Growing up in Australia, I had no idea what an Aboriginal person looked like. There was a boy in one of the parallel classes who was brown, but not with facial features similar to mine, and I remember thinking as a child, ‘is that an Aborigine’? Many years later, while on exchange in France, I introduced myself as an Australian and a Frenchman asked me whether I was Aboriginal.
When my other Australian and New Zealander friends laughed, he realised his mistake and tried to cover it up by saying it was because I look like Cathy Freeman
For either 6 year old me or my 23 year old friend, the common denominator was ignorance. There is such little talked about Indigenous rights, current affairs, or history that it sometimes becomes impossible to know unless you look for it. For my five years of primary education in Australia, I really don’t remember much attention given to talking about Indigenous people at all. This is devastating, of course, because it is an on-going struggle and one that is gaining momentum in a remarkable way. The right groups are doing innovative, astounding things such as:
- Assertion of sovereignty through activism, establishment of the Tent Embassy established in 1972, and rallying for signing a Treaty
- The Twitter handle @IndigenousXLtd that rotates users, providing a social media platform for a variety of Indigenous scholars, activists, and artists.
- Overtaking the mainstream Australia Day parade in Melbourne with a peaceful protest.
- Community-based efforts to overcome the education gap such as the Stronger Smarter Institute.
That’s only to name a few.
If you’d like a really quick read about the choice of name for January 26th – whether Australia Day, Invasion Day, or Survival Day – read this article. For me, as a minority Australian, this article helped me understand and articulate my role in standing in solidarity with Indigenous Australians today. But most of all, the following video produced by National Indigenous TV explains succinctly what Survival Day really means and how powerful this name and day is.