Cultural Appropriation and the Street Art movement

Yep, me again. Dragging out my bruised and battered soap-box again. I’ve been biting my tongue and sitting on my hands a bit lately with regard to public art (unlike me I know!). You see, I’m new(ish) to the community, having painted my first wall only 3 years ago. However I am so glad I have, because I’ve found the most amazing community and through them, the importance of Public Art. This community, that at first I felt intimidated by, I’m now privileged to call many of them friends and colleagues. And they’re a bunch with a ton of grace; generous with their time and knowledge. I have also never done as many collaborative works as I have with artists I’ve met in the street art community, and collaborations help challenge artists to take their practice to the next level and for that I am grateful. But I am a latecomer, I don’t have the lived experience of growing up spraying trains and tagging and enmeshed within the street art movement. I still struggle to call myself a street artist, and let’s be real – if the new kid swans in to their new school and starts pointing out all the things their peers have been doing wrong, they’re probably gonna have a bad time. But the standard that you walk past is the standard you accept. No one wants to be that guy, but here we are. And if this relates to you as an artist, stay with me because you might just see things from a new perspective.

Whenever the issue of Cultural Appropriation comes up, it’s often met with eye rolls, sighs and mutterings about political correctness. And people often dismiss it before they understand it, as with most discussions of race, racism, appropriation and privilege. But before you dismiss this and keep scrolling, I challenge you to read on, because the inherent problem with dismissing Cultural Appropriation as a concept, itself comes from a place of privilege. It means that because of the benefits afforded to some over others, it’s easy to ignore the effects of Cultural Appropriation because it doesn’t effect you. Understanding why it harms us takes a certain level of compassion, empathy and understanding.

For further reading about White Privilege, I particularly like this article: http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/09/white-privilege-explained/

Also my two-part blog post about power, race and privilege: https://adingonamedgerald.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/power-privilege-and-the-myth-that-is-reverse-racism-part-one/

So what is Cultural Appropriation? I’m so glad you asked, so pull up a stolen milk-crate and get comfy.

In it’s most basic definition; Cultural Appropriation is “when someone adopts aspects of a culture that is not their own” (Johnson, 2015)

However, a far more deeper understanding on how and when this becomes problematic is more to do with power imbalance; when aspects of a culture that has been systematically oppressed, are adopted by members of the dominant culture that has oppressed them. (Johnson, 2015).

Scafidi (2015), defines Cultural Appropriation as; “Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artefacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc. It’s most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive.” (Scafidi, 2015)

Usually at this point, someone throws around vague notions of “honoring” a culture, or ideas about “cultural exchange”; yeah nah, I’ll get to that too. But why is Cultural Appropriation a problem? The truth is, it’s a multi-faceted issue that has many different contexts, as it effects every Indigenous group differently. So I’ll try and keep it as relevant to the Australian context as possible, and as relevant to art as possible, bearing in mind that some of the most blatant examples come from other contexts and other First Nations groups.

Obviously, I love art. Art is important. It’s important to me because it’s how many of us as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people engage with our cultures, learn from our elders and pass our knowledge down to our children. I also love public art and think it’s crucial to the modern discourse, especially in this neoliberal age we find ourselves in. Street art is the original form of protest and the original form of social documentation, and we are the original street artists. Our cave art is many, many thousands of years old. I love that public art is inclusive, and makes art accessible. It takes it out of the galleries and off the walls of the wealthy, and places in in the public realm where everyone can enjoy and be challenged by it. I want to be very clear that I’m not seeking to suggest that Aboriginal Art is more important or more valuable than art from non-Aboriginal artists. What I do acknowledge however, is that Aboriginal Art is underpinned by 60,000 of culture – and that is significant. Aboriginal people are largely missing from the modern Australian narrative, so increasing the visibility of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture through public art is something that we all should embrace and an agenda we should all further, but it must be authentic, and built on mutual respect.

But wait, haven’t you got the right to paint whatever you want? No one owns any one style of art, right? Well see this is where it gets murky. Because while you might think you’re honouring us, we feel differently. When you do attempt to paint (or wear/sing/speak/be or use) styles of art built on Indigenous cultures, what you’re actually doing is taking sacred cultural symbols and relegating them to largely meaningless gentrified hipster art, or trite fashion accessories as the case may be. A common example is the Native American War Bonnet – a gendered and sacred object, reduced to a “on trend” fashion accessory, home decor or photo-prop for ignorant hipsters. The irony of this is that often Native American and other First Nations people are denigrated for wearing their traditional dress. This shit is only on trend when it isn’t worn or used by its traditional owners for its traditional intent. Women don’t wear war-bonnets, and every feather is earned. They are sacred items that are handed down between generations. Art that features women wearing war-bonnets is increasingly common and I get it, women are warriors and all that. But not only is it appropriative, it’s inaccurate. And if it’s inaccurate, inappropriate and its value lies only in its aesthetic, then how much artistic merit does it actually have…?

Colonisation has stolen much from us as Aboriginal People. We’ve have had our land, the lives of our ancestors, our children, our families, our ability to share and practice our culture and hour dignity taken from us. Often by force, with much bloodshed. My grandmother who was forcibly removed from her family, was smacked whenever she spoke anything other than English. The connection between culture and language is immense, so removing her ability to speak her language has enormous implications for the loss of our families culture. Cultural Appropriation is an example of ongoing theft of our sacred cultural symbols. Not only has it been taken away, it’s been taken away and used by the dominant culture who took it away in a manner that is inappropriate and shows a complete lack of understanding around what it is and how it ought to be used as well as a huge sense of entitlement over the ability to use it at all.

Cultural Appropriation perpetuates stereotypes – there’s more to Aboriginal culture than just boomerangs and dot-paintings. There is more to Native American/First Nations people than feathers and teepees. There is more to Inuit culture than igloos and fur. You’re seeing where I’m going with this, yeah?

Dismissing our feelings here, trivialises violent historical oppression and genocide. And it prioritises the feelings of people of privilege and ignores that of marginalised people, further perpetuating systemic oppression.

In most instances, Cultural Appropriation fails to remunerate Indigenous artists for their designs, ideas and intellectual property. Not only that, but non-Aboriginal artists are profiting from our culture. From the stories and iconography of our ancestors. “Aboriginal Inspired” designs are everywhere. Some of the companies that make these products are ethically sound and commission and remunerate and credit Aboriginal Artists for their work; that’s absolutely fantastic and I unequivocally support this. Here, the artist is giving their permission to share the artwork with the consumer in whatever medium they collaboratively agree to. They’ve been paid for their intellectual property and for the accurate and appropriate use of sacred cultural symbols. If however non-Aboriginal artists are using Aboriginal symbols, style and iconography to make money; that is money that will not go back to empower Aboriginal Artists. It won’t go to Aboriginal families to help them assert their right to self-determination. Not only are non-Aboriginal people profiting from Aboriginal culture, stepping on the backs of Aboriginal Artists in the process; but my culture is being appropriated, and my art and stories; which are enmeshed in my very personhood, reduced to culturally meaningless aesthetic. And for what? Had you commissioned an Aboriginal Artist, the aesthetic may well be different, but the meaning behind it will be so much richer.

If you are a stakeholder in public art, and you want Aboriginal Art in a public space; I implore you to commission an Aboriginal Artist. If you want authentic, meaningful Indigenous art that pays respect to the traditional custodians of the land on which you seek to place the art, commission an Aboriginal Artist. Remember also that we are not a homogenous monolith with a hive-mind. Aboriginal Art is as rich and varied as we are. We work in countless mediums and in countless styles. I for example, can’t paint things that look like things; so I don’t often paint animals, but Brother Luke Patterson is your man if you want wildlife! I also can’t paint portraits, but I can crack out a collaboration, as I’ve done with 4 other portraits, or you could find an artist like Jandamarra Cadd whose portraits are next level amazing. I also don’t do graff, but sister Nish Cash and Budda Hampton are killing that scene! I also can’t sculpt but I reckon Allan Sumner’s wood carving is incredible, and I’m sure there would be some amazing Aboriginal metal-smiths out there too if you chucked it into a google search.

Many of us love working collaboratively with other artists too, bringing our culture to new heights in new ways, but remaining steadfast in the knowledge that the cultural aspects of the artwork is authentic. So if it’s Aboriginal Art that you want as a stakeholder or wall owner, or Aboriginal culture that you want to honour as an Artist; consider first if what you seek to do is based on genuine cultural exchange and mutual respect, or if it’s (albeit unintentionally) perpetuating harm to an already marginalised group. Consider then if perhaps you could achieve the same thing by collaborating with an Aboriginal Artist, and remunerating them accordingly.

If you’re reading this and reflecting on previous works that *maybe* skirted the boundaries, don’t stress. Know better, do better. If you’re still not convinced; there’s enough walls, enough spaces, enough styles and pretty much enough of everything to go around, as the global hunger for public art gains momentum. Please don’t step on Aboriginal Artists to get the next gig. Collaboration might just help you take your practice to the next level and you’ll definitely be on the right side of history.

Advertisements

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.

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.