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
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.