Friday, August 14, 2015

The Uluru Bark Petition - They don't speak for me

Today, thanks to the power of social media, I have come across this despicable act. I am so angry about it that I feel compelled to write something in the 20 minutes I have remaining in my lunch break. The above photo is what has been called the "Uluru Bark Petition" and it has been presented to government much to the gleeful hand-rubbing of the Liberal Party and particularly Senator Abetz. He has praised the group - which apparently contains about 30 people - for rallying to protect "traditional marriage" claiming that the campaign for same-sex marriage; which he believes wrongfully has only been around for about ten years; cannot hold up against several millennia of tradition. 

There are several reasons I am incensed to see this petition, and I will go into them shortly. First and most importantly though, it's because the Arrernte are named as being one of the groups of which support has been derived for this petition. I am Arrernte and I say plainly and clearly that THESE PEOPLE DO NOT SPEAK FOR ME. Indeed, I strongly doubt that they speak for many, if any, of the groups they have named and the fact that they have named these groups is a rude and despicable act. They have not consulted, they have not polled and they have certainly not discussed widely. They have claimed authority on this stance while having none and I am so offended by their actions that I am calling it out. 

I have seen some "Stockholm Syndrome" stuff in my time in activism, but this really stands out. And it is news to me from an Arrernte perspective that marriage between a man and a woman is tradition and that other forms of marriage would be an affront. Last I checked, traditional marriage in Arrernte customs tended to include polygyny as well as monogamous pairings and certainly, we were not unique in this across the country. Polygyny, as opposed to the broader "polygamy" is the marriage of one man to several women. So this "tradition" that the signatories, that Brandis and that the media are crowing about - does it stretch to include actual traditions or are we conveniently overlooking some practices in order to be compliant and in accordance with the wishes of our oppressors?

I am not a supporter of marriage in general. In fact, I would sooner abolish the marriage act entirely and throw the definition of partnership wide open so that consenting adults would have the right to register and get recognised whatever relationship they are in AND be treated with complete dignity in our society. I'm not going to win that argument any time soon though. What I don't stand for ever though is homophobia, and particularly the legislated homophobia which was written into the Marriage Act by the Howard government. I therefore want this removed and I want marriage equality to become a reality in this country. I don't stand for the homophobia contained within this bark petition and I stand with all the people fighting to make marriage equality a reality in this country. I also do not align with the despicable views of Pastor Walker and call on him to retract his stated views that “This is a cultural initiative, it is not a Christian initiative" as this clearly is not the case.



A Facebook site calling themselves "The Marriage Alliance" posted the below photo on their page. When I responded by posting a link to this blog, I was banned from the page within three seconds. Check out the language used in it. I'd go out on a limb and say it is almost worse.

Update 18/8/15: I have started a petition. Please sign it here

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Adam Goodes and the case of Jack Sultan-Page - a guest post by Daniel Jack

Hi all. I've taken the rare move of posting up something written by someone else on my blog. I had the privilege of meeting Dan - a proud Gomeroi man - through my brother Joel many years ago as they were part of the same intake for an Indigenous Cadetship Programme. Since then, Dan has become somewhat of an unofficially adopted brother. He wrote up this on Facebook the other day, and because I thought it was fantastic, I've asked if I can republish it on my blog. I hope some of the points he has made hit home for some. Thanks, Dan. I'm very proud to know you - CL  


                                                                                          Image credit: SBS

Adam Goodes is being booed as a result of him standing up to racism and being proud in himself, his identity and his culture. People did not have an issue with him until he started using his position to highlight some of the issues that Aboriginal people are faced with due to a history of oppression and ongoing inequality. Even worse he showed pride in his identity on national TV.

The Aboriginal dance he had the audacity to do within the AFL Indigenous Round incorporates some components of the traditional welcoming rituals some Aboriginal groups have practised for thousands of years. Take for instance, the Ngemba welcome dance. A dance that has continued to be passed down to Aboriginal people around Brewarrina since time immemorial. A dance that I have been privileged enough to be taught to perform. This theatrical dance includes the stalking of new visitors to country. The staunch Aboriginal warrior gradually gets closer to the visitors, trying to determine their intentions. He has his chest raised to give the illusion that he is bigger than he really is. He singles out one visitor and focuses all of his attention on them. The look in his eyes is intense and penetrating. He continues the stalk forward and then lunges at the visitor with the spear. With precision the spear comes to an abrupt halt just centimetres away from the visitors flesh. Upon seeing no visible threat from the visitor the warrior takes a step back, breaks the spear over his own leg and then provides it as a gift to the visitor. The spear rendered useless. The broken spear becomes a symbol of friendship, an acknowledgement that that visitor has shown humility and respect and is willing to act in an appropriate manner on the land that they are visiting. 

