News November 2013

Angel of Bennelong Point – The Sydney Opera House

On the 25th of November 1789, Bennelong (c. 1764 – 1813), member of the Wangal people, was captured by the British under the order of Governor Arthur Phillip to act as an intermediary between the Indigenous and European cultures. Thanks to Bennelong’s skills as master politician, the two cultures lived, communicated and traded as one. He played a significant role as an intelligent and curious man bridging two very different cultures. He is also an example of someone who survived the clash of cultures, and still commanded respect among his people in later life. Governor Phillip built a brick hut for Bennelong on the site of Djubuguli. The area later was named Bennelong Point in his honor and is now home to the Sydney Opera House.

In November 1960, Paul Leroy Robeson (1898 – 1976), an African-American singer and actor who became involved with the Civil Rights Movement, took the first unofficial concert at the Opera House, where he sang for construction workers during their lunch break. Robeson left Australia as a respected figure and his support for Aboriginal rights had a profound effect in Australia over the next decade.

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, an Indigenous Australian musician, who sings in the Yolngu language, walked up the stairs to the Opera House for the 40-Year-Celebration. Performing in the same area where the English first discovered Australia. The circle is closing.

Bennelongs bicentenary comes alongside the 40-Year-Celebration of the Sydney Opera House. In 2005 the Sydney Opera House was recognized as a world heritage site, an ‘iconic and treasured place, testament to the openness of the people of Australia…’ (John Howard, former Prime Minister), or, as Les Murray, Australian poet, describes it, ‘portraying a form of gunyah, or humpys’ – small, temporary shelters traditionally used by Indigenous Australians. It is a place that is standing like a hand extended in the spirit of reconciliation.

200 years ago Bennelong recognized the potential for the two cultures working together, today it is up to you to make a difference, to turn desires into reality. Are you ready?

‘Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.’ (Maria Robinson, UN High Commissioner of Human Rights)


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