Tag Archives: Aboriginal

A Walk in Redfern, Sydney…Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors! This week, we’re off for a walk through part of Sydney’s Redfern, which is located 3 kilometres south of the Sydney central business district. The suburb is named after surgeon William Redfern, who was granted 100 acres (0.40 km2) of land in this area in 1817 by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. You catch the train to Redfern Station to get to the University of Sydney and the footpaths are heavily populated by streams of students.

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Well you might ask why we’re going on a doorscursion around the backstreets of Redfern, when we haven’t been to the Sydney Opera House yet. Of course, if I were planning my life around notable doors, that would be a very good place to start.   However, as much as I admire doors and could even support a philosophy of “Doors for Doors Sake”, that’s a luxury I can’t afford at the moment. Rather, I’m needing to be pragmatic. It’s more of a case where the door follows me, rather than me following the door. That said, there doors are quite stationary and not moving anywhere so I still need to go to them. I just can’t go too far out of my way.

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This week, we’re jumping back in time, returning to the Carer’s Day Out, which was held at the Redfern Community Centre. As it turns out, it could’ve been named: Door Day Out. As you may recall, I’ve already written about returning to my old front door at Abercrombie Street, Chippendale and photographed swags of doors around my former stomping ground, the University of Sydney.

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Today, we’re alighting at Redfern Station and onto Lawson Street right into Abercrombie and back down into Caroline Street and into the park outside the Redfern Community Centre. This area is very much a celebration of Australia’s urban Indigenous culture, but it has also been a dangerous no go zone. I have struggled trying to juggle these two extremes as I bring you down here and actually felt quite a lot of relief to be able to walk around these backstreets safely, which wasn’t the case when I lived here in 1988. I have read various views about this area and in particular “The Block” and for me the bottom line is that for many people this area has been home. Their home might have been on struggle street but it was/is still their home and deserves respect. No one likes having high and mighty outsiders coming in and telling them that their home is crap. I know our place isn’t perfect and after years of fighting my health/disability situation, it’s not what I envisaged either. I know I wouldn’t like someone coming in here and highlighting all it’s faults with none of its strengths.

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Redfern is the birthplace of the urban Aboriginal civil rights movement in Australia. The establishment of Aboriginal-founded and controlled services in the 1970s, such as the Aboriginal Medical Service, the Aboriginal Legal Service and the Aboriginal Housing Company, provided inspiration for self-determination for many Aboriginal communities nationwide. 1972: Redfern-based Aboriginal activists establish a protest camp, for justice and land rights, on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra. This ‘Aboriginal Tent Embassy’ was a critical political action in the Aboriginal struggle. 1973: ‘The Block’ is established and attracts an international reputation as the bedrock of Aboriginal activism in Australia. 1978: Radio Redfern, housed at the Black Theatre (now Gadigal House) provides a voice for Aboriginal people in Redfern. 1992: Keating speech given at Redfern Park. ‘Before that, Australians did not know what was going on in their own country. We shaped that speech!’ —Redfern elder https://www.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/publications/indigenous/empowered-communities/alt/description-redfern.html

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A tribute to The Block, housing development.

The Block would have to be the best-known, most notorious and controversial landmark in Redfern. Probably the best known Redfern’s great claim to fame was: The Block. Houses on The Block were purchased over a period of 30 years by the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC) for use as a project in Aboriginal-managed housing. The focus of life in The Block has always been Eveleigh Street, which is its eastern border, with railway lines on the other side of that street. ‘The Block’ is an area in the immediate vicinity of Redfern station bounded by Eveleigh, Caroline, Louis and Vine Streets.

So, when you look at the front doors of Redfern, you can know those doors have endured and seen quite a lot and built considerable resilience. That they’ve also part of a community. They don’t stand alone.

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Caroline Street, Redfern.

Clearly, I’m just passing through Redfern and don’t expect to revisit many of these streets until I’m back here next year for another Carer’s Day Out, which could well be the case. I had a fantastic day out.

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This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.

Best wishes,

Rowena

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Thought I’d let Puss have the last word, even if he/she might’ve been sitting around the corner in Abercrombie Street.

Not the Boss’s Wife…Friday Fictioneers.

“This place ain’t right. There’s blood on the stone. Ma always said: `stone house, cold heart.”

“Watta ya mean, luv? She’s the best property in the district. The whippersnappers will love it when they come along… swimming and fishing in the creek. Our El Dorado.”

“I sense their starving spirits. Those broken shearers. The native people. Their blood’s still etched in the stone.”

“You’ve got a bleeding heart, Mary. It’s survival of the fittest. We’re gunna spin the golden fleece. Tame the great outback. ”

Charlotte refused to step inside and gave Charlie back his ring. She couldn’t become the Boss’s Wife.

N-Oodganoo Noonuccal: Indigenous Australian Poet.

All One Race – Oodgeroo Noonuccal

Black tribe, yellow tribe, red, white or brown,
From where the sun jumps up to where it goes down,
Herrs and pukka-sahibs, demoiselles and squaws,
All one family, so why make wars?
They’re not interested in brumby runs,
We don’t hanker after Midnight Suns;
I’m for all humankind, not colour gibes;
I’m international, and never mind tribes.

Black, white or brown race, yellow race or red,
From the torrid equator to the ice-fields spread,
Monsieurs and senors, lubras and fraus,
All one family, so why family rows?
We’re not interested in their igloos,
They’re not mad about kangaroos;
I’m international, never mind place;
I’m for humanity, all one race.

Dear Ms Noonuccal,

It’s a real honour to write to you and touch base at long last.

I am currently writing a series of Letters to Dead Poets and although I risk offending your cultural sensitivities, I am wanting to be inclusive. I am hoping that we could share a metaphorical walk and chat together. Talk about what it would take for all Australians to belong.

