Posted by Don Heath
Our Guest Speaker last Tuesday was Matthew Leeder, a proud Indigenous man. He is currently the President of the Kangaroo Flat Rotary club and is the first indigenous man to hold this position in District 9800. He spoke to us passionately on the importance of Reconciliation for all Australians.
Matthew told us his story which is known as “Truth Telling” and is an important part of reconciliation.
His Great-Great Grandfather was an Inuit (Indigenous people from Canada, Alaska and Greenland) who came to Australia from Toronto. There he met and married a Palawa (Indigenous Tasmanian) woman. The White settlers who arrived in Tasmania in 1803 killed many of the Palawa people and moved others from Tasmania to Flinders Island and the Furneaux group of islands. Taken from their own land, they gradually died out and I am sure that most of us remember the story of Truganini, the last full Palawa woman, who died in 1876.
Matthew Leeder, President Rotary Club of Kangaroo Flat, second from left, pictured with from left to right Kathleen Stammers, meeting chairman PP Don Heath, President Dr Mark Ellis AM, Susan Vincent, President RC Prahran and PE Teresa Liu
His Great Grandfather Kevin Leeder returned as a veteran from WW1. It is painful to remember that Indigenous men could fight in this war for Australia but could not vote!

Matthew’s Grandfather, also Kevin Leeder was part of the stolen generation and was placed into a Mission and later moved to the Collingwood Children’s home. His Grandmother bore sixteen children and shockingly all sixteen were taken from them and raised in Missions. Matthew became quite emotional while telling his story and really stressed why reconciliation in Australia is so important. Reconciliation requires the Australian community to recognise and respect the First Peoples of this land, to acknowledge the past injustices and the ongoing inequalities experienced by Indigenous peoples since colonisation, and to commit to working towards a more equal and respectful future.
Matthew challenged us as Rotarians and individuals to work towards strengthening relationships between Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples for the benefit of all Australians.
Don Heath