thekooriwoman

Gomeroi. This is MY truth.

Archive for the category “Aboriginal.”

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 http://www.vice.com/en_au/read/we-need-aboriginal-sovereignty-not-constitutional-recognition 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 IndigenousX steps it up

A great way to support Indigenous content is through online spaces. A very good friend Luke Pearson, creator of Indigenous X, the weekly rotational Twitter account. dedicated solely to Indigenous voices has conceived and poured his heart and soul into bringing to life the fledgling indigenousx.com.au website. While it’s still in it’s very early stages I feel that over time it will become a seminal resource on both historical and contemporary Indigenous issues.

As well as the writing I will be doing for croakey.com.au on Indigenous health I will also begin to contribute to indigenousx.com.au on a semi regular basis. I believe whole heartily in Lukes vision of a space where every Indigenous person gets a chance to be heard, to share stories, to vent frustration, to celebrate achievements, but most importantly, to do so in a safe place of solidarity.

I have waxed lyrical about my feelings on being a host of the IndigenousX Twitter account here http://aboriginaloz.blogspot.com.au/2013/11/tkw-guest-blog-indigenous-x-changed-my.html and my feelings haven’t changed. IndigenousX means a great deal to me and to see Lukes hard work and patience starting to take off is a wonderful thing. While the site is still in it’s first stages, it by no means is anywhere near the breadth and scope envisioned by Luke, myself and a lot of other people who are willing to work, work and work even harder to build it into not just an informative site, but an Indigenous experience.

Please go and visit, there are some fantastic T shirts available, and all sales go directly back into furthering the sites creation

“Let your vision be ahead of your sight! Dream beyond what you see and never let your environment determine the size of what you see in your convictions. If possible, dream about what does not exist and the good news is that “it is possible”; so go and do it now!” – Israelmore Ayivor

On whats goin on

Quick update for my sadly neglected little blog. My Start Some Good venture in conjunction with Crokey Blog was a huge success. What this means is that any Aboriginal Health related pieces I write will be published over on my ‘The croakey Koori’ column. Yup, I have column now. its over here http://blogs.crikey.com.au/croakey/ so come and check it out.

My first piece will be live within a week, so keep your eye out! This by no means that I will be publishing less on this blog. Matter of fact, I’m hearing atrocious things are headed Aboriginal peoples way in the upcoming budget, so you know I’ll be all over that like a bird on a worm.

If you’re reading Goldfinch by donna Tartt, or are planning to before the 12th May, head on over to Twitter, where we will be having a #Bookchat at 7.30pm Eastern Aus time.  Our next book  will be Tiddahs by Anita Heiss, so if  this sounds even a little bit interesting, come on by the #Bookchat hashtag and say hi.

 

On Poor versus Poverty

People treat you differently when you’re more than poor. I have been poor all of my life, but its not until the past year that I have felt more than poor. For the first time in my life, I understand what poverty is, not poorness, but poverty. And although my life has been lived mostly on the margins, I now live outside the margin and the only thing keeping me from homelessness is the house I rent that is a contributing factor to my headlong dive into poverty.

When you speak to people from companies on the phone and they realise your calling because you cannot pay, need more time, can’t just hand over your credit card details and sort the matter out, their tone changes, becomes a little more frosty, you are asked curtly to please hold while you are transferred to the – even icier tone – credit department. Your friends tones become hushed when speaking of outings. Your kids stop having all their friends over. It happens over time but it happens.

I left a position over reasons at the time that felt empowering. I never thought in a million years I would not be able to get another job. I am experienced, hard working and qualified for many roles. In the 15 years to the minute I left my job, I had been out of work but had always been able to find another position within a few months. But not this time. I have become persona non grata in my very small community. I am an Indigenous woman who works in Indigenous fields that are managed by white people.

My last role required a lot of community engagement, nationally. To cut a very long and complicated story as short as possible, we were woefully under resourced, inadequate conditions were contributing to the deterioration of important materials and my pleas to management were ignored. My decision to be more proactive in addressing these issues was met with disapproval and subsequently relations became strained to say the least. I am blunt and don’t believe in sugar coating problems and took all my concerns directly to management, the dance that ensued is one many Aboriginal people are familiar with. It led to me resigning and it seems, has led me to permanent unemployment.

For a few months I held it together admirably, Foxtel went, the gym membership, the mowing company (now we borrow a mower and do it) good cuts of meat went, no more rocklmelon or watermelon, certain fruits and vegetables (wow, expensive) along with most other groceries that were priced over three dollars. Everything but the bare and utter basics. Then disaster struck. Julia Gillard removed me, along with around 80,000 other people onto Newstart. I thought we were poor before. Silly me, that was luxury. On Newstart all cuts of meat are gone except cheap fatty mince and ditto sausages. We exist on those, potatoes, pumpkin, cheap cereal and milk. 2 minute noodles reign supreme in this house.

