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Robert Mate Mate and Reconciliation

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For a couple of years from 1994 I had the privilege of working with Robert Mate Mate, an indigenous elder from Woorabinda with strong connections to Palm Island.

Our creative journey started when Robert invited me to accompany him to Palm Island.

He was invited to attend an official celebration launching the Year of Reconciliation which was a new federal government incentive with the then indigenous affairs minister Robert Tickner in attendance.

Behind the scenes Robert Mate Mate was also invited to perform a spirit releasing ceremony for a young Palm Islander named Wangung who died 120 years prior.

In the 1890’s Wangung was captured and made to perform in a travelling circus. His remains were discovered in Cleveland, Ohio in 1994 and returned to his homeland.

Our party consisted of Robert, myself, his 11 year old son Free and Dalmazio Babare who was then percussionist with the MSO. Interestingly, we stayed on the beach of Mundi Bay, a remote and uninhabitated part of the Island where Wangung grew up. It was a magnificent and powerful place and the experience was very transformative.

From that point Robert and I went on to produced three cultural theatre productions which inspired workshops and various other creative and educational projects.

A few years prior to 1994, Robert Mate Mate was released from prison where he had spent over 15 years behind bars, 10 years in the cages of Queensland’[s notorious Boggo Road prison.

During his incarceration the Aboriginal myths and legends he learnt as a child led him to study genealogy, Greek mythology, Druidism, Astronomy, Carl Jung and the Bible.

At the end of his life Robert Mate Mate was a storyteller, teacher and messenger with an enormous capacity to educate, inspire and unite people from all cultures.

In memory and celebration of Robert Mate Mate also know as Gapingaru.


Robert Mate Mate at Theatre Works in St Kilda as part of his first theatre production ‘Tirlpa’. Photo by Russell Cooper.


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Updated 7th July 2016 at 07:33 PM by Pation Pics

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