Oodgeroo-Noonuccal plaque

We need diversity and to celebrate and respect a kaleidoscope of difference and yet still come together as one. Not as one amorphous bunch of clones but as human beings with a dazzling array of colours, shapes, textures all glued together through respect, understanding and acceptance. While this might sound like a utopian dream, we have to have a go. Do our best. If every single one of us makes a small personal change, then collectively this must amount to something monumental. I know when I was growing up we never thought the Berlin wall would come down, and yet it’s gone. We weren’t all just a bunch of dreamers, after all!

Yet, more and more walls need to come down.

More bridges must be built.

Yet, we sit in our brick bunkers with our technology and remotes basking in our own private worlds.

While there’s apathy, there’s also animosity, resentment and an “us” and “them”. The racism you fought so hard against through your political activism and poems:

Racism – Oodgeroo Noonuccal

Stalking the corridors of life,
Black, frustrated minds
Scream for release
From Christian racist moulds.
Moulds that enslave
Black independence.

Take care! White racists!
Black can be racists too.
A violent struggle could erupt
And racists meet their death.

Colour, the gift of nature
To mankind,
Is now the contentions bone,
And black-white hatred sustains itself
on the rotting, putrid flesh
That once was man.

Oodgeroo Noonuccal

Before we go any further, I’d like to apologise for not reading your poetry until recently when my son brought it home from school. At least, I’m fairly sure I never studied your poetry at school or university, despite studying Australian Literature. This means that I’d never read a single poem by an Aboriginal poet until I was 46 years old. That despite growing up memorizing verses of Banjo Paterson’s Man From Snowy River and Dorothea Mackellar’s My Country by heart, I never knew your poems. I’d never read or learnt about your vision for Australia. I don’t need to spell out what that means. That a nation needs to know its own and not just experience one dish but to feast from the full smorgasbord.

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My son’s poignant Aboriginal Spirit Man Painting Age 8.

It is my hope that by sharing a few of your poems here and just a fraction of your vision, that others will also be spurred on to get to know you better. Find out what you were fighting for and even pick up the baton and carry it forward.

Unfortunately, with writing over 26 letters to dead poets in a month, time restraints prevents me from thoroughly researching each poet and allowing myself to immerse myself in their poetry in the same way I studied the poems of John Keats when I was at school. I am meeting so many incredible poets for the very first time along this journey and while I would usually undertake lengthy, meticulous research before putting pen to paper let alone posting it online, I feel like I’m flying blind. Indeed, flying blind and straight into the flames. I hope I’m not screwing up, making mistakes and getting it wrong. There are people who have studied each of you individually in such depth and detail and in so many ways I’m just skipping over the surface trying to dig in as deep as I can but inevitably having to move onto the next one too soon. At least, I’m honest about it and don’t pretend to know you well.

However, perhaps that’s all I’m meant to do. Light the spark that ultimately gets the fire going.

Municipal Gum

Gumtree in the city street,
Hard bitumen around your feet,
Rather you should be
In the cool world of leafy forest halls
And wild bird calls
Here you seems to me
Like that poor cart-horse
Castrated, broken, a thing wronged,
Strapped and buckled, its hell prolonged,
Whose hung head and listless mien express
Its hopelessness.
Municipal gum, it is dolorous
To see you thus
Set in your black grass of bitumen-
O fellow citizen,
What have they done to us?

Oodgeroo Noonuccal

Getting back to my original question, what do you think it would take for all Australians to feel they belong and how do we expand that to build bridges around the world?

I’m not really expecting you to answer that but perhaps you could nibble around the edges. I hope it’s nothing but a rhetorical question!

Yours sincerely,

Rowena

Further Reading:

https://www.qut.edu.au/about/oodgeroo/oodgeroo-noonuccal

This post is part of a series of Letters to Dead Poets for the Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

Diversity…Flash Fiction.

Mirror! Mirror!

Rosie looked into the mirror, trying to understand her complex features. Blond, blue-eyed yet coffee-toned …there was some hushed story about Grandmother or Great Grandmother coming from India. Mum always insisted that they stay out of the sun. Why? Rosie couldn’t understand. If only she’d been allowed out in the sun, she would’ve had the best tan. Gone black. Even though she was only little, Rosie knew there was some unspoken story.

Now, middle-aged, married with three of her own, she knew. Had no shame. She stood out in that sun until her skin turned black…a proud Arrernte woman.

Rowena Newton

February 17, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story of a character who is diverse. Who is this person? Does this character know, accept or reject being perceived as different? As writers, consider how we break stereotypes. Tell you own story of “otherness” if you feel compelled. Or, select a story of diversity, such as rainbows revealing gold. How is diversity needed? How is your character needed?

Respond by February 23, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

Embracing Indigeneous Australians. .

Recently, a landmark speech spoke out about racism towards Indigenous Australians and I wanted to share it with you.This is a long post but I ask you to persevere with it and reflect. It’s not an easy topic to address but not something I could walk away from either.

While I am not an Indigenous Australian myself and haven’t experienced racism, I do know right from wrong and I think all Australians need to revisit how we view our Indigenous Australians and own up to the rampant racism which still grips hold of this country. It’s definitely not just something buried in the past. As a nation, we haven’t even begun to delve into what happened. To acknowledge the wrongs. No wound ever heals unless the infection is treated.

I realise that I’m stepping into a veritable quagmire even raising this issue and am wary in a sense of speaking out about something I know so little very about.

One of the first things you learn about writing is to write about what you know. Yet, I have never experienced racism and I’m not an Indigenous Australian and don’t walk  in their shoes, feet, skin or soul.

However, as a person living with a disability, I have experienced exclusion, discrimination and injustice. Metaphorically speaking, I know what it’s like to be the only kid in the class not to be invited to the party and how that feels. Imagine how you would feel if that same party was being held at your very own house and you still weren’t invited? You don’t need much empathy or compassion to know how that feels. It hurts like a knife cutting through your heart, leaving horrific and permanent scars.

I have experienced that sense of injustice when I go to pick my kids up from school and someone able-bodied without a permit parks in the Disabled Parking spot and when I ask them to move, give me flak. What the?!!