The kids Sports club memberships are no longer in reach, along with shoes and clothes. It takes around 6 weeks to pay off decent shoes, if the cheap pairs are bought, they last around 6 weeks on teenage boy feet. Both of my children will now walk around with holes in their shoes until the next pair can be paid off in lieu of buying cheap shoes that blister and pinch. Now that the schoolkid bonus will no longer be around, I am walking around with my stomach clenched and my hands are white knuckled. I thank my lucky stars that I can buy school uniforms on a payment plan. This is yr 12 for my eldest. I don’t want him to worry about our situation; I want him to concentrate solely on his studies. But my smiles of reassurance are wearing thin and I’ve noticed he’s long stopped asking me for ten bucks when he goes and hangs out with his friends.

I have a payment agreement with the electricity company called a ‘hardship plan’. When I call the energy company I ask for the hardship team. I must never not be reminded of my poorness it seems. I had a payment plan with an internet and phone company, I skipped some payments before Christmas, I did the same to my electricity company. The electricity company understood. The internet company did not.

The mental stress and anguish I feel on any given day has now doubled. There is no relief from the inside of my head. No outings to dinner, no day trips to the movies, no relaxing shopping trips. Just an overwhelming sense of hopelessness that things may never change, no matter how hard I try to keep it together there is no relief from this, this grinding and relentless lack of finances, my every waking moment is filled with constant and utter dread about what my family may have to go without next.

I now fully understand every single story I have ever read and heard about people and families that are homeless and exactly how it happens. I now understand the stories about people eating catfood, living in tents, homeless shelters and refuges. I thought I understood, but not really. I had no idea about the loss of pride and dignity. The inability to look lifelong friends in the eye after borrowing yet another twenty dollars. The toll it exacts on everything you always thought you would never do. I had no idea about the shame.

I live in a private rental house. The rent alone takes three quarters of my payments. I am on the public housing list, but it may take years. I live in a three bedroom house in a bad neighbourhood a long way from amenities that is falling apart. It’s two hundred and seventy dollars per week. With the kids school year approaching, and without the safety net of the schoolkid bonus, homelessness is looking more and more likely. I have picked up the phone to call the womens refuge 3 times today. Each time I have started to shake uncontrollably. I know I have to make the call, I can no longer afford this rent. My ability to put three meals per day on the table for my kids is becoming more and more precarious. I cannot afford to skip another long ago cancelled credit card payment, I am already on the lowest possible repayment plan they have. This is the price I am paying for attempting to give my children one gift each this Christmas. In hindsight, a mistake.

I used to check realestate.com along with the local online rag daily to look for a smaller cheaper place, and once almost succeeded, my application landed mere seconds after the first. Gone are the days where I could agononise over selection criteria in the privacy of my home, now I do it in front of an audience of people waiting for their turn to agonise. I also pitched stories to get a few extra dollars here and there. All of this online. But no longer. I must walk to my job network company every morning, which has one computer with one hour slots. One day I might get lucky and get 2 hours. One day it wont be 38 degrees when I leave the house. One day I might get a job. One day I wont be so poor.

I have a hole in the lining of my stomach and my blood pressure is too high. I sometimes get headaches so bad that my vision doubles. The health effects of being poor are beginning to surface. I’m sure a google search would unearth a study that shows my health problems are par for the course of people with money problems. Malnutrition, heart and skin problems are no doubt just around the corner.

I tentatively made plans for this year. Plans that are now scuttled and turned to dust. There is one thing I never read about being poor that happens. The loss of hope and sense of desperation that comes with the first sleepless night on an empty stomach, and never leaves. The minute I make that phone call to the refuge is the minute I cross from more than poor to poverty.

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 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.

On NAIDOC week

On NAIDOC week

This piece was run by Crikey after I originally guest posted a piece for Luke Pearson, who runs and maintains the very awesome and entertaining rotational twitter account @IndigenousX. To read the full version of my thoughts on NAIDOC week, here is the link http://aboriginaloz.blogspot.com.au/

Black Captain Jon Luc Picard makes an appearance, he may become a recurring character in my future pieces.

 

One of the Top 20 women shaking it up on Twitter – ME!

One of the Top 20 women shaking it up on Twitter – ME!

This came as a bit of a surprise, a good surprise! I’m in awesome company, the other women on the list are all people I greatly admire and always enjoy reading anything they put out there. I recommend everyone drop by The Shake now and then, it’s a great mix of fun, serious and deadly recipes. 

Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott

This is a piece I wrote for The Shake on Tony Abbott, and his infantilisation of Aboriginals. It was fun to write, and very generous of The Shake to publish it!

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