Dame Florence Ann Reid was my grandmother. Her maiden name was Brumby. She was born at   Longford in Tasmania in 1867. Her fore bearer James Brumby, sailed to Tasmania in the early 1800’s from the United Kingdom and settled there. 

When quite young, she was an active member of the Woman’s Federal League whose members were working very hard to bring about a federation system in Australia. She was also very concerned for the original inhabitants of Australia, the Aborigines who had lived in harmony with nature for many millennia.

As a teenager I was able to read many of her notebooks, diaries and letters recovered from my parents’ house  in Sydney. So, looking back 100 years, one sees in these items, how three key events of 1917 changed the world – America’s entry into World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution and the issuance of the Balfour Declaration, in which Britain indicated support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

The decision was made public in a letter from the British Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur James Balfour to Lord Rothschild (now termed the Balfour declaration). A copy of this letter was in a box in the attic since my grandfather had received a copy. The following is the content of the letter:

Foreign Office

November 2nd, 1917

Dear Lord Rothschild,

I have much pleasure in conveying to you on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to and approved by, the Cabinet

His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavor to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

Yours,

Arthur James Balfour.

It is clear in one of their diaries that they were both extremely worried about the future of the Palestinians. Indeed, they were right to be worried, since few people have ever suffered more constant misery and daily oppression than the Palestinians.

I came to know a great deal about their suffering from Professor Jabra Ibrahim Jabra a Palestinian who was Head of the department of Literature at Baghdad University. I always spent time with him when I was a guest annually at the Poetry Festival held in Baghdad for many years.

My grandmother continued to be extremely worried about this, according to my father, until her death and did many things to support the Palestinians who came to live in Australia.

Having read so many things about the Palestinian issue in her dairies and letters in the attic in my parents’ house made me very determined to have Arabs and Muslims better understood and thus respected in Australia.

This led me to visit universities in many Arab countries over a number of years. Members of the Muslim community here, are now certainly enriching our country in very many ways.

It is unfortunate that the sufferings of the Palestinian community have become so normalized that not a single tear is shed anymore for the deplorable conditions of this people today.