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Dennis and Keith in Melbourne Botanic Gardens

Dennis is a Guide for the Aboriginal Heritage Walk in the Gardens.

Den the Fish

Broadcaster on radio station 3KND as Den-the-Fish.

Dennis Fisher

Profile of an inspired and dedicated member of our congregation.

Dennis in Newspaper

Melbourne Weekly Port Philip

My Voice: Dennis Fisher
23 Jan, 2012 11:35 AM

Port Melbourne Aboriginal personality Dennis Fisher is a voice for reconciliation.

Den the Fish I grew up in Queensland on an Aboriginal settlement. It was good as a child – it was great in fact – and we always had lots of games to play. You don’t understand as a child the way your people are treated.

As I grew up, I came to realise everything on the settlement was forced – we weren’t allowed to speak our native dialects and we were on rations from the government. On the settlement, we starved a lot, and we didn’t have work. Our rights were taken away from us. When the white men returned from war, they took all the jobs in manual labour that my people had been employed in.

I remember hearing from older people that white people thought it was dangerous to educate Aborigines, so when I grew up I wasn’t very educated and couldn’t read and write properly. I was born in 1957, and Aborigines weren’t even classed as Australian citizens until 1967. So for the first 10 years of my life, I wasn’t even classified as a real Australian.

I ran away from the settlement when I was 13 and a half. I got jobs in labouring, on the railways and ringbarking. I kept returning to the settlement until my mother died, and then I moved away from Queensland for good.

I moved to Sydney first and went to the Aboriginal TAFE and studied the basics in grammar and history. I didn’t know much about Australian history. One day they showed us clips and slides and I became angry about the way our people were treated and it made me hate white people. But then I couldn’t hate white people because a lot of the teachers were white, so I couldn’t blame them all.

People tell us to move on. If you’re going to tell Aborigines to move on, tell the veterans to not march on Anzac Day, tell the Jews to forgive Germans, and tell people who have lost their homes to floods and fires to forget about it. You don’t know until it happens to you. I can forgive, but I will never forget.

When I came to Melbourne, I was working voluntarily for a conservation group. I met a friend making songlines – Aboriginal music. He told me he was starting up a radio station – 3KND – and asked me to join. It’s our ninth year coming up, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. My show, Mixing It In, has healed me inside and out. I choose the songs; the voice is a powerful thing. It took me two years to get my pain and suffering out. I still see it happening today with my people. It doesn’t matter what colour a person is – we can’t help a person until we are ourselves healed.

I joined Port Phillip Citizens for Reconciliation 12 years ago. I believe before Aboriginal people can reconcile with white people, we need to reconcile our own people first.

I’m also a poet, and go by the name Den the Fish. I call myself a no-hoper. “No” for violence against women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities. “Hoper” that we can one day all sit around a big fire and have a laugh, have a drink, have a cry, and move together as one.

Dennis, a member of our congregation at Holy Trinity Anglican Church Port Melbourne, is a published indigenous poet.

Dennis assisting with expresso coffee making
following our Sunday 10am service.

Dennis Fisher Reconciliation Poem Graphic

"Reconciliation" - a poem written by Dennis Fisher

Download a Dennis Fisher Poem Graphic

Graphic by Keith Richardson

Download a large A4 size image of this poem. (2.3MB)

Dennis as a Guide on

Heritage Walk in Botanic Gardens

Melbourne Gardens

Aboriginal Heritage Walk
Spirit ~ Connection ~ Land

Journey into the ancestral lands of the Kulin nation and explore their rich and thriving culture on this award-winning walk in the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne.
Experience a traditional smoking ceremony with our Indigenous Guides and discover traditional uses of plants for food, tools and medicine.

For further information, click here.