Banned. Again.

So apparently y’all don’t want to hear about the racism levelled at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, People of Colour and Women of Colour on social media.

This morning, I received this message to my personal Facebook account:

Classy, right?

So I could have shamefully deleted it, but because I want this shit to be visible; because I want people to SEE and HEAR the racist vitriol spewed at People of Colour on social media, I swallowed my shame and posted a screen cap. I’m an Aboriginal woman, but I absolutely acknowledge the privilege I have as a lighter-skinned Aboriginal woman, and I’m conscious of not taking up more space than I need to. Imagine then, what dark skinned brown and black women must cop.

I went back to work, meeting some artist colleagues and engaging with potential clients online who had reached out via social media to my artist page. (For those playing at home it’s Elizabeth Close – Aboriginal Artist https://m.facebook.com/elizabethclosearts/) when suddenly my Facebook crashed. Lo and behold:

Banned. For 3 days. For showing the world the racist hate speech that was levelled at me.

I am so genuinely (not) sorry that you’re offended by the racism towards me.

I’m so genuinely (not) surprised that Facebook would discriminate against Women of Colour.

I totally don’t use Facebook to run my business as an artist. Oh wait, thats right, I do! And I pay Facebook plenty of coin to compete with Facebooks fucked up algorithms and boost posts so that more than 100 of my 4800 likers actually fucking see my work. But hey, that’s fine.

This is some class A victim blaming bullshit.

Fuck that noise. Lift your game, Facebook.

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I told you so

But I did, didn’t I? I told you I’d meet you back here; but I didn’t think the momentum of the Aboriginal Rights movement would have built as much as it has, particularly with regards to the Change the Date debate.

Instead of barking glum statistics around our human rights (or lack thereof) at you like I normally do each January 26, I’m sharing the transcript of the call to arms that I gave on the steps of Parliament House in Adelaide today.

Given the momentum of the movement, I really felt I had to lend my voice in some way, to support my brothers and sisters that do all the heavy lifting. So I teamed up with Jake Holmes from Tooth and Nail Studio (the brains behind the original Cmon Aussie Cmon posters for the yes campaign during the Marriage Equality plebiscite), to create these posters as a call to action. Today, on the 26th of January, we launched these posters on the steps of Parliament House with the support of Tammy Franks from the Greens.

It was a great day. I’m so unbelievably proud of everyone involved, and so bouyed by all the support. So for those that couldn’t be there; here is my speech:

“Hello my name is Elizabeth Close. I am an Anangu woman from the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara language groups, and before I begin I would like to pay my respects to the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land on which we meet; the Traditional lands of the Kaurna people. Always has, Always will Be Kaurna land.

I thank you all for taking the time to be here today.

So, the thing about the date, is that its not actually just about the date. What it’s really about, is listening and respect.

Yes; the date for so many of us is symbolic of our dispossession. And to expect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who feel that way, to cast aside that anguish in the name of nationalism and chuck another snag on the barbie, seems the epitome of entitlement. The irony of being labelled divisive by key political figures; because we refuse to celebrate a day that actively excludes Australia’s First People, and refuse to celebrate a nation built on illegal occupation and sovereignty never ceded.

How are we to celebrate this nation, when our own government fails to acknowledge our true history and our living, breathing culture? How are we to celebrate when we are missing from contemporary Australian discourse?

I have collaborated with Jake Holmes from Tooth and Nail Studio – the brains behind the original Rainbow posters for the Yes campaign for Marriage Equality, to create these posters, each letter with its own unique artwork which reflects the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and each nations own unique connection to this land. These posters are a call to action!

With these posters, I hereby challenge the state and federal government to do something so radical and so revolutionary that it has never been done before. I challenge you to cast aside partisan politics around keeping the date, and sit down and listen to what these incredible men and women have to say. And I mean genuinely listening, not merely nodding and smiling like talking heads but with honesty and integrity and bravery; and hearing the lived experience of our Elders and community leaders. I challenge you not just to start listening, but to KEEP listening when you feel uncomfortable, or when you feel confronted. KEEP listening when they get upset, or angry. Because your discomfort is nothing compared to theirs. If you really stop to listen, you might very well come to understand why we feel that January 26 is not inclusive of all Australians. For their recently-announced policy around a change of date, I applaud the Greens.