As soon as I read Stan Grant’s Speech, I knew I had to share it. Keep the fire going and even spread the flame. While Australians like to view themselves as the “Lucky Country”, we have quite a chequered history, including the genocide of Tasmanian Aboriginals. Instead of acknowledging our own crimes, we point the finger overseas: at the Germans over Nazi atrocities, at the South Africans over apartheid and Americans for their guns.

We’re just fine, totally neglecting the log in our own eye.

That as much as we like to paint ourselves as the “lucky country”, we have an appalling record in the treatment of Indigenous Australians. Our track record is too extensive for me to go into here but it’s very, very dark and I’m sure the average Australian over 30 doesn’t have a clue. Moreover, they don’t even consider the long term consequences of what has happened. After all, how would you expect anyone to respond when you take away their land, culture, community and even their children? It creates a sort of living death and who wouldn’t do just about anything to try to numb that pain?!! Wouldn’t you?!!

This week Australia celebrated Australia Day on 26th January while for many Australians, it was a day of sorrow…Invasion Day. Australia Day commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at Botany Bay in 1788, which was the first European settlement here. I am a bit conflicted about Australia Day these days but we’ve also been flat out getting ready for back to school. So, we had a very low-key Australia Day. Indeed, we went to see Star Wars and by-passed Australia Day until watching the fireworks on TV.

Around Australia Day, I heard about a ground-breaking impromptu  speech by Indigenous Journalist Stan Grant. Referring to the speech, respected Australian journalist Mike Carlton tweeted:

Honestly. I think this Stan Grant speech will one day be viewed as a Martin Luther King moment. via

Here is the transcript of Grant’s speech:

Video

Stan Grant: ‘But every time we are lured into the light, we are mugged by the darkness of this country’s history’, Ethics Centre IQ2 debate – 2015

27 October 2015, City Recital Hall, Sydney, Australia

This speech was delivered in an IQ2 debate with the topic, ‘Racism is destroying the Australian dream’. Also for the affirmative was Pallavi Sinha. For the negative was Jack Thompson and Rita Panahi. The full debate is here

Thank you. Thank you so much for coming along this evening, and I’d also like to extend my respects to my Gadigal brothers and sisters from my people, the Wiradjuri people.

In the winter of 2015, Australia turned to face itself. it looked into its soul and it had to ask this question. Who are we? What sort of a country do we want to be.

And this happened in a place that is most holy, most sacred to Australians. It happened on the sporting field, it happened on the football field. Suddenly the front page was on the back page, it was in the grandstand.

Thousands of voices rose to hound an indigenous man, a man who was told he wasn’t Australian, a man who was told he wasn’t Australian of the Year.

And they hounded that man into submission.

I can’t speak for the what lay in the hearts of the people who booed Adam Goodes. But I can tell you what we heard when we heard those boos.

We heard a sound that is very familiar to us.

We heard a howl.

We heard a howl that of humiliation has echoes across two centuries of dispossession, injustice, suffering and survival.

We heard the howl of the Australian dream, and it said to us again, you’re not welcome.

The Australian dream.

We sing of it, and we recite it in verse.

Australians all let us rejoice for we are young and free.

My people die young in this country, we die ten years younger than average Australians and we are far from free.

We are fewer than three percent of the Australian population and yet we are 25 percent, a quarter of those Australians locked up in our prisons, and if you are a juvenile it is worse, it’s fifty percent. An indigenous child is more likely to be locked up in prison than they are to finish high school.

I love a sunburned country

A land of sweeping plains

Of rugged mountain ranges

It reminds me that my people were killed on those plains, we were shot on those plains, disease ravaged us on those plains. I come from those plains. I come from a people west of the Blue Mountains, the Wiradjuri people, where in the 1820s the soldiers and settlers waged a war of extermination against my people. Yes, a war of extermination! That was the language used at the time, go to the Sydney Gazette, and look it up, and read about it. Martial law was declared, and my people could be shot on sight.

Those rugged mountain ranges, my people, women and children were herded over those ranges to their deaths.

The Australian dream.

The Australian dream is rooted in racism. It is the very foundation of the dream. It is there at the birth of the nation . It is there in terra nullius.  An empty land. A land for the taking.

Sixty thousand years of occupation.

A people who made the first seafaring journey in the history of mankind.

A people of law, a people of lore, a people of music and art and dance and politics, none of it mattered.

Because our rights were extinguished because we were not here according to British law. And when British people looked at us, they saw something subhuman, and if we were human at all, we occupied the lowest rung on civilisation’s ladder.

We were fly blown, stone age savages and that was the language that was used.

Charles Dickens, the great writer of the age, when referring to the noble savage of which we were counted among, said ‘it would be better that they be wiped off the face of the earth’. Captain Arthur Phillip, a man of enlightenment, a man who was instructed to make peace with the so called natives in a matter of years, was sending out raiding parties with instruction ‘bring back the severed heads of the black troublemakers’.

They were smoothing the dying pillow.

My people were rounded up and put on missions, from where, if you escaped. You were hunted down, you were roped and tied and dragged back, and it happened here, it happened on the mission that my grandmother and great grandmother were from, the Warrengesda on the Darling Point of the Murrumbidgee River.

Read about it. It happened.

By 1901 when we became a nation, when we federated the colonies, we were nowhere. We’re not in the Constitution, save for ‘Race Provisions’ — which allowed for laws to be made that would take our children, that would invade our privacy, that would tell us who we could marry and tell us where we could live.

The Australian dream.

By 1963, the year of my birth, the dispossession was continuing. Police came at gunpoint under cover of darkness to Mapoon an aboriginal community in Queensland, and they ordered people from their homes, and they burned those homes to the ground, and they gave the land to a bauxite mining company. And today those people remember that as ‘The Night of the Burning’.

In 1963 when I was born, I was counted amongst the flora and fauna, not among the citizens of this country.

Now you will hear things tonight, you will hear people say, ‘but you’ve done well!’

Yes I have, and I’m proud of it, and why have I done well?

I’ve done well because of who came before me.

I’ve done well because of my father, who lost the tips off three fingers working in saw mills to put food on our table, because he was denied an education.

