Wednesday, August 1, 2012

IndigenousX challenging mainstream stereotypes

Indigenous X challenging mainstream stereotypes

IndigenousX made it on the radio :)

The story features two previous hosts of @IndigenousX - Blake Tatafu aka @Blayketatafu & Carly Wallace aka @Ceetothejay01 talking about their week on the account.

... and I'm in there too.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Greatest Lie I Ever Told.

For my first teaching prac, oh so many years ago, I decided I wanted to go to the town my father came from. I had been at uni for about a year, doing a teaching/Aboriginal studies degree and hadn't quite found what I was looking for... a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose.

People often ask me why I picked a teaching degree and I usually give some pre-prepared answer about the importance of education etc, but the truth is I don't remember choosing it. I don't remember much of what happened during my HSC year, or exactly how I enrolled in uni because it was mostly done for me by my mom, and my school counselor. All I knew is that I wanted to get out of town as quickly as I could, and not come back. I wanted to run away from things I knew I couldn't run away from, but at 18 I thought it was still worth a shot.

My HSC year hadn't been the best, I had buried my great grandmother, a close friend, and a few other people along the way as well, but it wasn't until my father passed away, two weeks before my exams began, 2 months before my 18th birthday, that it all got a bit too much for me. I still sat my exams, but my marks were atrocious... or at least, not even half what I would have guessed I'd get only 12 months earlier. Not that I really cared about that at the time, or at any time since. I had far more important, and more depressing, things to occupy my mind.

So anyways, I left home and moved away to start uni, and after a year was ready to go on my first teaching prac. I wanted to go to my father's hometown, a town with a high Aboriginal population, to try and connect with a country I had realised I didn't know as well as I should. I didn't know what to expect, from the school, the community, I didn't even know if I had any family still living in the town.

The uni were not keen on the idea, mainly because they would not be able to do any school visits during my prac, and would have to rely on my teacher reports to grade me. I argued successfully against this, and was eventually granted permission to go.

I traveled by bus, a relatively long trip, but great scenery along the way, and arrived in the early afternoon a few days before my prac was to begin.
I got off the bus and began walking to where I was going to be staying for the two weeks I would be in town, with an old whitefella who worked quite extensively on the local language program. Before I made it half a block an old man drove passed and stared at me, I stared back. He pulled over, got out of his car and came over to me, I said "G'day". He said nothing. Instead, he hugged me and laughed. I think he could sense my apprehension because after this he said "Why do I know you?". I told him I had no idea, because I didn't know him. He asked who my father was, so I told him. "Ahhh, I knew I knew you!" We had a quick yarn, he had heard of my father's passing and he passed on his condolences. I kept walking, suddenly feeling a lot more comfortable about the reception I was likely to receive while staying in town. 

Over the next couple of days before I started I met a few of dad's old mates, and various other characters in the community as well. On the day before I started at the school I met the woman who would be my supervising teacher, she was younger than I expected, only a few years older than me, only on her second year out of university. She made it fairly clear that she didn't think very highly of the town, the school, the students, or the community. She was already putting in transfer forms to try and get out, and wanted to know why I had decided to come here to do my pracs. I told her. I told her that this was my father's hometown, that I was coming to try and reconnect with where he came from. I told her that we were an Aboriginal family, and that I didn't know what, if anything, this would mean for my stay here. She was fine with this and said she was looking forward to having an extra pair of hands in the class, as the kids were difficult at the best of times.

The next day, a Monday, I started my prac. I introduced my self to the kids, and started to get to know them. I observed my classroom teacher hoping to get an insight into how to engage with students, not just Aboriginal students, even though it was an entirely Aboriginal class, but just with students. How do you teach? I hadn't really gotten much of an idea from my studies about the teaching side of teaching, and quickly realised this was unlikely to improve much during this prac, but at least I could get a good insight into how not to teach, and work backwards from there.

I learnt on the first day that one of the two Aboriginal teachers at this school actually grew up in the house next door to my father, and was stoked to have me 'home again'.

I was really glad I had decided to come here. Apart from the fact that my teacher didn't want to be there, and was confused by the idea that I did, it was great. The kids were no trouble at all, the community was great, and I was learning a little bit more than I had known before about my father. Even though I had grown up with my father, there is nothing like talking to people who knew your parents before you were born to get a better insight into who they were as people.