So come on, Australia; Change the Date! but change the system too. Break down the systems of oppression that were built upon the backs of Aboriginal Australia; and start that now, by listening to what these men and women have to say!”

An Open Letter to Mitcham Council 

An open letter to the Mayor and Elected Members of MitchamCity Council. 

My name is Elizabeth Close and I am a Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara woman from the APY Lands in Central Australia. I have lived in Blackwood for the last decade. I am a professional Aboriginal Artist – in fact I’ve just completed a mural for The Department of Transport, Planning and Infrastructure at the Blackwood Railway Station. I’m also somewhat of an annoyance – I have written extensively about issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and have worked tirelessly for Aboriginal rights. 

I wish to draw your attention to the article written in the Hills Messenger dated September 13. Specifically, comments by the Mayor. In it, it says that “Social advocacy around Australia Day was “absolutely not” an issue for local government. And that he was “very happy” with current Australia Day celebrations in Mitcham Council. This is abhorrent. Only through a lens of white privilege can the Mayor make statements like this. 

The immense harm that these celebrations cause to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Mitcham Council and nation-wide is overwhelming. It’s also very clearly, not something that affects Mr Spear and therefore not something he’s motivated to change. But Mr Spear, Mitcham Council is not just made up of Middle Aged, wealthy, white men like you. I would argue that the wellbeing of your community IS the role of local government to concern itself with. Moreover, addressing the harm caused by the actions of local government in celebrating this date is similarly, the role of local government to address. You also represent me as an Aboriginal woman – even if you (and I) like it or not. I wonder if your view of what local government should concern itself with would change if it were your community of rich white men that were affected? 

This harms us. There is tangible harm caused to our community to see wider Australia celebrate a day that very clearly is not a day for all Australians. It actively excludes us. You are actively celebrating the end of our way of life as we knew it. You are celebrating genocide. You are celebrating rape. You are celebrating theft of land. You are celebrating the forced removal of children – one of whom was my grandmother. 
You are celebrating the erausure of 60,000 years of culture, language, art, song and dance. 
When you say that you’re “very happy” with current celebrations – what you are actually saying is that you have absolutely no concern for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. You have a blatant disregard for our wellbeing. And that hurts. 

You and your elected members are there to represent ALL residents of Mitcham Council. 
I urge all elected members to represent all of us – even the ones with a lived experience that is significantly different from your own and outside your world view. 

And please spare me a trite apology for the harm your words, your inaction and flagrant disregard for our wellbeing has caused. Instead, take action. Be brave. Be on the right side of history. We will look back on this with embarrassment and dismay, just as we look back on the 1967 referendum. Do you want to be reflected upon as the oppressor or the revolutionary? 

I’ll also direct you to a blog post I wrote on the subject if you’d like to read further: https://adingonamedgerald.wordpress.com/2017/01/18/the-public-holiday-which-must-not-be-named/

This most certainly won’t be the last word on this matter – I and other members of the community look forward to discussing this further 
Kind Regards

 Elizabeth Close
I respectfully acknowledge the Kaurna People of the Adelaide Plains as the custodians of the land on which I live and work

Ngangkinna, Meyunna marni ngadlu tampendi ngadlu Kaurna yertangga.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s good that we recognise that we meet on Kaurna land.

Our Languages Matter 

it’s NAIDOC week! A celebration of all things Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander! Most people have heard about NAIDOC, as efforts to be more inclusive slowly permeate wider Australian society, but few people know the history of NAIDOC week. For those that don’t, here’s a brief history of how it came to be:
Before the 1920s, Aboriginal rights groups boycotted Australia Day in protest against the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians. Prior to 1967, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people weren’t even recognised as human under the Australian Constitution. At that time we were classed under the Flora and Fauna Act, and weren’t even afforded basic human rights. By the 1920s, the activists were increasingly aware that the broader Australian public were largely ignorant of the boycotts. If the movement were to make progress, it would need to be dynamic and innovative.