My grandfather, who served to fight wars for this country when he was not yet a citizen and came back to a segregated land where he couldn’t even share a drink with his digger mates in the pub because he was black.

My great grandfather who was jailed for speaking his language to his grandson – my father – jailed for it!

My grandfather on my mother’s side who married a white woman who reached out to Australia, lived on the fringes of town, until the police came, put a gun to his head, bulldozed his tin humpy, and ran over over the graves of the three children he’d buried there.

That’s the Australian dream. I have succeeded in spite of the Australian dream, not because of it; and I have succeeded because of those people.

You might hear tonight, ‘but you have white blood in you.’ And if the white blood in me was here tonight, my grandmother, she would  tell you of how she was turned away from a hospital giving birth to her first child because she was giving birth to the child of a black person.

The Australian dream. We’re better than this.

I’ve have seen the worst of the world as a reporter. I’ve spent a decade in war zones, from Iraq to Afghanistan, and Pakistan. We are an extraordinary country, we are in so many respects the envy of the world. If I were sitting here, where my friends are tonight (gestures to opponents] I would be arguing passionately for this country.

But I stand here with my ancestors, and the view looks very different from where I stand.

The Australian dream.

We have our heroes.

Albert Namatjira painted the soul of this nation.

Vincent Lingiari put his hand out for Gough Whitlam to pour the sand of his country through his fingers, and say ‘this is my country’.

Cathy Freeman lit the torch for the Olympic Games.

But every time we are lured into the light, we are mugged by the darkness of this country’s history.

Of course racism is killing the Australian dream! It is self evident that it is killing the Australian dream.

But we are better than that.

The people who stood up and supported Adam Goodes and said, ‘no more’, they are better than that.

The people who marched across the bridge for reconciliation, they are better than that.

The people who supported Kevin Rudd when he said sorry to the Stolen Generations, they are better than that.

My children and their non indigenous friends are better than that.

My wife who is non indigenous is better than that.

And one day I want to stand here, and be able to say as proudly and sing as loudly as anyone in this room, Australians all let us rejoice.

Thanks you.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEOssW1rw0…

For those of you who have taken the time to listen, much appreciated. I have pasted a link below to some further interviews with Aboriginal Australians about their reactions to Stan Grant’s speech. Also, if you are not aware of the racist bullying Adam Goodes experienced on the football field, here’s a link: Racist Attacks on Aboriginal Footballer, Adam Goodes

Best wishes and much love,

Rowena

Further reading:

http://www.ethics.org.au/on-ethics/blog/january-2016/stan-grant%E2%80%99s-speech-broke-your-heart-%E2%80%93-here%E2%80%99s-what

Racist Attacks on Adam Goodes: The Tip of a Very Ugly Iceberg?

During the last week, what I hope is most Australians, have been rocked by ongoing racist remarks leveled at Adam Goodes, a much loved and honored Indigenous Aussie Rules (AFL) footballer and who was also named Australian of the Year 2014.

Many have come out strongly supporting Goodes, including setting up the hashtag #IStandWithAdam.

However, there are still some pretty vocal critics.

Adam Goodes (born 8 January 1980) is a professional Australian rules football player with the Sydney Swans in the Australian Football League (AFL). Goodes holds an elite place in VFL/AFL history as a dual Brownlow Medalist, dual premiership player, four-time All-Australian, member of the Indigenous Team of the Century and representing Australia in the International Rules Series. In addition, he currently holds the record for the most games played for an Indigenous player, surpassing Andrew McLeod’s record of 340 games during the 2014 AFL season.

I don’t know whether this story has made international headlines but it has reignited race debate here and personally, I think it’s about time racism made the front page and wasn’t hidden in the small print. Whether you believe that booing at Adam Goodes was racist or not, that doesn’t deny that our Indigenous Australians as a whole, cop what is often vile racist abuse. That what happens at a football match is just the tip of a very ugly iceberg. That there is endemic discrimination against Aboriginal people here and it has to stop!

Adam Goodes, Australian of the Year 2014

Adam Goodes, Australian of the Year 2014

Moreover, you don’t have to be an Indigenous Australian to see this. You just need two eyes, two ears and a heart…values. Even the smallest child has probably heard of the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated and that certainly doesn’t include calling anyone an “ape” or saying they “belong in the zoo.”!!

These racial taunts have been leveled at Adam Goodes from the crowd at games and it is nothing short of a disgrace!

I am not going to address the details here as you just need to do a quick Google search to get the run down.

However, here are a few links:

http://www.smh.com.au/national/in-a-dark-place-adam-goodes-the-nation-and-the-race-question-20150731-giolfa.html

http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/aug/01/noel-pearson-on-adam-goodes-booing-australia-is-looking-into-the-abyss-of-despair

The story started out back in 2013 when a 13 year old girl at a Swans match called Goodes “an ape” from the stands. Goodes confronted the girl and she was removed from the stadium and interviewed by Police. Goodes didn’t want her charged and she later apologised to Goodes and made amends. However, there are still rumblings from the sidelines about this. That Goodes was unfair to expose and out her and whether a 13 year old knows what is racist. This has taken the issue way beyond Goodes and the girl concerned and has launched a wider debate. Not so much saying that the girl should be charged but that Goodes made the wrong call.

Since then, there have been other racial taunts directed at Goodes as well as a lot of booing from the crowd.

On the way to see Swans vs West Coast Eagles at ANZ Stadium in 2009. Mister played on the field with his team at half-time as part of the junior Auskick program.

On the way to see Swans vs West Coast Eagles at ANZ Stadium in 2009. Mister played on the field with his team at half-time as part of the junior Auskick program.

I’ve been to a number of AFL matches and am a Sydney Swans supporter myself. I’ve heard that kind of booing at matches and know how a crowd can get carried away, However, even then it struck me as poor sportsmanship and this booing at Goodes falls into another category altogether. Even if it wasn’t intended to be racist in the past, now that it is being perceived that way, that’s what it means. It needs to stop!!

