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.