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Tree represents hope and coming together

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Tree of hope and unity
Growing reconciliation: Robert Mustow and Aunty Leila Walker plant a native apricot tree on the banks of the Richmond River in Casino. Photo: Susanna Freymark.

A native apple tree was the symbol for reconciliation on the banks of the Richmond River in Casino last Thursday.

Richmond Valley mayor Robert Mustow and Aunty Leila Walker were meant to plant the apple tree and a native apricot tree for Naidoc Week but the week’s events were cancelled because of covid. Instead, a group gathered at the bush tucker walk behind the junior rugby grounds at Queen Elizabeth Park.

Aunty Leila said Casino was the traditional meeting place of the Bundjalung Nation. “North of the town is the largest bora ring on the East Coast,” she said.

At the site are two bora rings, the smaller one is used for Sorry business to this day.

Out from the saleyards, near a waterway, Aunty Leila described the scarred trees, “The smaller ones were used for shields and implements, the larger one was used to make a canoe.”

“The bora ring was desecrated and dirt from the ring was used in the foundations of the Casino Hospital.”

Before she helped dig a hole for the tree, Aunty Leila said she was on Galibal country. “I’m proud to be living in this culturally significant area.”

Mr Mustow said he grew up in Casino and played in the river.

“We don’t pick where we want to live, the river picks where we live,” he said.

Together Aunty Leila and Mr Mustow planted the trees.

“This is reconciliation,” Mr Mustow said.

North Coast Healthy Towns provided the trees and walkway that will officially open on August 6.

Richmond River Independent 14 July 2021

This article appeared in the Richmond River Independent, 14 July 2021.

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