On Australia Day, 1938, protestors marched through the streets of Sydney, followed by a congress attended by over a thousand people. This was one of the first major civil rights gatherings in the world, and it was known as the Day of Mourning.
From 1940 until 1955, the Day of Mourning was held annually on the Sunday before Australia Day and became known as Aborigines Day. In 1955 Aborigines Day was shifted to the first Sunday in July after it was decided the day should become not simply a protest day, but also a celebration of Aboriginal culture. In the 60s, the National Aborigine Day Observance Committee was formed; and in 1967 on the back of the referendum, The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) was formed and became instrumental in the evolution of NADOC week, and as such, it became a week long celebration of culture.
With a growing awareness of the distinct cultural histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, NADOC was expanded to recognise Torres Strait Islander people and culture. The committee then became known as the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC). This new name has become the title for the whole week of NAIDOC celebration. Each year, a theme is chosen to reflect things that are inherent to, and enmeshed within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. Last year, the theme was Songlines. Songlines are, in essence, where dreaming and landscape meet. Passages of land woven through country, where creation beings carve their way through the landscape, creating it in it’s wake. These Songlines are specific to the language group that are custodians of that landscape, and are passed down in the form of song, dance, art, and story. The 2017 theme – Our Languages Matter – aims to emphasise and celebrate the unique and essential role that Indigenous languages play in both cultural identity, in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality and rites, through story and song.

Some 250 distinct Indigenous language groups covered the continent at first (significant) European contact in the late eighteenth century. Most of these languages would have had several dialects, so that the total number of named varieties would have run to many hundreds.
Today only around 120 of those languages are still spoken and many are at risk of being lost as Elders pass on.
National NAIDOC Committee Co-Chair Anne Martin said languages are the breath of life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the theme will raise awareness of the status and importance of Indigenous languages across the country.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait languages are not just a means of communication, they express knowledge about everything: law, geography, history, family and human relationships, philosophy, religion, anatomy, childcare, health, caring for country, astronomy, biology and food.
“Each language is associated with an area of land and has a deep spiritual significance and it is through their own languages, that Indigenous nations maintain their connection with their ancestors, land and law,” Ms Martin said.
Committee Co-Chair Benjamin Mitchell hopes that the theme will shine a spotlight on the programs and community groups working to preserve, revitalise or record Indigenous languages, and encourage all Australians to notice the use of Indigenous languages in their community.
So I challenge you; a call to action! I challenge you to learn the language group of  the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which you live or work. Learn the traditional names for places. Learn to greet Elders in their language. Download the ‘Welcome to Country’ App and educate yourself. Do your bit to ensure our languages live on through our children. I was asked to spend some time this afternoon at my daughters pre-school. They greeted me with the Hello song of the Kaurna people which is the land of whom we live. I taught them a song in Pitjantjatjara and my 3 year olds eyes lit up and she was able to boldly stand up and sing a song that I have sung to her since she was a baby – proudly sharing her language with her peers. 
Not just today. Not just this week. Do this always. Celebrate the linguistic diversity of our Indigenous Peoples: “The preservation and revitalisation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages – the original languages of this nation – is the preservation of priceless treasure, not just for Indigenous peoples, but for everyone.”

(naidoc.org.au) 

The Spirit of Australia

Ohhhhh NAIDOC week! Good to see you again! What a fantastic opportunity to celebrate and share Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture! Or have it exploited by corporate greed in multinational, multi billion dollar corporations like Qantas.

Day two of NAIDOC, day two of white fuckery. (Aaaaaaaand cue the white fragility screaming reverse racism! I’ll give you this for free: reverse racism is not a thing.)  

On Tuesday, Qantas rang me and asked me to come and paint some crockery left over from the Business Class and First Class cabins – they wanted me to paint “totems” and the corrosponding “Aboriginal word” in line with the theme of Our Languages Matter (but apparently Qantas wants to celebrate our languages by homogenising them, erasing the languages of individual language groups). 
I was somewhat embarrassed because she was so excited about this… project. Also, she clearly hadn’t looked at my work because I rarely paint animals; that’s just not my style. Instead she thought I was a generic Aboriginal Artist. A generic Aboriginal Artist who could paint generic Aboriginal Art and then paint generic “Aboriginal Words”. All in the middle of the Qantas Club Lounge where the largely white corporate passengers could dictate what “totems” and animals I paint. Awkward. 

