Gomeroi. This is MY truth.

Archive for the category “Aboriginal Australia”

A few people who inspired me last year

Adam Goodes – Adam was named Australian of the year last year and kept it real from the jump. We may disagree on constitutional recognition, but that in no way mitigates my respect for a seemingly tireless anti racism campaigner. He recently spoke about maybe going into politics. I say yay! He not only talks a lot about fighting racism, he is also passionate about Aboriginal health and ending domestic violence. Adam has taken the platform given to him by receiving the Australian of the year award and used it to express many progressive and informed views about Aboriginal Australia.

Nakkiah Lui, Steven Oliver and the cast of Black Comedy – Black Comedy was gold. I let out some good belly laughs while watching last year. The fact that the show starred a majority of Aboriginal actors was brilliant. The absolute stand out sketch for me was with Nakkiah Lui and Steven Oliver involving a poker machine. The first sketch comedy to star so many Aboriginals in leading roles since 1973 was an unmitigated success and really highlighted the lack of Aboriginal actors on other Australian television shows (excluding Redfern Now and Gods of Wheat Street of course) and I do hope there will be a season 2 later this year.

Anita Heiss – The indefatigueable Anita published the excellent book ‘Tiddas’ (a very touching and heartwarming tome about a group of four friends) campaigned for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (an awesome program that gets books into Aboriginal childrens hands), visited many schools to give talks and workshops and is now currently working on a new book. Anita is making a very real difference to peoples lives for the better, and I cannot wait to get my hands on her upcoming novel!

Kylie Sambo – Kylie is a Hip Hop artist and also fought alongside many other Traditional Owners against, and was successful in preventing a nuclear waste dump on her homelands at Muckaty Station just outside of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory.  Kylie also run successful fundraising campaigns to help fight the case and her song ‘Muckaty’ is heartfelt and poignant.

Amy McQuire – Amy, the former editor of Tracker Magazine, who now writes for New Matilda has been an excellent source of information regarding Aboriginal issues. She writes detailed and eloquent pieces that get to the heart of matters. One of the pieces she wrote before Tracker closed was on the Bowraville tragedies, which was sincere, insightful and very moving. I had the opportunity to be on a panel with Amy last year and she speaks just as passionately as she writes. An incredible journalist who will no doubt keep us up to date this year as well.

There are many other people who made differences last year, these five were stand outs for me. They made me think, laugh, learn and marvel at their dedication to their chosen fields and their vast knowledge on all kinds of different subjects. I look forward to being inspired by them this year, just as they inspired me last year.













Oh it’s so shocking blah blah

Why are people shocked that Aboriginal kids die 5.2 times more than their non Aboriginal counterparts?

Most will live in substandard housing, be the object of racism, have one or both parents self-medicating via alcohol or other drugs, leading to vicious addictions, maybe a parent in jail, at least an uncle, cousin or Aunt.

They look around and see no way out of this life. So why bother.

Again I ask why are people shocked? You’ve seen First Contact, Utopia, why are you shocked? You’ve seen the 30 people in one house, you’ve seen the harsh reality of living in the far outback, so I’ll ask again, why are you shocked?

Some of these places don’t even have running water. Oh how shocking! But what can I do, you ask yourself, sitting and reading this piece.

You march. You rally. You organise a down tools for a half hour every day at 11am until the Prime Ministers Cabinet finally fixes at least housing and water in communities. Until they commit to Community Development and Education Programs that were working until they were cut for no reason. Programs that gave people pride and hope for their communities.

You stand up for decent and proper medical and mental health services in every community. You stand up for all the things you take for granted that People living in these communities will never have.

That’s what you do. Because if you don’t, that number is going to get worse. And you’ll pretend to be shocked, but deep down you know you’re not. Not really.

