Backdropped by a jaw-dropping view of mountains and Vancouver Harbour, this year’s Healing Our Spirit Worldwide conference was held on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, at Vancouver Convention Centre.
This year’s ninth annual conference was most notably attended by those who travelled from all corners of Canada, the United States, as well as Australia and Aotearoa.
Day two of the conference was heavily focussed on Australia’s First Nations people, with the day being opened by Ngarrindjerri Elder Major Moogy Sumner AM.
We're here to learn, we're here to listen, we're here to learn how other people are using their culture to heal themselves, and that's what we need to do.
“We need to use our culture to heal ourselves. Our culture that we've been practising for thousands and thousands of years, we need to use that because it's there, the land. If we don't look after the land then land doesn't look after us. We need to use our dancing, ceremony, everything. And by doing that all together, we're all looking after the land, and each other.”
Wurundjeri woman and Adjunct Professor Sue-Anne Hunter is one of five Yoorook Justice Commissioners currently working towards truth-telling in Victoria, including a recent year-long inquiry that documented the horrendous historic treatment of First Nations people in the state.
“The First Nations people here have made us feel welcome, and it’s really safe and I feel really grounded,” Sue-Anne said.
In her keynote address, Sue-Anne was also invited to present a speech to the international audience on the progress, struggles and successes so far for the Yoorook Justice Commission, explaining its structure and importance, which she received a standing ovation for.
“With the Truth and Justice Commission comes healing, and by listening to mob and what they need, and trying to understand, I believe we can get real healing. Also those unspoken truths of people that need to be heard. I think that through that there’s a genuine narrative that we need to get out there. It’s their voices, not mine, and how I can help them moving forward,” she said.
Amongst other First Nations people presenting at the event, was also previous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner and Gangalu man Mick Gooda, who shared his thoughts on the event.
I think the message for us as Indigenous people right across the world, we've just got to keep asserting things like our Sovereignty and assert ourselves in whatever society we live in. And we all live in different societies around the world.
“Some are really oppressive where Indigenous people almost disappear daily. We have a hard enough job for us as Australia's Indigenous people, but if we stick together, I think we will make the world take notice of us.”
DeadlyScience founder Corey Tutt was also in attendance, and although he didn’t make a keynote speech this year, it was the last Healing Our Spirit Worldwide conference that he attributes to the initial recognition of his organisation.
“I got up and I did a keynote in front of 400 people and it was a real eye opener for me. It was my first public speaking gig really, apart from being a zookeeper and talking about DeadlyScience. It really made DeadlyScience at the start, and from there an IndigenousX article got written and I kind of grew what I was doing,” Corey said.
But for Corey, travelling to Vancouver was a welcome holiday to connect with mob from all over the world, and spend some time reflecting and healing.
“I came here to actually learn a bit about myself and to learn a bit about other cultures, but not with the intention of bringing it back to DeadlyScience but with the intention of investing in myself, so that will have a benefit to DeadlyScience down the track,” he said.
Mindful Mob Director, and proud Kamilaroi, Wiradjuri, Kuku Djungan and Gangalidda woman Maylene Slater-Burns explained the importance of such events for not only our peoples, but for all First Nations peoples.
This conference gives us the opportunity to showcase the different healing modalities that each tribe and clan have.
“We've participated in seven different healing ceremonies addressing several different issues but different energies that sit within my spirit and the one that I have been working on since I came here has been grief,” Maylene said.
“Since the passing of my twin sister in January last year, I really took hold of the opportunity to come and attend the Healing Our Spirit Worldwide for those extra ways of healing and to really move through the challenges that I'm facing every day quietly that I don't share.
“So I really feel that that's what I've taken away from attending here. And I know that everybody has had the opportunity to take something special away and return home.”
The next Healing Our Spirit Worldwide event will be held in Aotearoa in 2027.
Healing Our Spirit Worldwide is a quadrennial conference attended by hundreds of First Nations people from around the world, with ever-changing locations. Last time it was held on Gadigal Land in Sydney.