Message Stick Walk aims to bring change, unite Australians

SHARING THE MESSAGE: Alwyn Doolan holds a message stick as he visits Tathra Beach on Sunday, February 24. Picture: Albert McKnight
SHARING THE MESSAGE: Alwyn Doolan holds a message stick as he visits Tathra Beach on Sunday, February 24. Picture: Albert McKnight

Walking over 6000kms of various terrain. Through forest, along coastline and in sweltering hot weather. So what is Alwyn Doolan's toll when it comes to his footwear? 

"I've gone through about five pairs of shoes," he laughed. 

Starting last May, the Gooreng Gooreng man took to the road to walk from Bamaga at the top of Cape York to Canberra, visiting as many First Australian communities as possible on his way.

Throughout his journey, which he has called the Message Stick Walk, he has been talking to traditional owners and other Australians about the importance of reconciliation and a treaty.

"As first nations people, particularly due to how much has been lost in our customs and practices, there has to be a negotiation of terms of self determination," he said.

"If we are to determine ourselves, we need negotiations to proceed that." 

Mr Doolan travelled through Bermagui, Tathra, Merimbula and Eden this week and has the aim of arriving in Canberra with a group of supporters on May 20 where he will hopefully meet the Prime Minister and hand over a tribal notice and message sticks. 

Let's just start learning to listen to each other, share with each other, grow with each other, to make a better future for the next generation.

Alwyn Doolan

The message sticks are traditional tools that symbolise communication, and the three he carries specifically represent history, colonisation and healing. 

The tribal notice he will hand over will be the notice to the Australian government that treaty negotiations must begin with the first nations peoples.

As Mr Doolan walked, he invited people from the communities to a first nations peoples summit to be held at Uluru in 2020, to discuss issues facing their communities. 

At this summit he plans to develop a healing motion to call for the healing of the land and people.

It would involve going to every documented and undocumented massacre site in Australia and performing smoking ceremonies with elders and people with a blood lineage to the area. 

But the 29-year-old's journey first began when he returned to his home community Woorabinda, in Central Queensland. 

"I had seen nothing had changed in the time I'd been away, even so more worse off, especially with the youth," he said. 

"I wanted to give back to my community and I wanted to inspire them and give them hope." 

A common theme he found in the communities he visited on his walk was a desire to look at a self determination process. 

"Self determination is about having a structured implementation of our law set into place and have decisions guided by and made by us," he said. 

"[The biggest challenge to traditional owners' communities] is really grasping the understanding that each Aboriginal language and tribe is very unique in its own way, with its own customs.

"So it's learning to fully respect each of their values on their own." 

He had a general message to share about his walk.

"Let's just start learning to listen to each other, share with each other, grow with each other, to make a better future for the next generation," he said. 

As someone who struggled with his own self-identity crisis, he also had advice to share with other young first nations people. 

"Probably no-one can help you, only you can help yourself," he said. 

"It's a choice you've got to make. Think about your future and make it happen in a positive way, don't be dictated to the stereotype that society puts on you."