Treaty Now

I read a spectacular article today; about the growing grassroots Aboriginal movement in this country, but something struck me as odd. I disagree with Michael Mansell. This is a shock to me, I usually find his and my own views align significantly on many different issues. This doesn’t mean I no longer respect and admire him of course, but it does illustrate perfectly that not all of us Aboriginals agree on everything, even those of us who sit on the same side of the fence.

The article I am talking about is titled “We Need Aboriginal Sovereignty Not Constitutional Recognition” by Paul Gregoire, and can be found here and I couldn’t agree more. In fact I have even designed a Tshirt that tells anyone who looks at it what I think of constitutional recognition. But I’m not here to push my deadly Tshirt. I’m here to weigh in on the questions bought up by the article above.

Australia is the only British colonised country without a treaty. I had a very long conversation with a journalist recently who asked me what a treaty would look like in practical terms. When I told him we were the only country without any recognisable treaty, he was visibly shocked, he didn’t believe me, I told him to google it sometime.

My response about what a treaty would look like is an elected spokesperson from each nation representing our interests in all matters that would take place upon our lands. A forced engagement of government and our own democratically elected spokesperson, not just lip service payed to a few paid representatives of mob. You will notice I do not use the term leader. I do not believe Aboriginal people have ‘leaders’ in the way mainstream society uses the term. Right here where I live there is an Elders Group that has no leader. They are a group that meets and votes on a variety of different things, and have a good old gossip while they’re at it (I’ve been to a few meetings to ask about this or that. I’ve heard ‘em).

And I feel I’m getting too long in the tooth myself, and am too far removed from where the action takes place regarding Aboriginal Rights. If I had more money I’d certainly attend any event that deals with matters of rights, treaties and recognition.

But I take heart in the young ones who are coming up in the ranks, the likes of Callum Clayton-Dixon and Bo Spearim. Creators of WAR, Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance, and the publishers of Brisbane Blacks. My sorrow in hearing that Brisbane Blacks will no longer be published was strong. I have every copy and have read them all from cover to cover, and I loved passing them onto my sons. Many a dinner argument and discussion was created by this magnificent publication.

Speaking of Callum and Bo, they have already been labelled as ‘agitators’ for their assertion of sovereign rights in leaving and coming back to the country using Aboriginal passports, and also for their never waning energy in organising G20 Summit marches. They are in excellent company though, with both Malcolm X and Dr Martin Luther King also being labelled as agitators. My thinking is, they must be doing something right!

I’m leaving this post short tonight (my apologies) but today was a scorcher, this house has no air conditioning, but it has a heater installed, go figure. It also seems to hold the heat in, like an oven. And I am absolutely exhausted. Night has fallen so I better get my chores done while it’s a little cooler. Tomorrows post will be doubly long to make up for it.

On Anti Racism & the Campaigns that Don’t do Enough

Justine Sacco was still 30000ft in the air on her way to South Africa, blissfully unaware that her bosses at IAC had already signed her severance cheque and removed her from their website. The insensitiveness of her “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” tweet was jaw dropping, and a lot of people didn’t hesitate in letting her, and her employer know. I applaud IAC in their decision to cut ties with Sacco. It sends a very powerful message to all their employees along the lines of, we will not employ people who publically espouse these types of insensitive viewpoints, excuses will not be entertained.

Also in America, Buncombe County Republican precinct chairman Don Yelton went on The Daily Show and said a lot of heinously racist things about African Americans in an interview about voter ID laws. The North Carolina Republican party distanced itself from Yelton and pretty much forced him to resign. “This mentality will not be supported or propagated within our party.” GOP Chairman Henry Mitchell emphatically iterated in a statement released to the media. In doing so, the North Carolina Grand Old Party has effectively put all its party members on clear notice, by implying if you publicly tarnish our reputation in any way shape or form, we will cut all ties with you. This, to me, seems incredible. Like a lot of Australians I follow American politics peripherally, and I admit I was taken by surprise when I read about this. My assumptions about parts of North Carolina and certain arms of the GOP have been soundly scuttled, and it is definitely one of those times where I am very happy to be found wrong. If only companies and the conservative party here in Australia would prove me wrong instead of reinforcing my assumptions about just how willing they are to turn a blind eye to overtly racist comments that their employees and party members make publicly.