Anyway, as I mentioned, I started at the school on the Monday, and on the Wednesday, the Aboriginal teacher I mentioned earlier informed me of an incident that happened in the staffroom that she thought I should know about. It seems as though my supervising teacher had been telling everyone, with much amusement, that I was "a white fella pretending to be a black fella", she even told this teacher as well. I'm sure she was shocked at the verbal dressing down she received from this teacher in response to her hilarious gossip.

I was a bit taken aback by this, not shocked as such, more disappointed. I had thought I was getting along well enough with my teacher until this point. Just to be on the safe side I rang my university supervisor that afternoon and told her what had happened. "What do you expect us to do about it?" I was asked, much to my surprise and disappointment. "Nothing" I replied, "I just want you to be aware of what has happened in case it gets any worse". I was told not to worry about it, and to get on with my prac. So I did.

The next few days went by without too many hassles, I had noticed a change in my supervising teacher on a personal level, which I had expected, but to her credit, she was still professional and I received excellent feedback about the lessons I had taught, and observations I had written up.

The only noteworthy experience I had with my supervising teacher from this point was during a playground duty, which I had to accompany her on. We observed a young boy, probably about 7 or 8, throw his rubbish on the ground. The teacher called him back to pick it up and was promptly told to go and get fucked. She walked after the boy, and he stopped to hear her out. She said "I don't want to have to see your father later on and tell him about what just happened, so how about you apologise, and go and put your paper in the bin?" The boy's response was something I will never forget, and the lesson behind it is something I still use when doing cultural awareness training to this day. The boy replied "You won't tell my father shit, because you don't know who my father is... My Mother doesn't even know who my father is!" and promptly turned on his heels, and walked away. The teacher stood silent, gobsmacked, and I fought with every ounce of my being not to bust a gut laughing at her tragic attempt to imitate what she had seen other teachers do quite successfully. What she didn't realise in her imitation was that you actually have to know the child's parent, and they have to know that you know them, for that sort of strategy to have any hope at all of working.

During my last few days I felt torn about leaving, but also knew that I probably wasn't going to come back, even though it had been good to make the connection, it wasn't really my home, nowhere was. I needed to carve out a new life for myself, not chase after my dad's life, trying to recreate what could never be replaced; him.

My teacher wasn't going to be there until the end of my prac as she had to leave town for a few days, I don't rightly remember the reason, but it meant that she had to give my report early. I was stoked about this, as I would see the fruits of my hard work. I had really gone above and beyond on this prac, I had turned up early every day, left late, and prepared my lessons with enthusiasm and passion.

So you can imagine my shock when I saw that I had been failed, under the category of 'General profession attributes". I questioned my teacher about this, she said not to worry, everyone fails at least one category on their first prac. I told her that failing in any one of the eight categories meant that I failed the entire prac, and that I couldn't actually be failed in this category because I am Aboriginal, lol, just joking, I told her I couldn't be failed because in order to fail in any category you first have to receive written notification that you are being placed at risk, a support plan has to be written up, and you have to not do whatever it says you need to do before you can actually fail. None of this had happened.

I was told that it wouldn't be changed, and that she had no more time to discuss it and she had to go and prepare for her trip away.

The next morning I rang the university to lodge a complaint, and to ask for their guidance. Apparently my supervising teacher had beaten me to it. She had told my uni supervisor that I had turned up late, left early, turned up on some days barefoot in a t-shirt, and that I had 'verbally threatened her' to change my mark. Before I could respond to these allegations, all of which obviously untrue, as surely I would not have been allowed in the school if I was not wearing proper attire, and because the school had a sign in sheet which recorded my time of arrival and departure every day. Surely the university would have been made aware of these things if they were true. As for the 'verbal threat' that was my word against hers, or at least it would have been if I was given a chance to reply, instead I was told I was lucky the teacher wasn't pressing charges against me, and then I was hung up on. I could have cried, or laughed, or been knocked over with a feather... but before any of these things could happen I saw the principal of the school walk passed and was struck with one the greatest moments of inspiration I have ever experienced.

