On this Day in 1788…

Image of setting sun in similar style to the Aboriginal Flag, accompanying a piece on Australia Day
Photograph by Oliver Frank

Today was a public holiday here in Australia. 26th January is known to some as Australia Day, to others as Invasion Day. A day of celebration for some, for others, a day of mourning and/or activism- acknowledging the past and present injustices to the indigenous peoples of this country- for others still, simply a welcome time off from work.

Today, I didn’t celebrate, but thoughts of injustices were on my mind. There are gaps in health, mortality, education, social inclusion, services- you name it, there is a gaping hole that divides the original custodians of this land from its other inhabitants. I was not going to write about it, until an email from a friend inspired me to share some words, a quote attributed to Lilla Watson, although she prefers to see it attributed to ‘Aboriginal activist’s group, Queensland, 1970s’.

If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.

But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

I love the quote, as ‘help’ is too often about making the ‘helper’ feel good without an understanding of what is really needed- be it a government initiative, or the voluntary act of an individual. The alternative is acknowledging the other person’s humanity and seeing that we need one another- a good place to start- with a paradigm shift still needed, some 40 odd years after those words were spoken, and 228 years since the arrival of the First Fleet.

 

26/01/2017: This was first published on 26th January 2016. It is still relevant a year on. Prison populations, education, employment and morbidity and mortality rates have not made any forward leaps for positive change. This time around though, I am not merely a saddened spectator but playing a small part in change by participating in a Reconciliation Action Plan working group at my place of work.

26/01/2018: A year on and the sentiments and their cause remain. I am still part of the Reconciliation Action Plan group at work, but now with a more formalised role, representing my business group. I haven’t personally made any tangible steps toward the RAP but I have clarity now in what I can contribute, following a seminar I attended on Aboriginal Water Values in late 2017. It is sometimes overwhelming to see injustice and not know where or how to make a difference- but what better way than in one’s area of expertise and circle of influence? I will focus on ways to ensure that cultural values of water are a factor in water management decisions. Without elaborating on the seminar that I found inspiring and how water is intrinsic to indigenous culture, I will leave you with a trailer for the documentary ‘Ringbalin’ which I saw for the first time at the seminar.

Ringbalin Trailer from Ringbalin on Vimeo.

 

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