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Home > News > 2017 > July > A message of welcome: Our union’s Message Stick arrives in Brisbane

A message of welcome: Our union’s Message Stick arrives in Brisbane

Message_stick_handover_web_qual.jpgAfter being passed throughout schools in Queensland and the Northern Territory, the IEUA-QNT Message Stick was welcomed back to our union’s Brisbane office on 11 July with a celebratory event. 

The Message Stick began its journey in 2016 as a means of building relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members and their communities; consistent with our union’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

PHOTO (L-R): IEUA-QNT RAP Working Group members Barbara Dewis, Thersa Nunn, Terry Burke, Adele Schmidt and John Anderson welcome the Message Stick back to Brisbane. 

Origins of the message stick 

Communication of information between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations, clans and language groups was often done through a message stick. 

Message sticks enabled complex or very long message to be communicated between people. 

Traditional message sticks are made and crafted from wood and are carved in a way that helps the carrier remember the message and prove to the recipient that the information is genuine. 

There are always marks that are distinctive to the particular group or nation sending the message and often marks identifying the relationship of the carrier to the group.

Message sticks support oral messages, especially when the languages of the groups are very different. 

Message sticks can also serve as a means for safe passage through another group’s country.

Our union’s Message Stick handover 

The IEUA-QNT Message Stick was originally donated to our union in 2016 by Aunty Thersa Nunn, an IEUA-QNT member, Noonuccal woman, Quandamooka Elder and member of our RAP Working Group.  

On the day of the handover, John Anderson, a member of our RAP Working Group, presented the message stick back to Aunty Thersa.

“The IEUA-QNT Message Stick is very important in the binding together of people, thoughts, aspirations, actions and behaviours to make a difference here, where we all live, where we all share the benefits of this ancient land,” Mr Anderson said. 

Aunty Thersa donated the Message Stick, which was crafted by her father, to encourage IEUA-QNT members and staff to initiate conversations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their communities in order to identify ways that we might work together to achieve the broader goals of reconciliation.

“The Message Stick brings our mob together – it brings peace, it brings story and it brings language,” Aunty Thersa said. 

The Message Stick was then passed on to IEUA-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke as our union’s RAP Caretaker. 

“As this Message Stick travelled, stories were told, stories were shared, stories were understood and learnings were created. 

“Along with appreciating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, we need to acknowledge our past. 

“We need to understand the last 200 years of this country – the inequity, the hurt and the harm that was caused.

“This Message Stick came to us with a story, has travelled with a story, and has brought a story back to us. 

“It is important – as part of our RAP – that our story becomes one of reconciliation,” Mr Burke said.  

The Message Stick will now form part of a permanent display at our Brisbane office – to serve as an important symbol and reminder of our union’s commitment to reconciliation. 

To read more about our union’s RAP visit www.qieu.asn.au/rap