Somewhat friendly banter between opposing supporters at the Swans vs Essenden match July 2007: my husband and I!

Somewhat friendly banter between opposing supporters at the Swans vs Essenden match July 2007: my husband and I!

What I also find quite intriguing is how people talk about this girl being an “innocent 13 year old”. That she didn’t understand what she was saying. What it meant to call anyone a “ape”, even if she didn’t understand what that reference means to Aboriginal people in particular.

As far as I’m concerned, she knew exactly what she was saying. You and I both know that if anyone called a kid in the playground a ape, at the very least, they’d be labeled a bully…not an innocent. So what’s the difference here? Just because Goodes is older than her, that doesn’t give her the right to be racist!

Just to emphasise this point, while I’ve been working on this post, my daughter approached me and said: “How could she not know that calling someone an ape is racist?” Miss is only 9 and she knows!

My kids are incredibly proud of our Indigenous people and actually thought they were Aboriginal. You see, my aunt’s partner is Aboriginal and they simply know him as “Uncle Darryl”. Darryl’s children are my step-cousins and while we don’t see them often as we live on opposite sides of the country, the kids really became attached to Uncle Darryl and believed they were Aboriginal. Even when I tried to explain to them that we were related to my aunt, it simply didn’t sink in. They couldn’t grasp genetics and all of these scientific explanations. Darryl was their uncle. He is Aboriginal. They were Aboriginal. There was such beauty and love in this. One day my daughter finally asked me: “So we don’t have any Aboriginal blood? Not even a drop?” Both kids are very disappointed!

I don’t just attribute this pride to our family situation. Rather, our school has built close ties with the local Mingaletta People and they learn Aboriginal painting and stories at school. Indeed, Aboriginality is truly celebrated at our school and not just given lip service either! It is interwoven in so much of what we do.

A few weeks ago, my son even attended a didgeridoo playing session at Mingaletta with his friend from school and I know that moved him deeply inside. It was a spiritual experience for him.

A few weeks ago while we were catching the train, he also told me that he would be proud to be Aboriginal.

These weren’t things my kids have said or done to be politically correct. Their love and respect for Aboriginal people just flows from the heart as a mark of respect, love and I some sort of connection which defies explanation but I do hope that this is something which will nurture and grow.

My kids, imperfect as they are, show what is possible not only through education but through knowing Aboriginal people in our family, at school and in the community and also being taught over and over again that we are all equal regardless of race,gender,disability or class.

My question and what I see as the ultimate challenge, is how do we reach adults who espouse racism and the like in our community?

Quite frankly, we all need to periodically scrub our brains out with soap and clean out the crap. Acknowledge our own bigoted biases and change the way we think. This doesn’t just relate to racism but also just to plain snobbery. Thinking that you’re better than someone else just because of where you live, what you drive and where your children go to school NOT who you are on the inside and your own actions. We don’t need to knock other people down to build ourselves up.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

So along with the rest of my family, we step out firmly supporting Adam Goodes. More than that. We cheer him on for taking a stand against racism and also for all he has done to encourage, develop and support Indigenous Australians while promoting greater acceptance, understanding and connection among all Australians…and all peoples!

respect

It is a noble cause which echoes the words and deeds of many of the world’s greats but the words of Martin Luther King particularly come to mind:

“I have a dream that one day right there in Alabama little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

xx Rowena

You can read here how fans have come out in force to support Adam Goodes: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-02/sporting-stars-and-fans-support-adam-goodes/6665834

Footprints, Pawprints and Spirits in the Sand: Winter Solstace At The Beach.

I AM FOREVER walking upon these shores,
Betwixt the sand and the foam,
The high tide will erase my foot-prints,
And the wind will blow away the foam.
But the sea and the shore will remain
Forever.

Kahlil Gibran: Sand & Foam

Whenever I take my camera with me, a walk somehow turns into an adventure, as I see the world through my second eye.

This morning was no exception.

No sooner had I caught up with the other dog walkers, than I found out that last night was the June Winter Solstice. You see, like so much other things down here in the Southern Hemisphere, things are a bit topsy turvy and upside down. Or, indeed, the right way up depending on your perspective. While so many of you re feasting on Summer, it’s Winter Down Under.

Feasting on the details in the seascape. It was just incredible!

Feasting on the details in the seascape. It was just incredible!

Yet, the dog walkers were all pretty chuffed this morning. There we were enjoying the incredible sunshine in the middle of Winter, tossing our jumpers, coats, scarves to the four winds, while some of the more daring canines actually braved the surf without dipping in a pre-emptory paw first.

Winter? What Winter?

No paw dipping for Bilbo. He stayed well clear of the water...and the other dogs for that matter. He's the canine equivalent of a bloke standing alone holding his beer  in the corner at the pub.

No paw dipping for Bilbo. He stayed well clear of the water…and the other dogs for that matter. He’s the canine equivalent of a bloke standing alone holding his beer in the corner at the pub.

Although the day started out at a brusk 9 degrees Celsius, it rose to a glorious 20 degrees. Talk about spoiled! Indeed, I was.

Returning home, I started cogitating about the Winter Solstice, reading about festivals held overseas as well as scientific facts about the seasons and the rise and fall of the moon and the sun.

Even seaweed takes on an incredible beauty through my camera lens.

Even seaweed takes on an incredible beauty through my camera lens.

What with all this juggling of snippets, facts and reflection, I started wondering about the feet which used to walk along these shores not that long ago and what their traditions for the Winter Solstice might have been.

Aboriginal Language Map of Sydney.

Aboriginal Language Map of Sydney.

Our local area was home to the Guringai Australian Aboriginal tribe. This tribe stretched from the north side of Port Jackson, North through Pittwater, Broken Bay and Brisbane Water, to the southern end of Lake Macquarie.

Another fallen tree in the surf.

Another fallen tree in the surf.

