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Everybody needs reconciliation

Australia’s National Reconciliation Week (NRW)  closed last weekend – how did everyone celebrate? Did you celebrate at all? I am asking because I’ve had my own experience giving me a new perspective on reconciliation.

For those non-Australians frequenting my blog, NRW is held annually between 27 May and 3 June. The first marks the date of the 1967 referendum recognising Aboriginal Australians. The second marks the High Court land right decision from 1992, which recognised Aboriginal Australian’s connection to the land and later let to establishing Native Titles.

So, pretty big, historical stuff happened worthy of celebrating and remembering. Thorsten and I realised we should get out more and joined a guided tour through Fremantle. Greg Nannup, the guide, was an amazing storyteller and if you ever get a chance to visit Perth and Fremantle do yourself a favour and join one of his talks.

Anyway, still completely captivated by what we heard about history ranging from ancient mythology to recent events we chatted away on our way back home. A group of motorbike riders (more the weekend bikers rather than the leather, tats and Bon Jovi-hair type) overtook us one after the other.

The road along the coast did a sharp bent to the left. Another biker overtook us right before the bent – close, but all good. In the middle of the bent I saw a movement in the side mirror. Before I could yell anything intelligible a loud BANG drummed through the car caused by another biker who had tried to overtake us from the left. A few seconds she swooshed past us. Yes, it was a left bent and the biker overtook us. From the LEFT. At least she was still on her bike and ABLE to overtake us.

Thorsten, in complete shock didn’t let go of the horn. He pulled into the next car park totally miffed that the bikie hadn’t made an attempt to turn around and follow us.

We got out and inspected the rear left to find out what had caused the banging. We saw nothing, no dents. Thorsten, still in shock and pretty angry, pulled out his phone to call police and complain. I looked at the back and realised the biker must have missed the sharp metal rails of our extra fuel canisters by a few centimeters. And luckily didn’t get squished under our big four-wheel drive tires.

Thorsten didn’t call the police, because of what happened next. The bikie pulled up behind our car. The  conversation that followed is easily summarised. The bikie apologised profusely for being “such a gigantic dickhead” (that’s a quote). She couldn’t explain why she had made such a poor decision. The noise, she said, had been her hand slamming into the side of the car pushing herself off and averting a (probably) deadly collision.

She was pretty shaken up. Given she had her life flashing past her eyes a few minutes before, I’d dare say she was in an even bigger shock than us. Thorsten looked a lot calmer and told her how much he appreciated her returning and talking to him. Obviously he had no desire in running her – or anyone else – over and was glad she didn’t sustain any injuries.

Hurray! Everyone was happy(er) and went merrily along their way.

In retrospect I must say the bikie had a lot of guts to come back and meet us. She couldn’t have anticipated our response. We could have been yelling, shouting, threatening and abusing dickheads. Or, she could have been aggressive and pointing fingers for almost pureeing her, but she didn’t. Instead, we were all simply really glad everybody was fine. Listening to her side of the story – and more importantly seeing how the situation affected her – was good for both of us.

The moral of the story?

Sometimes the most uncomfortable conversations are the most important ones to have. Because, imagine we hadn’t had this chat. We would have gone on with our lives and every time we’d see a motorbike rider would have been reminded of this bikie who had done something stupid. And if one of them makes a stupid decision it’s so much easier to fault everyone’s lack of common sense…you see? This is how prejudices start. Reconciliation is how prejudices end.

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