thekooriwoman

Gomeroi. This is MY truth.

Mish Mash

Watching First Contact on SBS elicited no surprise from me, being a veteran tweeter and having work published in various publications. The attitudes expressed by the six people chosen to participate in  the program are no different from the things people have tweeted at me or written in comments below the line of articles I have written.

These attitudes are a fact of life for Aboriginal people in Australia. And these same attitudes will only gain traction when the national school curriculum changes come into place. The erasure of Aboriginal history is but one of the ways racism is taught and perpetuated in society.

No one is born racist. Racism is a social construct, it is taught through schools, parents and structurally through the court system in this country.

The assumption that all people are born equal and it is up to the individual to make their lives better is an exercise employed by people who have never had to face the obstacles of being born poor, black, disabled, gay, transgender or different from the base premise of being born white.

Of course white people are born poor, gay, disabled and transgender, and their obstacles are high and difficult to surmount, but the rub is this, they do not have the same experiences of someone who is born black.

Being black guarantees that your chances of being imprisoned are doubled. Being born black guarantees that your chances of employment are half those of non black people. Being born black ensures that you will experience racism on a daily level, overtly, subtly or micro aggressively. Being born black guarantees that your life, no matter how well you try to live it or no matter how hard you may try to overcome your obstacles, those very same obstacles will present themselves over and over again.

The fact that hospitalisations for intentional self-harm has increased by 48% says more about Australia as a society than any other statistic. I was recently quoted in The Sydney  Morning Herald on why this may be and I want to expand on that. There is no one reason why people self harm. It is an amalgamation of many different obstacles that seem insurmountable and the fact is that you just cannot stand it anymore.

Because I can not or will not speak about the reasons other people self harm, I will talk about why I have done it and the events that preceded it. I have applied for well over 100 jobs in the past year and a half. All rejected, most without even an explanation. This has made the house I live in unaffordable and I will be moving in the near future to a high crime area that will do nothing for the paranoia I live with due to my mental illness. The position I was in before, which I took court action against for a combination of racism and unfair work practises was found for my ex employer.  Money is tight. Incredibly tight. Every last cent I get goes towards bills and trying to feed three incredibly hungry teenage boys. And the straw that broke the proverbial camels back, a break up.

So when I look at the statistics on self  harm I understand at least some of the motivations behind why and I understand completely the reasons why being dead seems to be the best option.

When it comes to employment, I have walked into at least 5 interviews where as soon as the interviewer saw that I was Aboriginal a kind of shutter comes across their eyes. I always know immediately that as soon as I leave that room my application is going straight into the bin.

This country breeds racists, who in turn breed even more racists. I have looked at the Indigenous disadvantage report  which states that Indigenous employment rates are currently at 47.5%, this has actually declined from 53.8% in 2008. But you will not see the government trumpeting this fact. They will trumpet the fact that there are Indigenous people working at all.

This narrative fuels the opinions of the participants of First Contact, and indeed a lot of Australian opinions, who would prefer to believe that we do not like to work. This assumption could not be farther from the truth. I have worked within job networks where my best clients were Indigenous, who applied exhaustively for positions but were never employed. And I am not speaking about high flying consultive positions, these men and women were willing to work in food preparation, abattoirs, cleaning,  garbage pick up and general office duties. The number of Indigenous people who were placed into a full time position was zero. Two were placed in casual positions cleaning a drug and rehabilitation centre 2 days a week.  These were people who had certificate II, III & IV in business administration. There were also employers who would place advertisements through the network with the distinct instruction of not sending any ‘abos’ for interviews.

So no, I am not at all surprised about the attitudes of the participants on the First Contact series, not surprised at all. But I will say this, if I opened my home and was told someone refused to sleep on any of my beds, I would not be understanding, I would be fucking pissed, and that person would be thrown out of my house before you could say reconciliation.

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6 thoughts on “Mish Mash

  1. What A fucking rip roaring read. Thankyou.

    Makes me angry, and makes me want to be an employer again so this time round I can take an active role and make a positive difference xo

  2. Hi, Kelly. I have read your posts. Your work here has been so important to tell the world what has happened right now in Australia. I have disseminated some of your posts and articles on facebook and twitter. I am an activist and researcher in Portugal and have been working with indigenous women in Brazil. Recently Sonia Guajajara, coordinator of APIB – Articulation of Brazilian Indigenous Peoples, had been in Australia. It would have been wonderful if you had met each other. At the Centre for Social Studies – coordinated by the portuguese sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos – we have explored the possibilities of intercultural translation amongst social movements and amongst indigenous peoples departing from the fact that mutual recognition might strengthen the fight against the transnational economic projects which has threaten indigenous ways of living. I have been working on other economies and women. I am really pleased to meet you. One example of what we have been doing in Portugal: http://alice.ces.uc.pt/en/index.php/alice-info/land-interculturality-and-buen-vivir-the-struggles-of-indigenous-peoples-in-brasil/?lang=en and http://alice.ces.uc.pt/news/?page_id=3568

  3. I found your article after watching the first episode of First Contact and being so disgusted with the participants reactions. I’m sorry that you and other people are not shocked by their attitudes and I’ve never come across it. Racism yes, I’ve come across that but never that level of ignorance. I’m wondering if a couple of them live under a rock where some fairy delivers them food from some magical place where animals don’t die for them to eat. That silly woman who said she thought Aboriginals ate bugs….I loved the faces of those around her when she said it, was priceless, whereas I wanted to smack her upside the head for them.

    Thank you for sharing your story, I wish you all the best. I have just spent 20 months unemployed for the first time in my life so although I’m not Aboriginal I know the struggle, the frustration and disappointment that you’re going through and hope an employer comes along who can see past the colour of your skin and see your skills have nothing to do with that.

  4. None of what I saw on First Contact surprised me, Kelly. I live in rural Queensland where the attitudes of many make those people look moderate and enlightened. I also ran the regional office of the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal, which opened my eyes to the more subtle forms of racism. Our Indigenous people here live with so much overt racism that once when an Aboriginal girl came into the front office late one Friday afternoon to make a complaint, she thought I was deliberately ignoring her. The foyer lights were off but my staff had forgotten to lock the door. I was alone and very tired and simply didn’t notice her at first and I’m half deaf, so I didn’t hear the cheap little bell three rooms away. Her experience with white public servants had been so bad for her entire short life that she thought someone whose sole purpose was to help those discriminated against had discriminated against her. She wouldn’t make her complaint, just gave me an earful. I felt grief-stricken for months over that and have never forgotten her, many years down the track.

    I agree with Luciane; your story is important to get out there to relieve ignorance. I hope you take up the wider publicity options offered to you.

  5. Maude Fuller on said:

    I admire your courage.Prayers for changes.Fight for our rights.

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