Sharing indigenous spirit

ONCE the political speeches were over, one young man carrying a sign - ''There's no pride in genocide'' - decided his visit to the Share the Spirit Festival was over. He climbed the hill over Treasury Gardens, looked back at the relaxed partying that was taking root, and headed off to the tram stop.

About 700 people were gathered on the lawn in front of two stages.

On one of the stages, Kutcha Edwards was singing and making gentle fun of an elderly fellow engaged in a variation on traditional dancing who had come to a stop and struck a militant pose. ''Will all you photographers take his picture,'' Mr Edwards implored. ''He'll be standing there like that for 15 minutes otherwise.''

Through the trees, another stage was rocking with hip-hop beats.

Keeping the rage alive was Anthony Harris, who had set up under a tree with a giant Australian flag with the Union Jack cut out of it. Mr Harris, 39, was doing well in the West Australian mining sector as a machine operator before throwing it in to become a full-time activist.

''I haven't been an activist before and I've got to make a statement. This is a good place to start,'' he said.

Australia Day, he continued, ''is about the constitution depriving me of my children and my spirituality''.

Di Lockwood, of Narre Warren, said she normally avoided Australia Day. ''I feel really bad about it. How can we celebrate an invasion of a country? It'd be like celebrating the Germans invading Poland.''

Jamie Walsh, 38, talked of his connection to two of the biggest nations in Victoria: his father coming from the Kurnia people at Lakes Entrance; his grandfather from the Yorta Yorta at Swan Hill. ''Today, this is acknowledging that we're still here,'' he said.

This story Sharing indigenous spirit first appeared on The Age.