There have been numerous anti racism campaigns here in Australia, the newest of which is the ‘Racism, it stops with me’ a campaign that “Invites all Australians to reflect on what they can do to counter racism wherever it happens”. This campaign is supported by a multitude of companies, including Cricket Australia, AFL, Elders and the NRL. All of these organisations at one point or another have been at the centre of racism rows. It has become the new normal it seems, that whenever a company has to answer for letting racism go unchecked (and in the case of the NRL & AFL, the problems are legion) it just pulls out its cheque book. Elders on the other hand, is a whole different kettle of colonialist fish. Call me jaded or call me a cab, call me whatever you like, but anti racism campaigns will never make one iota of difference until there are measures in place at a legal and policy level that unequivocally signal that racialised abuse/racialised speak will not be entertained under any circumstance.

Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act comes close to the type of top level reform I am driving at. And yet this clause of the Racial Discrimination Act has been flagged for removal. One particular high profile instance this Act was used in was against a particularly nasty conservative columnist who racially vilified a number of Aboriginals, accusing them of using their Aboriginality to gain political points. The fact he was found to be in breach would have sent shockwaves through comfortably racist circles in Australia. It finally put them on notice and demonstrated that there were certain things that damaged other peoples reputations that you cannot say. To assume that this law is no different from, or, better served by the Defamation Act is wrongheaded and essentially puts Aboriginals, and indeed, all other ethnicities that are regular racial targets in Australia right back to pre anti racism campaigns. The quashing of Section 18c under the guise of free speech is freeing racists from the consequences of their speech, the hate it perpetuates and the hurt, humiliation and damage it causes.

So if Australia really wants to get real about stamping out racism it needs to ramp up its laws surrounding anti racism, not water them down. I would prefer to see anti racism campaigns centered around strengthening existing laws and creating new policies to be included in all companies policies and procedural manuals that specifically state a one strike rule and you will be asked to resign. No ifs ands or buts when it comes to racist speak. This is real anti racism. Not contemplating better ways to deal with racists. Because the best way to deal with racists, is to hit them in the hip pocket. Racists have to eat too.

On Who the Fuck is Iggy Azalea when she’s at home?

SO Iggy Azalea. A person I had never heard of until I hosted the rotational curation twitter account @IndigenousX last week has decided she can go on radio in America and educate Americans on Aboriginal culture.

I had no idea who this woman was. The name sounded familiar. A quick google search turned up articles about her moving to the US when she was 16, being signed to Def Jam Island Records, a very public spat with American Hip Hop artist Azalea Banks. A lot of conversation around the fact Azalea raps and some deeper critique of her appropriating African American space to perform music.

I cannot speak to this, nor would I ever try to. I cannot speak to the appropriation of anyone elses culture but my own. But I will say this. If I ever came forward and heavily criticised anyone for appropriating Australian Aboriginal culture, I would expect my voice to be heard in a clearer context than the person appropriating my culture would be. This is something I do on a daily basis. Oppressed voices have much more traction in the way I critique modern society.

See what I did there? I admitted ignorance. It’s not hard. I really cannot in any meaningful way participate in a discussion on the appropriation of Hip Hop culture. The only way I can ever have any real input into that conversation is to support the person/s whos culture is being appropriated by another for financial, cred or ‘edgy’ gain. That’s it.

Some background. This is the link in the tweet I received It’s a link to a video of Iggy Azalea being interviewed by Real Sway for his radio program. At around 1.05 is where the question is asked by Real Sway “How ya’ll treat the Aborigine people, how are they being treated now, are they still being ostracised”?

