To write about the Uluru statement is to tread carefully.
So many years of divisiveness, misinformation; territorial and cultural war.
But, rather than feel the tension of conflict, I’m always struck by the lack of it. The heavy inertia of avoidance and therefore ignorance.
So, with trepidation, a request.
Don’t avoid it. Read the Uluru statement of last month. Every sentence. Take the time to consider how it can be expressed in cultural change. Don’t jump to conclusions or listen to the bias of others.
Because, it isn’t that complex. And no, I am not naïve.
“We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.”
If I say, ‘native warrior’, images of feathers, bows, arrows and totem poles appear in the mind’s eye.
With them, associations of bravery, natural vigour, resistance, spirituality and wisdom.
Lone Wolf. Geronimo. Red Cloud. Crazy Horse. Sitting Bull. Pocahontas.
Do you know the stories of Windradyne, Yangar, Pemulwuy, Jandamarra and Multuggerah?
We all should. And not as stories of desperate and futile resistance before an inevitable force of civilisation. Not the picture of primitivism vs sophistication. No.
These are stories of strong, brave people driven to violence in defence of sustenance, family and culture. No different to those heroes of 20th century wars etched into school child memory for lifelong recall.
“[Windradyne] is one of the finest looking natives we have seen in this part of the country. He is not particularly tall, but is much stouter and more proportionably [sic] limbed than the majority of his countrymen; which, combined with a noble looking countenance, and piercing eye, are calculated to impress the beholder with other than disagreeable feelings towards a character who has been so much dreaded by the Bathurst settler. Saturday is, without doubt, the most manly black native we have ever beheld—a fact pretty generally acknowledged by the numbers that saw him.” – December 1824, the Sydney Gazette. ‘Saturday’ was the name given to Windradyne by early European settlers.
I was taught about so many explorers of vast landscapes but no custodians of vast landscapes.
Our ‘founding forefathers’ were not confused, scared European settlers – they were the Aboriginal elders. Women and men who looked in disbelief at the destruction of the land they had nurtured and maintained for millennia.
Name an Australian vegetable.
“Millions of murnong or yam all over the plain,” said an early Victorian settler.
Now yam can hardly be found. What happened to it? When sheep were introduced, they dug up the tubers with their noses and trampled the soil so that it no longer allowed regrowth. After 1859, the rabbit accelerated its disappearance.
A sweet, delicious food source now only shows up on menus as an exotic dish. To be tried but not trusted.
Even in its highest form, we so often parade Aboriginal culture as a trashy tourist souvenir.
Consciously ignorant, we answer the innocent questions of visitors to our cities defensively, with deflection and dismissal.
How would it feel to talk with intelligence and confidence about our history? Not as black and white. As OUR history.
We are all part of each other’s stories. You have to acknowledge that you can’t have one story without the other, they’re all important if you want to have peace.” – Archie Roach, Dumbo Feather #50
Among other meanings, Makarrata stands for ‘the restoration of peace after a dispute’.
Conflict ends when people free themselves of that base desire to fight or control, and listen to one another’s story.
I support a Makarrata Commission as a trusted guide to tell an inspiring truth.