cannot change the past, but we have the power to create a brighter future," reinforced to Matty the importance of listening and learning as we move forward as a community.
"That to me was so inspiring and so hopeful. The words - from the mouths of the young people - (it) is where we need to listen the most."
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