Friday, 28 June 2013

Fellow Australians, do I have permission to be Aboriginal yet?

In Australia, everyone owns the Aboriginal identity. You would be hard pressed to find someone who does not have an opinion on what it means to be Aboriginal. Everyone, from the Andrew Bolts to ordinary Australians and even newcomers to this country.

Some people still seem to live in the dark ages, where the darker you are, the more Aboriginal you are. We are colour coordinated, our blood quantified and our identity defined in legislation. Everyone is an expert on Aboriginality. Are there any other peoples in Australia whose identity is as debated?

Do Australians regularly discuss what constitutes an American identity?

Do they sit around a dinner table and analyse a particular British persons identity to determine whether they are British enough?

How likely is there to be an Australian newspaper opinion piece, on a Japanese persons right to call themselves Japanese because they are only “part” Japanese?

Discussions like this only happen about Aboriginal identity. It is part of Australians psyche because of a history of Australia defining Aboriginality.

A quick summary of history for those, who discuss our identity but are ignorant to it…Aboriginal people were defined as “savages” and our land declared Terra Nullius. When Australia became a federation, “Aboriginal natives” were not counted as citizen and were classed under the Flora and Fauna Act. We were defined as animals. In NSW those defined as “half-castes” were no allowed to live on government reserves, Aboriginal people in the NT were not allowed to have sex across the colour lines and in all states we are told where to live. All the legislation was based on a white mans version of our identity. Discussed, debated and qualified by the white man.

And in 1967, Aboriginal people were finally counted in the census; finally human rather than animal. Australians finally defining Aboriginal people as human in our own land.

While people continue to question and define our identity around us, Aboriginal people are meant to take it in our stride. Stay calm and “educate” the ignorant masses, so we do not upset them. Educate them so they can decide for themselves who and what we are.

This is my education. To all those people who think they have the right to define Aboriginal peoples identity; to discuss it without thought to how we might feel about it; or thought to how we define ourselves, ENOUGH! We do not have to justify our Aboriginality to anyone…

The only people allowed to define Aboriginality are Aboriginal people. We are the only ones who know what it means to be Aboriginal, the only ones who are experts on Aboriginality. Because we are. We live it. We breathe it. Are.

Find a new topic of conversation. This one does not belong to you.

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