Azalea answers that “You know what, I’m gonna be real with you, I think that they are, yeah I think that they are”. Even the most ignorant people in Australia cannot refute this fact. Aboriginals are the most racially ostracised people in this country. Oh yes, we are the gold medal winners of the oppression Olympics. Yay for us.

Real Sway interjected with ‘Why ya’ll doin that to the black man in Australia”?

To which Azalea replied “Yeah I know it’s bullshit isn’t it? But it’s the truth, it’s the truth, if I can be honest about my country, I love Australia but I will say that I do still think that there are a lot of Australians that, um, have unfair stereotypes about Aboriginal people”.

If only she stopped there. Because up to that point, she was hitting the nail directly on the head, insofar as the reality of Australian societal insight. I was thinking, hmm, I don’t know who you are, but you seem to have a pretty good grasp on what’s what over here. And carriers of truth come in many colours. (And just to reiterate, I had no fucking idea who this person even was).

But no, she didn’t stop there, else this post wouldn’t exist. Let’s continue down into the rabbit hole of Iggy Azaleas understanding of Aboriginal culture and her interpretation of the spiritual struggle of overcrowded and underfunded housing.

She goes on to say, direct quote here “The thing about Aboriginal people and why I think it’s difficult for them is because they don’t believe you should live in an enclosed structure (If I was drinking anything at this point, now is the moment I would have spit it out in disbelief) like a house, um, they sleep under the stars, it’s how they live. (My guffaws at the romanticised magical spiritual Aboriginal trope was getting a fierce workout by this point, you listening Baz Luhrmann? Cut that shit out) For us to come in, western civilisation, any colour, we often try to make them fit into our confines of what we think is civilised and better, and so often they got the, the government will build them housing or things like this, thinking that they’re helping them and it will get destroyed (Is Iggy trying to fight ignorant stereotypes with more ignorant stereotypes now? Let’s see) They’ll destroy it, um, and take all the beds and sleep outside, because that’s their culture (Insert biggest ‘oh’ face you ever saw on any Australian Aboriginal womans face anywhere, ever) even now and um, and so I think it’s kind of ignorant people think that they’re savages or… creates these negative stereotypes about them but it’s really just western civilisation being on their land and trying to push what we think is better upon them and it makes it very difficult for.. I think, some people to understand they just want to live a different way of life”.

It’s at this point Real Sway says “That’s their tradition, that’s their culture, T.I (referring to rapper T.I who is also present in the interview) you hear that? They tried to put them Aboriginal people in projects, and they tore down the projects! They didn’t go for it like we did”. I really can’t speak to what either Real Sway or T.I were thinking at this point, but Real Sway jumped on the next call button pretty quick.

Let’s talk the reality of housing in Aboriginal communities. For starters there isn’t enough. This leads to multiple generations living in one home. I’m talking up to 30 people living in one 3 bedroom house. When Azalea asserts that ‘They (Aboriginals) just destroy them” she is doing nothing more than perpetuate a pretty ugly stereotype, that makes it incredibly easy for housing providers and governments to have an excuse to not put any money into Aboriginal community housing.

I have 3 sons. And have lived all over this country. What Azalea refers to as ‘destroying’ I attribute to everyday wear and tear. ALL houses incur wear and tear. Imagine a 3 bedroom residence that is housing up to 30 people. The wear and tear would accelerate at an advanced rate. Because of overcrowding, regular maintenance is needed, but often in communities, maintenance is deferred because of budgetary concerns, concerns created by a perpetuated stereotype that Aboriginals only destroy their houses anyway. Anyone seeing a fucking circle forming here? I have lived in a house with 10 other people. By the end of it I was a wreck, mentally, emotionally and physically. Unless it’s a 10 bedroom house, I do not recommend it.

