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. 

Extra Salty

So yesterday I was able to access my personal Facebook account again after receiving a 24 hour ban. I know what you’re thinking; it must have been something really offensive to get not only my comment removed but get banned from the social media platform for 24 hours. It was. Well, I guess if the term “white people” offends you it was. 

You read that right; I got banned for the use of the phrase “white people”. Specifically, it was a comment in response to the prolific Facebook bans for the use of the phrase, the descriptor, a term that is most certainly not a racial slur. 

There have been literally dozens of cases that I’ve seen and probably many more that I haven’t, of primarily People of Colour being banned and having their comments removed for use of the term “white people” and “cracker” (‘cracker’ is a term used in the US meaning racist white people – I guess because they’re white, fragile and salty). And before you start; reverse racism isn’t a thing. We’ve already been there and covered that.
Facebook groups dedicated to social justice and Inclusivity have been infiltrated by people opposed to the movement, and comments and posts have been reported en masse for the sole purpose of harassment, silencing and disruption. Moreover, troll accounts have been created on Instagram and Tumblr to troll social justice advocates. Facebook algorithms are such that posts and comments that recieve multiple reports are more likely to attract the ban-hammer. This was a targeted attempt to silence those speaking out in social justice spaces about race and privilege. I was the lucky one – many others have faced repeated bans for longer durations, one Woman of Colour for a one word status update: “cracker”
Why? What could these people possibly have against efforts to make spaces on the internet more inclusive to marginalised people; primarily People of Colour?! I’ll tell you why; it’s because discussions of race, racism and privilege make the dominant majority – white people – really uncomfortable. So uncomfortable they go to unusual lengths to circumvent it that discomfort. 

A US academic coined the term “White Fragility”. Dr. Robin DiAngelo, a White racial and social justice educator who created the term “White Fragility,” breaks it down like this:
“White people in North America live in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress. This insulated environment of racial protection builds white expectations for racial comfort while at the same time lowering the ability to tolerate racial stress, leading to what I refer to as White Fragility. White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviours such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviours, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.”
White fragility is a frustrating dynamic that People of Colour encounter a lot when engaging with white people about race and privilege. It’s the “all lives matter” dogma. But here’s the kicker; all lives didn’t matter until the Black Lives Matter movement started. They couldn’t possibly understand that People of Colour were literally dying in the streets at the hands of those who swore to serve and protect. All lives matter is a blatant attempt to centre whiteness. To derail the discourse. White fragility is the #notallwhitepeople argument. The suggestion that “oh that might be the case, there might be *instances* of racism by neo-nazis, but that’s not me. I’m not doing anything to uphold white supremacy.” 

But here’s the kicker; if you aren’t actively holding a mirror to your own privilege. If you aren’t actively working to dismantle systems of oppression that maintain the white equilibrium, if you aren’t talking about racism in frank and uncomfortable terms; you’re upholding white supremacy. And if you think this doesn’t apply here in Australia, you’re sorely mistaken.
I’m going to end with the words of a woman named Cleo Lebron. A dynamic, strong Woman of Colour from the US who has had her words removed and her account suspended, along with many others.
“How can Facebook ever be a place where people have a voice if the reporting system silences people expressing and bearing witness to the very things worth speaking against.”

It’s been a while.. 

Gosh I didn’t realise how long it had been since I’ve updated Gerald! 2016 has flown by! So many fantastic arts projects this year – I’ve really enjoyed the street art projects I’ve been involved with this year. I made my street art debut during the Adelaide Fringe and the Little Rundle Street Art Project with ‘Municipal Gum’ and ‘Burnt Scrub’. I absolutely loved the challenge of working on such a large scale. I was fortunate enough to work with the same group of artists in another project painting the walls along Goodwood Road outside the Adelaide Showgrounds. I also had my first solo exhibition – “Kurunpa” this year and some more textile releases with Lifewear. Not to mention the many canvas pieces I painted this year. 

We’ve also added a new addition to the family, Benji Walter was born; it seems like only a month or so ago that I was lying on my belly on the bitumen in Little Rundle Street, feeling a little bloated and suspecting that there was a little being growing there. He was born critically ill and spent the first week of his life on a ventilator. I too was very unwell; it was a rough few weeks for everyone. After 21 days of IV antibiotics to treat suspected meningitis, Benji came home and we couldn’t imagine life without him now. An Anangu Ngangkari came to visit Benji and I on day 2. NICU staff watched on curiously while he blessed Benji and administered healing Anangu way. Did it help? Well… he’s here in my arms and perfectly healthy. 

In 2017, Min starts school and Emmeline starts kindy. Finding a school that respects and celebrates Aboriginal perspectives and displays a high level of cultural competence  has been… interesting. I went to a school tour and asked the principal what this particular school offered Indigenous kids. His response? “Oh well I’ve worked at *insert school with large Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population* and I’ve got some Aboriginal friends. Oh and see that girl over there? I don’t know if you noticed but she’s Aboriginal!” Upon challenging him further he then said “if you want that kind of thing you need to go to Elizabeth or Christies Beach…” Needless to say, we opted not to send him there. DECD still has much to learn. Having said that, I’ve worked with some exceptional educators this year who “get it” – and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture in their daily practice. 