I asked to speak to the principal and told her of what had happened with my final report, and that I believed it had nothing at all to do with 'general professional attributes' and everything to do with the incident that had occurred during my first week, that I was paying for the fact that she had been dressed down by another staff member for her comments about my identity. I told her about the processes for failing a student on prac, of which she was already well aware, and I told her that I had spoken to the university, and that they were shocked, and outraged at what had happened and had offered me their full support... this may have been a slight stretch of the truth, by which I mean I lied through my teeth, but at this late stage of the game I figured that it was worth a shot. The principal was not keen on the negative attention this incident was likely to attract (or could have had I not been abandoned by the university, but what she didn't know wouldn't hurt me). She took over the class for my last few days and supervised me personally, gave me a glowing report, and sincerely apologised for what I had experienced, inquiring if I was still interested in placing a complaint against my teacher. I said I wasn't, and that I just wanted to go home.

I left a few days later...

Every now and than I think back to this experience and reflect on how close I came to never becoming a teacher, to dropping out of university (which would have been inevitable) and becoming a labourer in Sydney with all of my mates who had also left our home town upon turning 18.

Occasionally I think about how many other Aboriginal students have their own version of this story, how many of those Aboriginal people who do not make it through their university degrees do not so much fail their degree, as are failed by their institutions...

One simple lie, which has affected my life from that day on... since then I have completed my degree, taught my own classes, taught at university, ran countless programs in schools all over the Hunter, Central Coast and in Sydney, conducted research, given guest talks, lectures, facilitated professional development sessions and had countless other wonderful experiences.

How many Aboriginal people, who should now be my peers, have been turned away from their dreams because they took the either remained silent, or took the prescribed option of placing a complaint of racism, and inevitably lost their case, only to leave disillusioned disheartened, and disgusted... 

I'm willing to bet the answer is too many.

And that whatever the number is, it is still growing.

When I got back to uni I told the Aboriginal unit about what had happened, they wanted me to give a talk to a state AECG conference they were hosting about it. So I did. In retrospect I think it's pretty ordinary that this was their only response, but whatever... this was the first experience of overt racism from staff I had encountered at uni, but it was not to be my last. Some other time I'll tell you about what happened during my internship, or at least, during the first time I attempted my internship...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Billiards: the ultimate analogy for racism.

To play: you will need a level playing field with strategically placed holes at the fringes, and a big stick.

The object of the game is for the white to put all the coloureds into the aforementioned holes, using the big stick to facilitate the process.

To start the game, imprison all the coloureds in a triangular cage, and place the white ball at the top of the table.

Eventually you will have to release the coloureds from their cage. As soon as you do this, use the big stick to help the white ball to break them up.

This will make it easier to proceed to pick them off one by one.

The rules stipulate that when a coloured ball is sunk it must stay in its hole. If the white ball sinks however, you simply put it back on the table and continue. 

Once you get good at the game, you can try playing one coloured off another to put it in a hole.

The only major difference in this analogy is that in billiards you have to try and save the black for last...

I'm sure there's more to this analogy but I just wanted to get it down while it was fresh in my mind.

NB: Before the recently disassembled Andrew Bolt Comment Army find their way here to start on some racist tirade about whatever, I should point out this blog post is intended for comedic and/or revolutionary purposes only ;)

Monday, July 2, 2012


I did a radio interview today about NAIDOC Week and the theme this year: "The Spirit of the Tent Embassy: 40 years on"; during the interview I was asked about whether NAIDOC Week is a week of celebration or a week of mourning, or both.

I answered both, and still much more... and it got me thinking.

I think this perceived contradiction confuses many Australians, even though we already do the same thing with days like ANZAC Day where we commemorate the tragic loss of life, but also celebrate the spirit of those who fought. I think many will overlook that comparison and become confused about the purpose of NAIDOC Week because many often don't have enough depth of understanding on Indigenous issues to handle it when we have conflicting views or themes, or multiple perspectives.

We prefer our Indigenous issues to be (excuse the pun) in black and white.

I think the issue of perceived contradiction is probably more poignant this year due to the 2012 NAIDOC theme: "The Spirit of the Tent Embassy: 40 Years On" which has always been a contentious issue in Australia, and even more so this year in light of the media fiasco that occurred on Survival Day/Australia Day.

The question of whether NAIDOC Week is a week of protest, a week of celebration, a week of remembrance etc has been made even more confusing thanks to the Stronger Futures legislation stealthily sneaking through parliament in the dead of night last week. You probably didn't hear about that unless you were on Twitter, as most mainstream media entities didn't seem to think it was a particularly newsworthy issue. 