Now lets talk about ‘draggin our mattresses outside’ to ‘sleep under the stars’. I dunno bout anyone else, but when I do this it’s because it’s 40 fucking degrees inside and only 32 outside. Because the substandard fucking house I’m in doesn’t have air conditioning, it has a fucking fireplace. Who in fucks name thought that was a good idea, to put fireplaces in every fucking community house, but no air conditioning? Were they fucking Norwegians?

Sorry to bust your little romanticised under the stars myth there, but mosquitos are fuckheads, and love my black blood, snakes are every fucking where and I can’t afford a fucking tent.

Everything after about the 1.31 mark on this video that Azalea says about Aboriginals is the most offensive stereotyping there is, because these are the stereotypes that affect governmental policy. They affect the everyday lives of Aboriginal people across Australia in very real and substantial ways. They are destructive and regressive. They need to fucking end, because these stereotypes are killing us, in our thousands.

**Add on

Edited to add – because it needs to be said. In areas where community housing is low, the other option is private rental. I’ve spoken to people who have worked in real estate who have told me that when the company has received applications from Aboriginal people, they go straight in the bin. I am not sure of the veracity of this statement, but I can say I had to cheat to get a private rental. This was achieved via me putting a white friend on the lease and having her go in and deal with the real estate face to face, and removing her from the lease 3 months later. This is a thing. A very real thing that occurs due to the stereotype Azalea has perpetuated. If my friend had not done this for me, I would still be living with my mother, and my children, in a 2 bedroom flat. I cannot stress enough, or more passionately, the emotional and mental stress that the racism this typecasting of Aboriginals causes and sustains in the lives of thousands of people on an everyday basis.

On the feminist politics of Abbotts front bench

Now the kerfuffle raised by feminists regarding Tony Abbot naming his front bench that includes only one woman has died down, let’s talk about the other glaringly obvious omission from Abbotts front bench that has received virtually no media space. Abbotts front bench is all white.

I’m not surprised media haven’t written on this. Because most mainstream media is white. They don’t notice their own default. Can I blame them? Yes. Yes I can.

I’ve been googling results for various search terms regarding Abbotts lack of, for want of a better word ‘colour’ in his front bench and coming up empty. Oh there’s a multitude of articles out there regarding the fact only one woman graces Abbotts front bench. But that’s where it ends.

The lack of scrutiny from mainstream media and feminist spaces points to a much bigger picture, and sadly for non-white Australians, this picture does not include YOU.

Not one article I have read has mentioned the fact that there is not one person of colour or ethnicity that isn’t white. This got me thinking about the elected representatives of the L/NP and if they even had any people of colour within their elected ranks.

I found . Member for Hasluck. And . Member for Moore. A grand total of two. That’s two men, who aren’t white. And apparently not eligible for a front bench position.

The make up of Australia is incredibly diverse. Australia is by no means an ‘all anglo’ country. We are a very multicultural nation made up a multitude of different nationalities that have decided to call Australia home.
Why is this multi culturalism not reflected in the make up of our elected representatives?

The answer lies in the decisions of both of the ‘big two’ parties, and their selection of candidates. Because Labor is by no means more inclusive. Both parties have demonstrated time and time again that they will in instances of choosing individual candidates for parliamentary seats, choose the white person.

This to me is a much bigger issue than how many women happen to be sitting on the front bench. Feminists in Australia seem to delight in pointing out sexism, but never go that extra mile and refer to the very obvious lack of people of colour or other ethnicities when it comes to politics on the whole.

Australian feminism lacks intersectionality, and seems comfortable in doing so. I am yet to see any of the more prominent feminists in Australia address intersectionality in a meaningful and engaging way. There is no shortage of black/brown skinned women waiting for the opportunity to advance and extend the scope of Australian feminism beyond the sphere of ‘women on boards’ and policing Muslim womens clothing choices. (Prisons indeed, eye roll)

Feminism in Australia as it stands is doing nothing but prop up the status quo of whites in power. And is doing nothing to advance the rights of women that are not white.

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