In March 1788, just a couple of months after the English first settled at Sydney Cove, the first Europeans arrived in our local area when Governor Arthur Phillip landed with a party at Ettalong Beach. In June 1789, a more thorough investigation of Brisbane Water was conducted. A rest stop was made at Ettalong Beach before the group passed through ‘The Rip’ (a dangerous passage leading into Brisbane Water). On return, the party camped at Ettalong Beach before sailing to Dangar Island in the Hawkesbury River.

Here are a few quotations from that trip which appear on a a local plaque:

Plaque no 2.: “Monday 3rd March, 1788 When the tide had slacken’d we picked up and found several small inlets between mangroves on one of which island we stop’d and pitch’d the tents: had a very hard rain all the morning Lieut. Wm Bradley March, 1788”.

Plaque no 3.: “Tuesday, 4th While the tents and clothes were drying… a crab was caught and proved very good AM, at day light proceeded up… we found natives all the way up. Lieut. Wm Bradley March, 1788”.

Plaque no 4.: “This plaque was laid on the 3rd of March 1988 to commemorate the landing in this vicinity of Gov. Phillip, Lieut. Hunter and their party on 3rd March 1788”.

Feet…despite my love of history, I’ve never really considered whose feet I am following in as I walk with the dogs along the beach and chat to other dog walkers. By the time we arrive, there are hundreds of footprints in the sand and it’s no longer a fresh canvas.

However, these footprints dig deeper…Governor Phillip, the Guringai people… into a timeless land.

Turning back the clock even further, Aboriginal people observed the solstice long before Stonehenge was even a dream.

Found on a property near Mt Rothwell, 80km west of Melbourne, there’s an ancient Aboriginal sundial dubbed Wurdi Youang, which was built by the Wathaurung people before European settlement. CSIRO professors believe the ancient Aboriginal sundial could be more than 10,000 years old, an estimate that would have it pre-date the famous neolithic Stonehenge and the only remaining ancient wonder of the world, the Egyptian Pyramids.

CSIRO astrophysicist Professor Ray Norris said the precise alignment of the stones proved beyond a doubt it was constructed to map the movements of the sun, in order to track the seasons.

“What we have found with this stone arrangement, which is a circle of about 50m across, is it’s aligned east-west and what is really interesting is that if you stand at the top and look through this particular gap over the stones, you look at the exact position of where the sun sets on summer and winter solstices and at the spring and autumn equinoxes,” Prof Norris said.

“This can’t be done by guesswork. It required very careful measurements.

“If it goes back, let’s say, 10,000 years, that predates the Egyptians, the Pyramids, Stonehenge, all that stuff. So, that would indeed make them the world’s first astronomers.”

Head of Sydney University’s Koori Studies, Janet Mooney, said the discovery would be an inspiration for young Aborigines and help address what she claims is a fundamental oversight of the skill of the ancient race.

“This discovery has huge significance for understanding the amazing ability of this culture that is maligned,” she said.

So many stories have been etched into the sand, reading like a book.

So many stories have been etched into the sand, reading like a book.

I felt quite a sense of pride learning of these Aboriginal achievements. So often, I hear comments about how Australia has no history. That we only go back 227 years, as though Australia didn’t exist beforehand. Indeed, it was terra nullus…a blank sheet of paper just waiting for the English to start writing its’ story.

Not so. Definitely, not so!

Anyway, none of this crossed my mind as walked with the dogs this morning. All I was thinking about how good that sun felt and how blessed we are to live in an absolute paradise. Of course, this is totally forgetting about the dreary, wet days we had last week and it is this contrast against that cold gloom, that made today so much better. It isn’t like this every day!

So, now the march towards Spring and those scorchingly hot Australian Summers has begun and yet I’m sure you’ll understand why it’s so easy to fall in love with a sunny Winter’s day at the beach!

xx Rowena

Sources

http://treatyrepublic.net/content/australian-indigenous-people-worlds-first-astronomers”>

Further reading About Wurdi Youang

A Blog About Aboriginal Astronomy: http://aboriginalastronomy.blogspot.com.au/

Weighing Up the Past: Australia’s Bicentennial Scrapbook

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ”
― Michael Crichton

This is my third and final post about revisiting Australia’s Bicentenary through through the pages of a copy of The  Australian Women’s Weekly, January, 1988, which I recently found in a local op shop.

In terms of trying to better understand the range of views towards the Bicentenary, I threw together a smattering of newspaper clippings to show a few of the different opinions which were around at the time. This is in no way intended to provide a comprehensive, historical account ….just some voices from the past.

Indigenous poet and campaigner Oodgeroo Noonuccal asked at the time of the Bicentennial, ‘from the Aboriginal point of view, what is there to celebrate?’. In 1987, Oodgeroo returned her MBE in protest against the upcoming 1988 Bicentennial celebrations.http://www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/IMP0085b.htm

Greg Foleyhttp://www.kooriweb.org/foley/essays/essay_11.html

“On the same day as the SMH featured its ‘souvenir lift-out, the front page of the main part of the paper featured two major headline stories of Indigenous challenge to the status quo.  The first was a story headlined ‘Torres Strait Islanders back Independence Call” and was about the stirring’s in the Torres Strait that eventually resulted in the High Court delivering the famous ‘Mabo’ decision. The second story was about an audacious plan by Koori activist Burnam Burnam who was in England planning to claim Britain by raising an Aboriginal flag at the same time as descendants of the British were planning their similar action of re-enactment in Sydney. The same report also said that ‘hundreds of Aborigines’ were en-route to Sydney to attend ‘the long march for justice, freedom and hope’.”

On 7th March, 1987 The Canberra Times reported:  “Aborigines may snub bicentenary” and quoted Pat Dodson, National Coordinator of the Federation of Land Councils:

“It will be a national disgrace if the 200th year of our dispossession passes without the proper recognition of our indigenous rights as the traditional owners of Australia.”