Next year, I’ve got the most exciting artistic collaboration I’ve probably ever been involved with coming up during the Adelaide Fringe street art explosion and I cannot wait! I’ll be working with one of Australia’s most incredible street-art exports! Watch this space! 

I’m also headlining ‘Wonderwalls’ – a street art festival being held in Port Adelaide. I’ll be painting a wall down there over the weekend of 21-23 April, so come and check it out! 

To everyone who’s supported us in 2016; thankyou. I wish you all a safe and happy festive season – whatever that looks like for you, and a prosperous new year. 

Little Rundle Street

Well it’s done! Finished!!! 

I don’t quite know what to do with myself now. On Friday, we had the opening of The Little Rundle Street Arts Project with a massive street party. Thousands of people came, street food, boutique wines; it was an amazing, electric atmosphere! 

I thought I’d throw together some of my favourite photos from the start of the artwork right through to opening night. I did two pieces; Municipal Gum and Burnt Scrub. 

Enjoy! 

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    

THANKYOU all so much all your support during this project. It’s been absolutely hectic and a massive learning curve for me as an artist. My husband keeps telling me that this is only the beginning. Let’s hope that he’s right! 

 

Scale Up. 

So as you all know by now I’m an Aboriginal Artist. I’ve been really fortunate to be able to collaborate with different groups with some unique projects – but then my good friend Emma messages me: “are you interested in doing some street art?” She asks. “Hells yes I want to do some street art! Tell me more!”

It turned out that her sister Claire, owner of the Tin Cat Cafe on Rundle street, an Adelaide institution. She, frustrated with the council response to her request to decrease the speed limit on Little Rundle Street where her cafe backs on to, which is only wide enough to fit one car and is currently a 50kph speed zone, started a campaign to get some attention. And then the Little Rundle Street Art project was born. She went door to door asking permission to paint on walls and fences, to make Little Rundle Street such a spectacle that one would have no choice but to slow down to admire all the amazing street art. She then won a cultural grant from the Fringe Festival and thus it became part of the Fringe Festival! She showed me the wall she had in mind for me…. It was… Large. 

Like huge. Genuinely monsterous! 95 square meters big. So I went home and talked it over with my husband who was super supportive and said I couldn’t not do it. So preparations were made, permission sought and we were ready to start! I painted a concept piece called Municipal Gum – taken from one of my favourite poems by Aboriginal poet Ooderoo Noonuccal, of which I’ll elaborate on later. I gave an interview to a team from Channel 9 about the fringe. It was a serious sit down interview and they asked me what experience did I have working on this scale and how would I do it? My answer? None, and I have no idea – I’m basically going to wing it. I’ll just do it in the same basic method and hope for the best!!! The day before I was due to start I had a freak out; I was so overwhelmed by the size, so I contemplated another smaller wall. Then Emma said: “why not do both??” ….why not?!? 

We went down a couple of Sundays ago to paint the base. We had some helpers, but my husband did much of it – all of the high stuff anyway! 

   
The following day I went back, alone. It was then that I realised that I would need to get up higher. And I don’t like heights. I did as much as I could down low and then I heard a repetitive beeping that I would come to know intimately – the sound of the scissor-lift. Those things look stable but they are as rickety as anything when you extend them up. The good thing is that it tells you when you’re up too high or on uneven ground! I became inovative and taped a paint-market to an extender-pole so that I could draw the lines and maintain much needed perspective.  

    
   
Then it was time for the dots!! I decided to try my hand at using aerosols! I tried to get the best looking, cleanest dots I could in a timely manner and none of the nibs (the lid) were giving my dots I was happy with – so I drew a stencil and then sprayed through it, repeating it. 

   
    
 
I am absolutely thrilled with the way it’s turned out. I’m so freaking happy with it and proud of everyone’s efforts! I had so much help and I am so utterly grateful for the help! So this is what I wrote about this piece, as taken from my Aboriginal Art Facebook page:

“Municipal Gum” 

95m2

Rundle Street, Kent Town. 

Mixed media
“Gumtree in the city street, 

Municipal Gum 

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
This piece, entitled “municipal gum”, after Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s poem. This is a piece about growth, and struggle. The challenges that come with personal growth. In this piece, I have depicted the concept of growth and of challenge; in the growth rings of the red gum. Each ring on the cross-section of a tree represents something about that season. Perhaps it was a year of bounty – of glorious rain and sunshine. Perhaps it was a year of low-rain fall and concrete placed around its base to make room for a footpath or a roadway. A year of challenge and conflict. Each ring tells a story. Each ring is different. In the poem, Oodgeroo speaks of foreign challenges; of majestic gums surrounded by colonisation, at odds with its own natural existence. In a similar vein, as an Aboriginal Australians, we too have been scarred by colonisation. Of stolen children. Of genocide. Of dispossession. But we grow, we heal, we survive, we thrive. In this respect – we really aren’t that different. We all must adapt, we all have stories to tell; stories that we carry within us always. 
-Elizabeth Close
Tis Done. What an absolutely monumental effort. I absolutely could not have done this alone. Massive shout out to Claire, Emma, Danae, Melissa, Ruby, Lainey, James, Jason and Jack for all their help – it was deeply appreciated. 
To all my online peeps; thanks for your words of support and encouragement! It means a lot! 
Finally – to my husband and children; who are truly my biggest supporters; Without their love, patience, understanding, support, flexibility and adaptability I would never succeed. Particularly my husband Matt, who cops the tasks of kid-wrangling, courier, base-painter, and who just generally always steps up when I take on mammoth endeavours like this – THANKYOU. Your support means more to me than I could ever put down in words. Thanks, and can we please have take-away for dinner?!! 
On to piece number 2!! 

I don’t care for your brand of racism. 

This morning started like any other. I woke up with my 5 year olds foot in my face and my 2 year old buried up against my chest. I extricated myself and got up. Today I was heading out to work on one of my pieces of street art for the Little Rundle Street Arts Project. I’ve been lucky enough to try my hand at some work at an epic scale and I’m stoked to say that my first piece came together beautifully and somehow I pulled it off. I’m going back today, kids in tow, to work on my second piece. I get dressed in my best, paintiest clothes and chase the kids around getting them dressed: “Mum I’m hungry!” exclaims Min. “Let’s stop and get something on the way – it’s Tuesday – let’s stop at the bakery!” “It won’t be open….. It’s a public holiday.” My husband interjects. He was very careful to say “public holiday” rather than the actual name – sensitive to my feelings on the subject. As soon as he said that, I felt deflated. I was reminded that today is the day that the rest of Australia celebrates the beginning of the destruction of my people and our way of life. Today is the day that the rest of Australia celebrates our dispossession, oppression, and genocide; with tacky singlets, BBQ’s and 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 is a day of mourning. 

Why then, on a day that should unite us, does it divide us so?  

Because January 26th is irrelevant to modern Australia. It commemorates the day that the British claimed sovereignty over the Easten Seaboard of Australia – hardly relevant to the rest of Australia. But what it does symbolise is the adverse effects of colonisation and invasion for Aboriginal people. The beginning of the end of our way of life. 

There are many dates that would hold significance for modern Australia, and I won’t list them here – one needs only to look at the timeline of modern Australian History to see this. One I personally like is moving it back to the 25th of January – but one day – a symbolic gesture that captures the last day that we and we alone were the custodians of this great land. It’s still in the Australian Summer; it retains the same distribution of public holidays… But it won’t happen. And I’ll tell you why; 

I stopped at the shops on the way back home from working on my street art piece, and my baby daughter got out of the car. In her typical, gives-no-fucks fashion, she ran off and I called her back, speaking to her, as I often do, in our native Pitjantjatjara language: “Awa! Ngala pitja! Pitja!!! Wanti! (Hey! Come here! Come! Stop!) and a 20-something woman with Australian-flag novelty-leggings yelled at me: “hey! It’s Australia Day! We speak English in Australia!!” I was aghast. I thought surely she must be joking. I’ve read stories of things like this on the internet but surely it doesn’t happen in real life. “Pardon me?” I asked. “It’s AUS-STRAYA-DAY. WE SPEAK ENG-LISH” she said obnoxiously, speaking slowly as to ensure comprehension because obviously I’m either intellectually disabled or stupid. “I’m speaking my native Australian Aboriginal language. It’s Pitjantjatjara? I couldn’t get more Australian!!” She stared at me blankly before walking off. I stood there, having witnessed the most overt form of racism that I personally have ever received, and my eyes welled with tears. Not for me; I’ve got thick, paint-splattered skin, I’ll move on. No, my eyes welled for the little Anangu girl that I held in my arms, seemingly oblivious to the hate-filled scene that had developed before her. Would she and her brother encounter such vile, overt racism when they grow up? No – surely we will have grown as people and as a nation! I told myself. 

But then I remember that today is, rather than the multicultural-love-fest White Australia would have us believe; a state-sanctioned celebration of the destruction of a culture. Of my culture. And until we stop holding BBQ’s in the name of genocide, we can’t move forward. We can’t join hands as a nation. So one has to ask oneself: is it really worth it, white Australia? Can you live with the fact that not-all Australians want to engage in your culturally insensitive discourse today? Not everyone feels patriotic joy today? Is that acceptable to you? 

Of course it is. 

Because it’s difficult to be heard above all the white noise. 

Unless you’re really listening.