The best bit? They want me to work for free. Oh but there might be some “exposure” or other “incentives”. I politely declined and told her that it was exceptionally disrespectful to ask an Aboriginal Artist to come to them, during NAIDOC, to share their time, skills and culture and not remunerate them. I expressed my profound dismay that a multi-national corporation would not make room in their budget for corporate responsibility; particularly given that Qantas certainly like to appear to celebrate Aboriginal culture with their uniforms, decor, Indigenous traineeships and so forth. 
Then she apologised and said she didn’t realise that I was an established artist. Even if I were an brand new emerging artist, I would still deserve to be paid for my work. Whilst I appreciate that to them, their intent is good – the reality is that Qantas are seeking to exploit an Aboriginal Artist to make themselves look culturally aware. Sit with that for a moment. 
I do a lot of charity work. I often donate my time and skills to local schools and other causes. I have 2 pieces in a charity exhibition this week. But I’m not prepared to give my time and skills and share my culture for a poorly thought out project by a billion-dollar corporation. 
I got a middle management apology and an assurance that the staff involved would receive some education in cultural competence. 

So no, I won’t be painting plates for Qantas for free this week. Happy NAIDOC! 

Oh you’re sorry? Me too. 

Two days ago, May 26, is National Sorry Day in Australia. It is the anniversary of the day in 1997 when the ‘Bringing Them Home’ report from the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Stolen Generation was tabled in the Australian Federal Parliament.  
One of the key recommendations was that an official apology be extended from the Prime Minister to the people and families who were affected by the policies around forced removal of children. Then PM John Howard, a conservative Coalition MP and all round shit bag, refused. Anangu are still suffering under his legacy of his NT Intervention so we didn’t hold our breath anyway. Well he refused, basically citing the fact that he personally hadn’t wandered into an Aboriginal household and plucked a newborn from its mothers breast, so therefore why should he apologise? It took 11 years and a change of government, until 2008 when then PM Kevin Rudd finally took that step. It was an incredible moment in Australian history – I recall watching it, silently crying as I saw my kinfolk clutching one another in the public gallery.  It promised to be the start of a new chapter. 9 years on; little has changed. 

Each year these anniversaries roll past and I (tearfully) explain to my children what happened, the assimilation policy of ethnic cleansing to take over where genocide left off. the profound impact it had on our family – and look into their earnest faces and promise them that they will never, ever be taken away from their family and placed with non-Aboriginal people. Ever. ……and I hope to the ancestors that I’m telling the truth.

But the truth is, I can’t actually be sure.
Because this small truth is; I always, no matter the state of my house, automatically apologise for the mess, or this being untidy, or that being dirty, or the dishes in the sink. Or toys on the floor. I apologise even if the house is spotless. Even if I’ve just spent all morning cleaning it. The reason? I’m always scared I’ll be the Aboriginal woman reported to “Families SA” for living in squalor and my Aboriginal children will be removed.
Another small truth? I fear visits from the Child Health Nurse; but I fear declining them just as much. I fear that if I decline the visits, that I’ll have my baby removed. Or a note in a file, a red mark against my name. When Isaiah was born they came every fortnight for 6 months; until I learned that it was voluntary and stopped answering the door after they told me that Baby Led Weaning was endangering my baby, and that he needed purées. When Benji was born they rang and told me they’d be coming to “inspect his sleep space”; I have co-slept and bed-shared with all of my babies and Benji is no different, so naturally I declined. Then, terrified; I rang back and said I’d changed my mind and asked them to come. Then spent an an hour scrubbing the grout in the bathroom the day before and putting fresh sheets in the bassinette that my baby has never so much as shut his eyes in, let alone slept in. 
All this fear, lest my kids be taken away for neglect. 

All this fear, all that cortisol; all through my pregnancies. 
And yet, many still question if Intergenerational Trauma even exists.

The Public Holiday Which Must Not Be Named

12 months ago I wrote a piece about The Voldemort of Public Holidays.

I shouldn’t be at all surprised that one year later I’m right back in exactly the same place, playing the same song, For those that didn’t follow me then, you can find the full post here.

I wrote about the day “that the rest of Australia celebrates our dispossession, oppression, and genocide; with tacky singlets, BBQ’s and public drunkeness. Of course naturally, and somewhat ironically, they argue that they’re celebrating the making of a nation. Of inclusiveness and diversity! Of muticulturalism! Of the building of a great nation! A nation that was built on illegal occupation, theft of land, of sovereignty that never ceded. Of women raped, children stolen. For Aboriginal Australia, there is no question that today (Jan 26) is a day of mourning.” 

Last year on January 26, I was vilified for speaking Pitjantjatjara to my daughter. Told that it was ‘Straya Day and we speak English in ‘Straya. The irony was thick. 

But Australia; I just do not get it. What am I missing here? Explain it to me. I do not understand celebrating genocide and ethnic cleansing; of Aboriginal slavery; of the loss of sovereignty and country. The loss of our right to practice culture, the right to speak our languages.

I was yelled at in a shopping centre car park. Bellowed at by a white woman in Australian Flag leggings and an Australian Flag towel draped around her shoulders like a cape, as she walked out of the adjacent bottle-o. The Bigoted Avenger; one of the lesser-known super heroes. 

If Australia, you truly think you are celebrating us as a nation “coming together” and “leaving the past in the past”, thinking that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aren’t currently being denied the ability to practice culture and speak language, then you my friend, are sorely fucking mistaken. I might not be hanged for speaking Pitjantjatjara to my daughter in 2017, but my kids can’t access their Indigenous languages in the mainstream education system, oh and I might be verbally abused and humiliated in a public space for trying to pass my language on to my kids; there’s that. 

If you think that the genocide has stopped and we need to “move on”, perhaps you ought to consider the Aboriginal deaths in custody and more broadly, the Aboriginal incarceration rate. As Chris Graham writes in his astute critique of this years lamb ad; “We still jail Aboriginal people at – literally – world record rates. Western Australia has the highest Indigenous jailing rate on earth and it’s more than eight times greater than the jailing rate of black men during Apartheid South Africa. In the Northern Territory, 96 per cent of children (and almost 90 per cent of adults) locked up are Aboriginal. They make up less than one third of the population.” 

But yeah you’re right, genocide and all that stuff is in the past. So let’s get drunk and celebrate. And let’s pretend that we aren’t celebrating that fact that “we (they; looking at you White Australia) won” 

Does that sound defeatist? You bet. I’m tired. We all are. We’ve been beating the same drum for a while now. Graham nails it again; “The fact is, the nation I know bears no resemblance whatsoever to the nation being depicted in the lamb ads. It is entirely aspirational, and frankly, ‘aspirational’ is worth a pinch of shit when you’re still doing and denying much of what we did and denied almost 230 years ago.” The celebration of a utopian wonderland where everyone is equal is one that exists only in the minds of White Australia. And it’s not just us Blackfullas that are subject to this bullshit discourse. You guys lock up other (non-white) people who want to come to Australia indefinitely, in tropical death camps. You house them in squalor, subject them to unimaginable conditions but don’t truly see the irony of your own beginnings on this land (“oh yeah we came on boats too but those ones aren’t like us.“) Oh and the LGBTQIA+ community is welcome in this fairy tale too apparently! Except that you can’t get married, and gay panic is still a legitimate defence to murder in some jurisdictions. So just keep your homosexuality tucked in, act straight and you should be safe. Maybe. But probably not.

So where to from here? I did this last year too; we need a treaty. We need to recognise Aboriginal Sovereignty over this land. We need to change the date. We need to listen to Aboriginal Australia when we tell you to put the reins on bullshit attempts at “Recognition”. We need to stop glossing over our history; own the fuck up to it, truly acknowledge and speak openly about every abhorrent, blood stained little detail, and take some genuine steps towards meaningful change. 




I’ll see you back here in 2018. 

Prove me wrong, Australia. 


If you want to stand in solidarity with Aboriginal Australia this January 26, perhaps consider exchanging the beer and sunburn with attending your local Survival Day activities.