These issues have created a question in the mind of many about what we need to do: Do we need to protest? Do we have anything to celebrate? Should we commemorate our losses and acknowledge the grief felt by many?

The answer to all of these is a resounding 'YES'!

To understand the perceived contradiction of celebrating, commemorating and protesting at the same time, it might help if we understand the history and origins of NAIDOC Week.

As many people know, NAIDOC week traces its history back to the Day of Mourning on the 26th January 1938 (which actually began much earlier than that in the form of community protests against 'Australia Day'). This turned into an annual event held on the Sunday before Australia Day, known as Aborigines Day.

In 1955 the day moved to the first Sunday in July, and it was decided it "should become not simply a protest day but also a celebration of Aboriginal culture." The following year "the second Sunday in July became a day of remembrance for Aboriginal people and their heritage" creating the framework for what would eventually become known as NADOC Week in 1975.

In the 1990's NADOCchanged to NAIDOC to acknowledge Torres Strait Islander peoples as well.

So basically, we have a lot to celebrate in our histories, we have a lot to mourn, we have a lot to protest against, and a lot to commemorate. We have heroes and champions, martyrs and victims; and all of them have a place in NAIDOC Week. We should not treat our history like a smorgasbord searching for the bits we want to acknowledge.

We need to acknowledge it all.

Where we come from, where we are, and where we are going.

This is what NAIDOC Week is to me anyway... and I don't see a contradiction of any kind in that.

I celebrate successes, I commemorate those who came before me, and I protest against those who deny basic human rights and freedoms... not just this week but any week.

But especially this week.

I'm not sure if I had a point when I started this, or I'm just thinking out loud, but whatever... people who read my blog should be used to that by now.

Life is complicated and it's not my job to simplify it for you, I just want you to know about these sort of issues, discuss them and come up with your own opinions about them.

I hope you have a meaningful NAIDOC Week... whatever it means to you.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Burramatta NAIDOC 2013


The 2013 Burramatta Family Fun Day is on again THIS SUNDAY.

It is held each year in Prince Alfred Park, Parramatta from 10am - 3pm.  

We have an amazing line up of performers, workshops, activities and stalls for the whole family.

Our stage line up includes Shellie Morris, Stiff Gins, Col Hardy, Sharnee Fenwick, Evie J, and a special performance from the deadly Matty Shields.

Sunday July 14th

10am – 3pm

Prince Alfred Park, Parramatta

The traditional owners of Parramatta, the Darug People, invite you, your family and friends to join them in their NAIDOC Week celebrations. Come along to engage with - and better appreciate - local Aboriginal culture.

Everyone is invited to this FREE event featuring kid's amusements, some of Australia’s best musicians, free workshops and bush tucker BBQ!

Suitable for all the family, with a special emphasis on kids.

Music Program- hosted by the internationally acclaimed Stiff Gins

11:00am- Welcome To Country
11:05am- Col Hardy
11:35am- Hilltop Road Dance Group
11:45am- Official Ceremonies
12.00pm- Traditional Dance with Minning Minni Kaiwarrine
12:15pm- Sharnee Fenwick
12:45pm- Evie J
1:15pm-   Matty Shields Pole Dance
1:35pm-   The Stiff Gins
2:15pm-   Shellie Morris

Official Flag Raising @ 10:30am
Special guest Chris Sandow will also be in attendance.


Traditional Dance and Games - Led by Ged McMinn of Minning Minni Kaiwarrine

Tree PaintingExplore Aboriginal art and design using all natural paints and an all natural canvas – trees - with Aboriginal artist Chris Tobin. Environmentally friendly, educational and fun!
11:30 – 2:30

Flower Arranging - Learn how to make your own stunning flower arrangements with Mercedes from the popular ‘Flowers by Mercedes’.
12:00pm – 1:00pm

Native Grass Weaving - Learn traditional basket weaving skills from renowned local Aboriginal artist Kerrie Kenton.
10:30am – 12:30pm
1:30pm – 2:30pm

Face Painting

Bark Bracelet Making
10:00am – 10:30am
11:00am – 11:30am
1:30pm – 2:00pm

Boomerang  and Paper Bark Painting
Take home your own painted boomerang or paper bark.

Taronga Zoo mobile van
Come and meet, learn about and interact with native Australian animals; and learn more about Aboriginal culture from a qualified and experienced Aboriginal educator.
10:30am – 2:30pm

Sports Clinics from NSW AFL and Western Sydney Wanderers FC

The Koori Radio van will also be in attendance on the day broadcasting live from the event!  



As many of you know, I have been having a go at 'event coordination' in Sydney recently. The event I have been helping out with is the Burramatta Family Fun Day. It's coming up in just a few weeks and pretty much everything is organised for a great day!

The only thing left is to make sure we get the word out and have a great turn out on the day, which is where I am hoping some of you mob can help.

Come along on the day; bring your friends and family; tweet the flyer or put it up on your blog or site or whatever... all of which would be very helpful and greatly appreciated.

"A family fun day in celebration of Naidoc Week 2012, in Prince Alfred Park, with bush tucker, stallholders, music featuring the Stiff Gins, dance, activities, workshops for kids. Come along to engage with - and better appreciate – local Aboriginal culture. Suitable for all the family, with a special emphasis on kids.


Sunday 8 July 2012

10:00am – 3:00pm

Prince Alfred Park, Parramatta

The traditional owners of Parramatta, the Dharug People, invite you, your family and friends to join them in their NAIDOC Week celebrations.

Everyone is invited to this free event featuring kid's amusements, live entertainment, free workshops and even bush food and bush medicine displays!
  • Communal Mural11:00am - 3:00pm
    Contribute to the creation of a community mural with award winning Aboriginal artist Brett Parker!
  • Rock & Boomerang Painting11:00am - 11:30am
    12:30pm - 1:00pm
    1:30pm - 2:00pm
    Paint your own rocks and boomerangs! A fun and interactive art workshop with Uncle Greg Simms.
  • Basket Weaving10:30am - 12:30pm
    1:00pm - 3:00pm
    Learn traditional basket weaving skills from renowned local Aboriginal artist Kerrie Kenton.
  • Taronga Zoo mobile van11:00am - 2:00pm
    Come and meet, learn about and interact with native Australian animals; and learn more about Aboriginal culture from qualified and experienced Aboriginal educators.
  • Didgeridoo Playing11:30am - 12:00pm
    2:00pm - 2:30pm
    Have a go at learning to the play one of the oldest instruments on Earth; the didge with local performer Flinn Donovan.
  • Traditional Dance11:30 - 12:00
    2:00 - 2:30
    Come and shake a leg with Aboriginal dancer Ged McMinn! Learn some traditional and contemporary Aboriginal dances. Fun for the whole family!
  • Traditional Games1:00 - 1:30
    Learn some traditional skills and philosophies the same way that kids have been learning them for thousands of years; through having fun and playing games!
  • Tree Painting11:30 - 2:30
    Explore Aboriginal art and design using all natural paints and an all natural canvas – trees - with Aboriginal artist Chris Dodd. Environmentally friendly, educational and fun!
  • Flower Arranging12:00 - 1:00
    Learn how to make your own stunning flower arrangements with Mercedes from the popular 'Flowers by Mercedes'.
  • Jake Foster and Joel Romelo (NRL Bulldogs) Signing11am - 1pm
  • Health Screening BusAboriginal Health Screening bus Mootang Tarimi will be there doing free health screenings on the day

Get ready for an action packed day of live entertainment highlighting Australia’s rich Indigenous heritage.

Live music program featuring:
  • Shellie Morris
  • The Stiff Gins
  • Sharnee Fenwick
  • Microwave Jenny
  • Col Hardy
  • Marcus Corowa

I am including a few youtube clips of some of the artists who are performing on the day for your enjoyment too, in no particular order.

I hope to see you there on the day... If you haven't seen me before in real life I'll be easy enough to find - I'll the tall guy running around frantically and stressing out trying to make sure everything runs smoothly; so make sure you stop me in mid-flight and say "hi" :)

Microwave Jenny

Stiff Gins

Shellie Morris

Col Hardy 

Marcus Corowa


Sharnee Fenwick

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sorry, Sorry Day...

These are various questions I have been asked about the whole idea of 'Sorry" over the years. Some of the answers are what I have said, others what I should have said, and some others  I probably shouldn't have said, but I did; so, you know... sorry about that.
Q. "Why should I be sorry for what my ancestors did?"

A. "Why should Aboriginal kids born in our lifetime grow up in conditions that will guarantee they will be sorry for 'what your ancestors did'?"