Fortunately Adam’s spear was imaginary as the majority of the Carlton crowd behind the goals would not have passed the ‘good intentions test’ in my view. Although Adam’s dance was a little different, the crowd had the unique opportunity to participate in this ongoing tradition. It was a gift Adam gave to the crowd, an imaginary piece of this spear. A symbol of solidarity… people coming together to respectfully cheer on their team whilst honouring the contribution Aboriginal players and culture make to our nation. Once again it was the Indigenous AFL round.

Unfortunately, people were too quick to put their backs up against the wall and miss the genuine opportunity of friendship that comes with acceptance and understanding. These people had the opportunity to embrace this experience. It is potentially a memory they could reminisce fondly about in years to come. They are in the enviable position of being able to sit their grandchildren on their lap and tell them “I was there.” Instead they chose to be offended because they didn’t understand it. 

Back to humility and respect, these are two values that are intricately interwoven together to form the fabric of Australian Aboriginal culture. Unfortunately these are also values that are fundamentally missing from the mainstream Australian culture. This combined with a lack of historical knowledge around Aboriginal people and history makes racism flourish in this country.

A large percentage of Australian people are not tolerant to difference and do not respect Aboriginal people, identity or culture. There are obviously exceptions to this. But in general, Aboriginal people are only admired for the physical skill we display in the sporting arena. We shouldn’t talk about the past, its current effect and ongoing issues. The only thing worthy that happened in the past was the ANZAC’s, just forget the rest; it happened ‘ages ago.’ Aboriginal identity is something for Caucasian people to put Aboriginal people into sub-categories based on their own view of Aboriginal identity. It’s not something we should be allowed to use to empower ourselves with. Aboriginal culture is only something to be exploited and flaunted to the world at events like the Olympics opening ceremony and for carpetbaggers to make millions off at the expense of Aboriginal artists. Aboriginal people shouldn’t practice this savagery, let alone be proud of it.

How dare Adam be proud of who he is! How dare he make the masses uncomfortable and have the inconvenience of being reminded that the wealth of this nation is a direct consequence of the dispossession of Aboriginal people. How dare he highlight that there are still Aboriginal people living in this country in third world conditions who have diseases that have been long eradicated in all other first world nations. Just kick the ball Adam, do what they pay you for.
Not to mention the negative role the mainstream media plays in reinforcing these negative views and providing platforms for pompous, privileged Caucasian men like Eddie McGuire and Alan Jones to be racial vilification subject matter experts. These are people who have never experienced discrimination in their lives and think that they are best positioned to tell people how and when they should be offended. Have they ever been racially vilified just going about their day to day lives? This is a day to day occurrence for many Aboriginal people. For instance, my mother in law was recently racially abused walking through the mall in Mackay. She was walking on the lower level when someone three levels above felt the need to scream down to her that she was a ‘boong.’ Disgraceful behaviour that is unfortunately commonly part of the Australian way, hating on anyone who is different. This is happening from the top down with our politicians constantly using fear for their own agenda. 

The blatant racism on display here is only part of the story. The fact is that institutionalised racism is rife in this country. In 1799 two Aboriginal boys were killed near Windsor by five Hawkesbury River settlers. They were dragged through a fire and one was beaten to death whilst the other was thrown into a river and shot for target practice. A court martial found them guilty but the Acting-Governor King was eventually instructed to pardon the men. Yes this was in 1799 but have things changed? One only has to look as far as the current case of the hit and run of 8 year old Aboriginal boy Jack Sultan-Page and see that justice is not a dish served equal. A Caucasian driver, high on drugs struck a young Aboriginal boy with his car, sped from the scene and went to lengths to hide his crime. As a consequence he was dealt the harsh punishment of 6 months home detention and a $2,090 fine. Surely Jack’s parents should be liable for the damage to his car? 

As long as there continues to be inequality in this nation, people who are in a position to hold people accountable should. I commend Adam Goodes for standing up for our people, being proud of who he is and for putting our culture back in the forefront where it belongs.

‪#‎justiceforliljack‬ ‪#‎goodes‬ ‪#‎adamgoodes‬ ‪#‎IStandWithAdam‬
Please sign the following petition to hold Jack’s killer accountable: