I am a spiritual person. I descend from those who forcefully invaded this country. And I am sorry.
This NAIDOC week I consciously sought ways to engage in celebrating our indigenous culture. As a result I have cried, laughed, squirmed, cringed and felt both powerful and hopeless. But I settle to an impatient feeling of cleverist; my thirst and commitment to continually seek small actions to stack upon one another has had its coals fanned. Flames lick at the everyday. I know every decision I make and thought I have might not be ‘right’ but I am thinking and acting with an awareness and intention of inclusiveness. 
Colin Thiele’s ‘Storm boy’ as told by the Melbourne Theater Company eloquently describes the interconnections of all that exist on the dunes, beaches and in the waves of Ninety Mile Beach where it is set. That interconnectedness embodied in a pelican in need has the power to heal a little boy, heal his father and reconnect them. It reminded me that merely our participation, even if the initial action seems trivial, is critical to affecting and being affected by the system we seek to change.
As a result I:
  • Talked at length with my family about NAIDOC week, what I understand it to mean and the experiences I was having. For some of them this was their only experience (this year!)
  • We attended the childrens celebration with my girls at Cranbourne Botanical Gardens where we made jewelry, listened to stories and music, played, ate and potted up a plant to bring home. The plant and gumnut jewellery will continue to spark conversation and remind me to seek indigenous stories for my girls. The story of Tiddalik captivated my 3yo and this ancient story prompted a very current conversation on drought, climate change and the spirit of sharing and preservation that we need to live everyday, to protect for tomorrow.
A podcast called “Tiddas 4 Tiddas” (Sisters 4 Sisters) launched this NAIDOC week. I listened to the first episode featuring Nessa Turnbull Roberts. I’m not going to recount Nessa’s story here. You can read that or listen to it yourself. I’d like to reflect on my own reaction. I was confronted to hear that Nessa is part of a current stolen generation, 10,000 children of which Nessa is 1 forcibly removed from their communities in the year Kevin Rudd said ‘Sorry’. I am ashamed to admit I found my inner voice denying that this could be the case, defending the case workers and a system which is purportedly setup to protect. And yet I know that it is a colonial system. Rife with assumptions and ‘good intention’ which does not reflect the community, history, connection to country, traditions, leadership and culture of our indigenous people. How can it. It is a white system. And so I concluded listening with a deep sense of sadness about the impact of systematic omission from our legal and government system of indigenous culture.
From this I take two things:
  • I fully support the constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians. If you’re going to change this system it needs to start at the top.
  • I wish to support an organisation preparing contextualised data for the challenges faced by indigenous community. Hans Rosling famously communicated this for wealth vs life expectancy, demonstrating the realities that generalizations can hide. When presented with data by continent our preconceptions of where Africa vs the OECD countries lie are reinforced and yet the spread of the data within the two, when broken apart by country, well and truly overlaps. I have no doubt this too is true of indigenous communities across Australia. Why data? Because we fight to change what we can measure and it can provide a basis for celebration when we do make progress.
Finally this weekend watching, Oscar winning, “The Green Book” was a reminder of the lived reality of segregation. Only this week I was reminded of a restaurant, in Australia, in which segregated seating occurs today. I am a glass half full person. I believe rightly or wrongly that we as a society are better than this. Once again I found myself confronted, angered and ashamed that this is a reality for our indigenous population today. Inclusion starts with curiosity, openness and discussion.
My take aways:
  • I’ve subscribed to the ABC’s Indigenous newsletter with a commitment to continue to educate myself outside of weeks like NAIDOC
  • I sought out Word up by the ABC which shares the diverse languages of black Australia one word at a time. I commit to regular listening.
So what can you do:
  • Create visual triggers for yourself to remind you to embed actions beyond a particular date in the calendar (like a gumnut necklace reminding me to talk about Tiddalik)
  • Subscribe to read, listen or watch indigenous news and then share what you learn and how you feel with others
  • Donate some of your time, energy, money or attention to addressing the systematic omission of indigenous culture from our community

Thiele’s ‘Storm boy’ characters initially describe the sand dunes as ever present. Never changing and therefore comforting. But they learn that the opposite is true. We are always changing. Our environment is always changing. So take action. No matter how small. It contributes to change.

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