A2: "see: white privilege"
Q. "Why should I be sorry for what my government did?"

A. "How about we just start with being sorry for what your Government continues to do, and then we can talk about working backwards from there?"

Q. "How can the Government say Sorry on my behalf?"

 A. "They didn't:

 'We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians. We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country... We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.'

The Government apologised on behalf of the Government".
Q. "Why should the Government of the day be responsible for the actions of previous Governments?"

A. The government is the same government, just with different people running it. When a 'new government' comes in, they are charged with addressing the issues of all 'previous governments'. They do not get to start with a 'blank slate'.   
Q. [in regards to the idea of compensation for the Stolen Generations] "How could you possibly put a dollar amount on the Stolen Generations?

A. "Through the courts. It's called 'compensation', and it has existed within legal frameworks for a while now... google it"

Q. "We have said 'Sorry", so how about a 'thank you' for all the things we have given you?"

A1. "Go away and never speak to me again."

or if that is not possible:

A2. "If you are given a bat you are thankful, if you are beaten with one you are not."

Q. "We have said Sorry. So why are Aboriginal people still complaining about stuff?"

A. "If you say sorry for stealing my wallet but have no intention of giving me my wallet back or the money that was in it, I might find it a bit hard to forgive you... or to buy food."
Q. "My family are immigrants, why the hell should I feel guilty?" (via @papakelt on twitter - He wasn't actually asking that, he was passing on a question he has been asked but didn't know how to answer).

A. "Sorry is not just an admission of guilt, it is also an expression of sorrow. If a friend of mine loses a family member I say "I'm sorry" - it doesn't mean I killed them."

As you might have gathered by my intro, I am writing this with a 'grain of salt'... like most of my blogs, I am not writing it for you; I am writing it for me. The main reason I wanted to write it is because I am giving a talk later this week for Sorry Day and just wanted to get a few things off my chest, clear my thoughts, etc before I write the real one...

Just so you don't walk away totally annoyed with the time you have spent so far, I'll do a couple of more serious ones just for you.

Q: "What is Sorry Day all about anyways?"

A. The first Sorry Day was held in Sydney in 1998, exactly one year after the Bringing Them Home Report was tabled in Federal Parliament (26th May 1997).

The idea behind an apology, and behind Sorry Day comes from a recommendation of the Bringing Them Home report (5a).

That all Australian Parliaments 

1. officially acknowledge the responsibility of their predecessors for the laws, policies and practices of forcible removal, 

2. negotiate with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission a form of words for official apologies to Indigenous individuals, families and communities and extend those apologies with wide and culturally appropriate publicity, and 

3. make appropriate reparation as detailed in following recommendations.
Q. "Do we still need a 'Sorry Day" now that the Government has actually said "Sorry?"

A. "I'd rather explore that question after we have implemented 5a 1, 2 & 3 rather than just 1 & 2; and the other 53 recommendations that were made in the report... but even then the answer (for me at least) will still be 'yes'; I see that question as no different from 'Do we still need an ANZAC Day?'; 'Do we still need an Australia Day?' -they are reminders of our past, and a time to reflect on what we want our future to be."
Q. "Is Sorry Day intended as an admission of guilt, or as an expression of sorrow?"

A. "For the Government, it is both. For individuals, it is up to them to decide their own feelings; to consider their own history; and to take any actions they see as appropriate. No one is forcing people to 'say sorry' in either sense, it is entirely up to the individual."
Q. "Does saying Sorry make a difference either way? ... Does it actually help anything?"

A. "Often I have answered this by saying 'not really - I still prefer Paul Keating's Redfern Speech'; I am a cynical bastard at the best of times... but when I saw a lot of people shed tears of joy after the apology, it became clear that it helped them; that it had a profound meaning for them... so in that sense it was very valuable. There are also various organisations that have sprung up after the apology, like the Aboriginal & Torres Strait IslanderHealing Foundation which do some good things, so that is of value too.

I just feel that it is half-hearted if it is not backed up with more meaningful actions... in the apology Kevin Rudd said:

For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.

We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.

A future where this parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.

A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, indigenous and non-indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.

A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.

A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.

A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.

There comes a time in the history of nations when their peoples must become fully reconciled to their past if they are to go forward with confidence to embrace their future.

Our nation, Australia, has reached such a time.