The federation called for Aboriginal rights to be recognised in a national treaty or included in the Constitution.[3]

Greg Maher: Woroni (The Australian National University’s student newspaper)

“The emphasis that the Hawke government however, has given to the Bicentenary – that is, concentrating on educational and other initiatives to highlight the Aboriginal situation as the key point of the years activities – makes the Bicentenary worth recognising and supporting and indeed, at least for some, celebrating. The point is that those who propose a boycott say they won’t celebrate an invasion. Nor should they. No Aboriginal does, or should celebrate the invasion of their land and the displacement of their people. This is not to say that they can’t take part, or shouldn’t. As has been outlined already, recognition and support for the constructive message that is attached to the Bicentenary is essential for a reconciliation, for progress in the area of Aboriginal reform and to build bridges of communication with the white population. Of course though, it must be ongoing. How do we achieve this?[4]

In the literary magazine: Bliss, Australian author Patrick White also voiced opposition to the Bicentenary, which he described as a “circus”. Indeed, taking quite a stand, the Nobel Prize winning author refused to have any of his work published or performed during the Bi centennial. More than anything, White says, “it was the need for justice for the Aborigines which put me against the Bi. Very little has been done to give them a sense of security in the country we invaded.[5]

Very much on the other side of the fence, we had John Howard, the then Leader of the Opposition who went on to become the Prime Minister of Australia from 11 March 1996 to 3 December 2007. He said: “Australia’s bicentennial celebration should be an occasion of immense pride, not collective guilt, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Howard, said in Melbourne yesterday.

He told a National Australia Day Council lunch that he was concerned that the bicentennial program urged Australians to reflect “a little too much” on the mistakes rather than the achievements of the past.

“Certainly, all of us need to be aware of past mistakes, but surely 1988 is the year to celebrate where we got it right,” he said.

Australia had been incredibly blessed with good fortune and had a level of freedom few countries could boast.

The Australian achievement was a matter for immense pride.

Australians should not apologise for the fact that their country was European in origin.

“We have inherited European culture, the English language, British institutions and a way of life which is very much steeped in the Western liberal democratic tradition,” Mr Howard said. “Judeo-Christian values have, by and large, provided the ethical wellsprings of our society.

‘To in any way apologise for this, qualify it, pretend it doesn’t exist, or worse still, imagine that it is an inferior quality of life, is the height of absurdity and historical inaccuracy and likely to render our bicentennial celebrations irrelevant to the overwhelming majority of Australians.”

Because of the Aborigines’ prior occupation of this continent, and their continued disadvantage, they deserved special acknowledgment in the bicentennial celebrations. Their disadvantage had to be dealt with in a constructive and remedial fashion…[6].”

It has been interesting seeing how buying a vintage magazine at the op shop has opened my eyes to so many things and made me see the Australian Bicentenary in a completely different light. That said, I have been conscious for some time that celebrating Australia Day on 26th January is not showing sensitivity or compassion towards our Indigenous people who were displaced and so often subjected to horrific crimes of abuse. This is our national shame and we shouldn’t just bury that under the carpet and pretend that nothing ever happened. We can’t. To be honest, it continues as well.

As I wrote in my last post, I don’t know what, if anything, I can do about it personally other than write about it, which does seem a bit lame but we each have our role in the body, in our community and as I have said before, I always hope the pen is mightier than the sword. That through writing we can highlight prejudice and injustice and also love and embrace all peoples.

In this, I join with Dr Martin Luther King (Jnr) and say “I have a dream”. I haven’t quite worked out all the details yet but have joined at least 1000 other people who will be writing about compassion on 20th February, 2015…the UN International Day of Social Justice: 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion. I encourage you to also participate. You can check out the details here:

https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/bloggers-unite-for-a-better-world-1000-voices-speak-for-compassion/

We need to keep working on the foundations laid by trail blazers like Dr Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela and see love, compassion and equality triumph!

xx Rowena

[1] The Australian Women’s Weekly, January 1988, pg 7.

[2] The Australian Women’s Weekly, January 1988, pg 7.

[3] The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995) Saturday 7 March 1987 p 9

[4] Woroni (Canberra, ACT : 1950 – 2007) Monday 7 March 1988 p 19 Article

[5] The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995) Wednesday 1 June 1988 p 30

[6] The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995) Saturday 25 January 1986 p 3

[7] http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm

Australia’s “200th Birthday” Revisited.

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten”.

– Rudyard Kipling

Last week, Australians celebrated, lamented or slept through Australia Day which marks the arrival of the British First Fleet at Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) On the 26th  January,  1788. Governor Arthur Phillip raised the Union Jack claiming British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of Australia, which was then known as New Holland.  There was no treaty with the Aboriginal people, as there had been with the Maori in New Zealand and you will still hear Australians talk about how Captain Cook discovered Australia in 1770, even though Australia was never actually “lost”.

The Australian Women's Weekly, January, 1988.

The Australian Women’s Weekly, January, 1988.

 

 

If you have read my last post, you’ll know that I recently came across a vintage copy of The Australian Women’s Weekly from January, 1988. This was their “Bicentennial Souvenir: Special Collector’s Edition”, to celebrate Australia’s “200th Birthday”. It included a couple of pages of birthday wishes from around the world:

“Australia is the closest thing to Texas you can get…the women are beautiful, the men are tough and it has got great beer! Happy 200th, Australia.”

-Larry Hagman, who played J.R. Ewing in the hit series: Dallas[1].

“Although by birth I am English, I feel Australian and think of myself as Australian. Australia took me in, nurtured me and sent me out into the world with a sense of belonging   and a great outlook on life. Happy birthday, Australia.”

– Olivia Newton-John[2].

However, while I was reading the magazine, it struck me that there was no mention of Aboriginal people at all. That bothered me enough to put my detective’s hat on and to start digging.

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
George Orwell

The First Fleet Reenactment, 1988.

The First Fleet Reenactment, 1988.

Rewinding back to January 26, 1988…I was a young, 18 year old who had just finished school and was still reveling from celebrating “Schoolies Week” at Surfers Paradise on Queensland’s Gold Coast. This involved lying by the pool or on the beach by day and hitting the nightclubs by night and to be perfectly honest, I was probably more concerned about the state of my tan and of course, friends, relationships, fun.

