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Mob: Free


I would like to take the opportunity of this platform to spread awareness of the deeply rooted racism that is embedded in Australian culture towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

During my life I have been on both sides of privilege and oppression and whilst I cannot speak for everyone, I can spread awareness based on my experiences. Please acknowledge that this is addressed to the people who constantly join in on the racial profiling of Indigenous people and that I do not intend on depicting everyone as such a person.

I am a proud Anaiwan woman with my mob originating in beautiful Anaiwan country near the Armidale/Nundle region in NSW. Despite my physical attributes, I didn’t question who I was or where I was from until I was around 9 years old.

At this time, I lived with my father who was a proud Indigenous man who unfortunately passed away at the age of 33. The emotional turmoil I experienced at this age was suffocating and my struggle with mental illness was prevalent from this point onward.

I moved away from my father’s family which made connecting to my culture difficult as I did not have aunts, uncles or elders to pass on our ancestral stories which left me feeling very lost. I was relocated 4 hours away from my hometown and had to focus on making new connections, navigating school and transitioning into a completely different family life. It was here when I first started experiencing the racism that is embedded into Australian culture.

When I started at my new school I was treated like any other student, nevertheless when my school mates discovered that I was Indigenous I started getting treated very differently.

“You can’t be Aboriginal, you’re white.” “You must be like what… 1/18th?”

These comments were coming from primary school children. How did the idea that being Aboriginal meant you needed to be dark in skin tone be so prevalent amongst primary school children? Peoples’ attitude toward me after finding out where I came from was like whiplash.

From here on out I continually questioned who I was and if my cultural heritage was real. I struggled with the idea that I could or couldn’t be an Indigenous person because of the way I looked. I was always searching for someone to validate who I was and I always searched for my father’s presence to ask for answers to all of my questions.

When I got to high school the comments got worse. “You’re just ticking the box that says Aboriginal right?” or “what free stuff do you get because of that box?”. People were so quick to throw away my culture and question my integrity as an individual because I identified as an Indigenous woman with white skin and green eyes.

As you can imagine, it didn’t get any easier when I went into the workforce after high school. I was called a “boonga”, asked if I “sniffed petrol”, constantly asked to “prove my Aboriginality” and have been told that I was “painted the wrong colour”.

I used to let these comments go, laugh it off and pretend like it didn’t affect me because it was something that was accepted by wider society. It became so normal to demoralise my identity as a result of comments that I now understand are baseless and historically exhausted.

I have lived in constant fear that someone would take my culture away from me. That I didn’t deserve to be who I was because of what I looked like. That my ancestors would be ashamed of me and agree with the claims that these people were making against me. I was so lost.

It wasn’t until I had a conversation with a strong Gamilaroi woman that my perspective about my Indigeneity changed. I asked her if I was ever going to be able to be an elder and if my children would ever be recognised as Aboriginal because of the adopted view that Indigenous lines will cease.

This woman who I look up to with respect and admiration said to me “this idea that you have is so whitewashed and incorrect, being Indigenous isn’t as much about blood anymore, colonialism made sure of that, being Indigenous is who you are, its what’s inside you and it’s what you choose to pass on to your family. You will be an aunty and so the hell will I.”

I didn’t realise until this point that my own idea of my Aboriginality had been so influenced and tainted by the white perspective of what being Indigenous should be. My identity had been so influenced by the racist remarks that I had experienced from a young age which I never escaped from until that moment.

I am through with sitting down and being quiet about comments that are made on a daily basis within this country to many young Indigenous Australians. I am done letting people decide who I am based on skin colour. I am done sitting down and letting people walk all over others because of the dated and disgusting idea that to be Aboriginal you need to have a particular look or skin colour.

You don’t get to choose. You don’t get to decide the way we think, feel or act on our culture. You don’t get to decide if we’re so-called ‘half-caste’ or ‘quarter caste’. People like to play on our culture and judge our integrity about whether we are actually Indigenous or not. Do you really think this is the way we wanted it to be? Do you think that if we had the choice to live the way our ancestors lived, we wouldn’t take it? People say that being Indigenous is just a box that we tick to get all of the ‘free stuff’. It’s YOU who put us in that box. It was colonisation that required there to be a box in the first place.

Next time you speak to an Indigenous person have a think about the cultural struggle they experienced based on many years of oppression and deeply rooted racism that is still ridiculously prevalent in Australian society. Think about the intergenerational trauma we experience and the genocide that our people faced. Our Aboriginality is not up to you.

To the young Indigenous Australians who have experienced this, I hear you. I feel your pain and I fight alongside you. Your voice is valued and it is important. I hope this world is kinder to you and that you find your place within our culture. You are your ancestors’ dreams and they are so proud of you. To the ignorant who have perpetrated this, understand that it is unacceptable to make comments like the ones mentioned above and that your opinion on other people’s cultural background and heritage is completely irrelevant. Please understand that you’re further damaging Indigenous people’s identity and there is no excuse for racism. This isn’t a joke, it never has been. To the allies, thank you for supporting Indigenous people in whatever capacity that may be. You’re an important part of Australian society and only with your constant support can we truly step forward together and make a difference.

Keep fighting that deadly fight.

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