Since the apology was given, Australia has pushed forward with John Howard's NT Intervention... we have abandoned our human rights obligations. We are pushing forward with the Stronger Futures Bill despite Aboriginal community opposition, and despite having held a completely false series of 'community consultations' which ignored the voices of the communities that were consulted.

We still lock up too many Aboriginal people; men, women and children. We still take too many children from their families, their communities and their culture.

We still suspend and expel too many Aboriginal children from school.

We still sweep too many problems under the rug as though they are someone else's problems.

...  Aboriginal people are still made to feel ashamed for standing up and saying "I am Aboriginal".

... A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.

A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.

A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.

This is not that future.

Kevin took that first step... he opened the door.

We are still waiting for someone to walk through it.

I am scared that the door is closing... fast.

I'd really like to be more on board, I would, but I can't be. Not yet...

Maybe in the future I will be able to.

... Sorry, Sorry Day... "

Sunday, March 18, 2012


I am proud to announce the launch of a new Twitter account that aims to show the diversity, strength, and EXCELLENCE of Indigenous Australians: @IndigenousX.

The term IndigenousX stands for 'Indigenous Excellence' and was coined by Mickey Kovari (@MickeyKovari) from the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence (@TheNCIE). Since it was created, the term has developed into a popular hashtag #IndigenousX that many people use to share stories of success and achievement in Indigenous Australia.

The idea behind the @IndigenousX account is to create a space where different Indigenous people can share their own stories in their own words. It will have one new Indigenous guest tweeter each week. People from different parts of the country, with different stories, different backgrounds, and different perspectives about the issues that effect them locally and nationally. Despite these differences, they will have two very important things in common, they will all be Indigenous, and they will all be people of Excellence!

I am very proud to say that Benson Saulo (@BensonSaulo) has been kind enough to offer his time to be the inaugural @IndigenousX. 

When I first met Benson (on Twitter) he was the Australian Youth Ambassador to the United Nations. He is currently the Director of the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Academy. He also has a great blog which I strongly recommend: ... oh, and he is still under 25!!

I had the pleasure of meeting Benson in person for the first time a few days ago, at the National Centre For Indigenous Excellence Constitutional Recognition Forum (#NCIECRF). The forum was for young Indigenous people aged 16 - 25 to learn about Constitutional Recognition, and how to develop and implement their own campaigns. I was fortunate enough to be there as a presenter (I'm a few years out of that age bracket I'm afraid!). I was there for 3 of the 4 days, and was so impressed by such strong, passionate and enthusiastic young people from all over the country that I realised I finally had the perfect opportunity to make @IndigenousX a reality. I signed up as many people at the forum as I could, gave Benson the password, and @IndigenousX was off and running. 

I hope you all follow and support this awesome endeavour,

 A great tweet from @BensonSaulo as the inaugural @IndigenousX

 At the #NCIECRF with a few of the participants. (Thanks to @BlaykeTatafu for the photo!)

With #NCIECRF participant Tenisha Lawrence (@TenishaLawrence)

At Yaama Dhiyaan for my first day of #NCIECRF with fellow presenters Pat Turner, Pat Anderson & Tom Calma. 

With Pete Dawson (@PeteDawson), Co-Chair of the National Youth Advisory Council to the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence. 

On the Campaign Media Planning Panel with Aden Rideway, Kirstie Parker & Aaron Ross.
This was where I announced I was swapping account names with @IndigenousX and @LukeLpearson so that @IndigenousXcould start with 4300 awesome followers all ready to go :-)
Thanks to Hannah Donnelly (@Hannah_Donnelly)  for the pic!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Who's driving this thing anyway?

An interesting aspect of the media circus that has ensued following the 40th anniversary of the Tent Embassy last week is all this talk of 'setting the Aboriginal cause back 20 years' and 'you can forget about Constitutional changes if that's how you are going to behave'. It reminds me of being a kid sitting in the back seat on our way to a family holiday and having my parents tell me and my brothers that if we don't behave ourselves that they will turn the car around, or that we won't get to stop for a treat, or that they might even take away our Nintendo for a week...

"Is that what you want? 'Cause that's what'll bloody happen!"

Except I'm not a child, and it's not my parents telling me that I won't get my treats if I don't behave right, and we sure as hell aren't on our way to Luna Park. It is a group of non-Aboriginal people I don't know and who sure as hell don't know me (although I'm sure some of their best friends are Aboriginal), talking not just to me but to all Aboriginal people. Telling us how we have to behave if we want to move forward...

As though sitting quietly in the back seat has been working wonders for people so far!

'You can forget about a Constitutional referendum now...'

'You have set the Aboriginal cause back 20 years...'

'You've only got yourselves to blame...'

Without wanting to regress to my youth too much I can't resist asking the age old question:

"Are we there yet?!"

and an equally relevant, and more adult question:

"Who's driving this thing anyway?"

and while I've got the chance to ask a few questions, I can't help but wonder:

Are our freedoms really at the discretion of a few non-Indigenous Australians in the media with an axe to grind?

Sadly, it is looking like the answer might be 'yes'.

So, does this mean that we should be content with ever increasing over representation in all the negatives and a perpetual under representation in all that is positive? Again, the implication seems to be a resounding 'yes'... we need to move on from these realities and share in the fiction that Aboriginal people are not just equal in society, but are in fact an over privileged group.

Should we be content that a handful of Aboriginal people have been selected to speak on behalf of all of us on every single issue? ... Looks like I won myself a third 'yes!'.

Should we be content that every bit of progress made in the past 50 years is constantly being attacked, undermined and threatened by the likes of Professor Gary Johns and Andrew Bolt? Should I just sit quietly in the back seat and hope against hope that I am given permission from these nobodies to keep being Aboriginal? Yes?! Except of course for the small problem that it is impossible for me to not be Aboriginal, it is a part of my identity and cannot be seperated from any other part of who I am. Despite the ongoing claims of Professor Gary Johns that Aboriginal culture is violent and needs to disappear, and that most Aboriginal people are simply jumping on the 'bandwagon'... (I wonder if the Australian Catholic Uni has that in their course info?!).

What about incarceration rates? child removal rates? Juvenile detention rates? Suicide rates? School suspension and expulsion rates? Government representation rates? How about the racism and ignorance that is rife in our media? How about a government that denies that racism even exists in this country? Should we be satisfied with all of this too? 

What about the Intervention - the so-called "Stronger Futures" legislation? (FYI: this is a HUGELY important issue, if you aren't up to speed with it please check out the Stop the Intervention website)

What about Self-Determination?

What about culture and identity?

Should I accept that these things don't matter? Or that they only matter when a non-Indigenous person puts them on the agenda for me?
If I'm in the backseat of that car then you can pull over and let me out... I'll walk.

At least then I know I'll be going in a direction of my own choosing.

And if you don't believe what I have said here, then just ask Hugh Jackman, or whatever non-Indigenous celebrity you need to validate my existence as an Aboriginal person.

And if you don't WANT to believe me I'm sure you can find an Aboriginal person who will disagree with me too, there are half a million or so of us after all. Just make sure you only ask people who you know will give you an answer you want to hear, and definitely don't ask too many Aboriginal people, or then you might have to deal with the fact that a lot of people feel like I do, or even worse, that there are actually more than two opposing opinions that exist... and definitely don't mention the fact that Torres Strait Islanders are Indigenous Australians as well, and might just bring even more perspectives to the discussion... I don't think Australia is at all ready to hear things as shocking as that!

How audacious it is to suggest that Aboriginal people might be able to determine our own futures... to take the steering wheel. A concept that should be obvious to any person with a sense of justice is instead an inflammatory idea, one that generates anger and fear.

Whether it scares you or not, every Aboriginal person must have the opportunities needed to achieve a sense of self-determination, and not just as an amorphous collective but as individuals, families and communities, all deciding their own futures with safety, confidence, humanity and dignity...

This includes the right to be angry that this is not already a reality in 2012; four years after the Apology; two decades after the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and the Bringing Them Home Report; four decades after the establishment of the Tent Embassy; 45 years after the last Constitutional Referendum that was meant to bring about equal rights for Aboriginal people... 

How audacious it is...

People who know me through this blog, on twitter, or in real life will likely know that my favourite quote is: "If you have come to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." I am starting to feel that in 2012 we need a final line added to that quote: "If you have come to attack my people, if you have come to take our identity, or want to deny our right to speak our individual minds, then you will have a fight on your hands..."

This is not just about Aboriginal vs non-Aboriginal - and it never has been. As Malcolm X said: I for one will join in with anyone, I don't care what colour you are, as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this Earth. Thank you.