On Saturday 23 February a predominately Muslim crowd took their seats in the Hoyts cinema theatre in the heart of Melbourne City to watch the much anticipated sold-out screening of Before 1770.
The film which explores Australia’s Muslim history was directed by Sheikh Wesam Charkawi, proudly supported by Abu Hanifa Institute and Sadaqa Welfare Fund.
The Welcome to Country for this groundbreaking event was performed by none other than our local Muslim indigenous elder of the Wurunjeri, Hassan Gardiner who also contributed to the panel discussion afterward.
In a statement introducing the film, Sheikh Wesam explained “Knowing that Muslims had a long-standing relationship with Aboriginal people from North East Arnhem Land (Yolngu Clan) is profoundly significant in terms of the Australian Muslim identity. It allows Muslims to draw strength from such a relationship and realise that Islam is no stranger to the first peoples of this land.”
“Australia has a vast and rich history. Aboriginal people have been on this land for sixty to eighty thousand years and are the world’s oldest continuing culture,” Sheikh Wesam further added.
The event was also attended by special guest and author Professor Regina Ganter stated, “That Macassan Muslim contact predating the arrival of the British on the Australian continent is not disputed.”
She further added, “Muslims are now arguably the most widely debated and feared segment of the community, but they are also its most long-standing non-Indigenous segment.”
The incredibly moving and inspiring short film shared many surprising scientifically proven facts which demonstrate the peaceful relationship between the Makassans and the Yolngu clan who treated each other with friendship and respect over many centuries.
Following the screening, the community had plenty of questions for the panel around the strategy moving forward, using this film as a valuable resource in schools and to continue this beautiful friendship between Muslims and the First Peoples based on our shared history.
Sheikh Wesam ended the discussion with a quote from Dr John Hunter, an Aboriginal Elder from Sydney, “Now that you understand that you’re family and that you have the responsibility, what will you do to support your family?”
Before 1770 is a must watch for all Australians and a valuable resource for all Australian schools.