Enjoying the party atmosphere on Australia Day, 26th January, 1988 , my boyfriend and I were jammed under the Sydney Harbour Bridge along with hundreds and thousands of other sardines on a characteristically hot summer’s day, spellbound as the Tall Ships in the First Fleet Reenactment sailed majestically through Sydney Harbour. I still remember battling to try to photograph the Tall Ships through the crowd with my humble Kodak camera, which was so old that you had to shove a film cartridge in the back. There was a woman standing right in front of me wearing the largest, brightest sunflower-yellow hat I’d ever seen. Indeed, the brim was so wide, that you could land a helicopter on it no worries. I passed the camera to my boyfriend, who being 6ft 4″ almost towered up into the clouds. With that camera, none of our photos were “good” but at least when he took he photos, you could pick the Tall Ships out over the hat.

That was my Australia Day.

Badge Protesting against celebrating Australia's Bicentenary.

Badge Protesting against celebrating Australia’s Bicentenary.

Meanwhile, there was a protest movement of upwards of 40,000 Indigenous Australians and sympathisers marching through Sydney. For them, Australia Day was Invasion Day and 1988 would be a year of mourning. This was the largest march in Sydney since the Vietnam moratorium. The march ended at Hyde Park where several prominent Aboriginal leaders and activists spoke, among them activist Gary Foley; ‘Let’s hope Bob Hawke and his Government gets this message loud and clear from all these people here today. It’s so magnificent to see black and white Australians together in harmony! This is what Australia could and should be like.’

Aboriginal protests on Sydney Harbour, Australia Day, 1988

Aboriginal protests on Sydney Harbour, Australia Day, 1988

While I can be a bit oblivious, I find it hard to believe that I missed a march of that magnitude and it’s only now, some 24 years later, that I’ve been enlightened.

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ”
― Michael Crichton

That said, I’m still fairly ignorant. It’s simply impossible to pick up all the nuances on this flying visit and understand what happened. There are others who have done the research and also lived through the times, who can give a much better account than I. As I said, this is just a fleeting visit sparked by a magazine I’d bought at the op shop and my relationships with my extended Aboriginal family.

Bicentennial celebrations exposed differing views both about our history, our future and our identity as a nation. While it was only 24 years ago, I’d like to think we were in a different place back then when where racist jokes were the norm and most Australians really couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about. Why couldn’t the Aboriginal people just join the rest of us under The Bridge and enjoy a piece of birthday cake and enjoy the “celebration of a nation”?   What was their problem and why didn’t somebody lock all those radicals up? Indeed, a disproportionate number of Indigenous people were already in gaol and there was mounting anger about black deaths in custody.

I am not an Aboriginal activist, historian or anybody who really has an understanding of the rights and wrongs involved but I am a person who has a disability and has experienced discrimination enough to know that even the well-intentioned who at least try to get into my wobbilly feet, don’t necessarily know what it’s like to walk in my shoes. Therefore, I don’t pretend to know what it is to be an Indigenous person in Australia…then or now.

However, I do care.

As much as I believe in equality for all and respecting all peoples, it is particularly harsh when someone comes into your country and treats you like shit. Takes away your land, your children and gives immigrants preferential treatment and won’t even give you the vote. Moreover, once some of these things were finally acknowledged, it wasn’t until February 2008 that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd finally managed to say “Sorry”…some 20 years after the Bicentenary!

I am also in an interesting position because my uncle is Aboriginal and because of him, my children identified themselves as being Aboriginal. No matter how much I seemed to explain to them about genetics and pointed out that we were related to my aunt, they still believed they were Aboriginal until quite recently. The penny finally dropped when, after a long discussion with our daughter, she finally asked rather sadly: “Not even a drop?” “No,” I replied. “Not even a drop”. They wish they were Aboriginal and are very proud of Australia’s Indigenous people, culture and history. We don’t see a lot of my aunt and uncle so I believe this connection has been strengthened by their school. Our school says: “Welcome to Country” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welcome_to_Country_and_Acknowledgement_of_Country) at assemblies and events and the children learn Aboriginal arts and culture in way that goes way beyond anything we ever did at school. They have local elders come into the school and talk to the kids as well. About 10% of kids at our school “identify” as being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and we have an Aboriginal Liaison Officer on staff. We are very proud of our school’s passion and commitment.

It has been interesting seeing how buying a vintage magazine at the op shop has opened my eyes to so many things and made me see the Australian Bicentenary in a completely different light. That said, I have been conscious for some time that celebrating Australia Day on 26th January is not showing sensitivity or compassion towards our Indigenous people who were displaced and so often subjected to horrific crimes of abuse throughout history. This is our national shame and we shouldn’t just bury that under the carpet and pretend that nothing ever happened. We can’t. To be honest, it continues today.

I don’t know what, if anything, I can do about it personally other than write about it, which does seem a bit lame but we each have our role in the body, in our community and as I have said before, I always hope the pen is mightier than the sword. That through writing we can highlight prejudice and injustice and also love and embrace all peoples.

In this, I join with Dr Martin Luther King (Jnr) and say “I have a dream”. I haven’t quite worked out all the details yet but have joined at least 1000 other people who will be writing about compassion on 20th February, 2015…the UN International Day of Social Justice: 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion. I encourage you to also participate. You can check out the details here:

https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/bloggers-unite-for-a-better-world-1000-voices-speak-for-compassion/

We need to keep working on the foundations laid by trail blazers like Dr Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela and see love, compassion and equality triumph!

xx Rowena

PS I have compiled a series of quotes relating to the Bicentenary, which is coming up next.

[1] The Australian Women’s Weekly, January 1988, pg 7.

[2] The Australian Women’s Weekly, January 1988, pg 7.

[3] The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995) Saturday 7 March 1987 p 9

[4] Woroni (Canberra, ACT : 1950 – 2007) Monday 7 March 1988 p 19 Article

[5] The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995) Wednesday 1 June 1988 p 30

[6] The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995) Saturday 25 January 1986 p 3

[7] http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm