ALLASTASSIA CARTER | REGULARS
Couldn't care less 'bout the monarch Ima set fire to the kingdom
I'm coming for them
All hail to blak matriarchs
Barkaa (Malyangapa and Barkindji artist), Blak Matriarchy
This issue is all about Mums and is a homage to them. But, I'm going to change 'M is for Mom' to 'M is for Matriarch', because, without my matriarchs, I wouldn't be the strong and proud Gamilaraay woman I am today. I wouldn't be walking this planet, or maybe I should say I wouldn't be walking on Aboriginal land as a proud Aboriginal woman without their continuous fight and commitment.
I'm writing to pay homage to the reason behind my presence in this world. I'm not just speaking about my physical presence; I'm also speaking of my spiritual presence, particularly my connection to Country and culture. Physically, my presence in this world involves activism, fighting for change, learning and helping others. My spiritual presence involves my connectedness to culture, Country and ancestors. As I said before, the reason for my presence in this world is my matriarchs. To pay homage, I will take you on a journey of truth-telling; a truth-telling that involves and sheds light on the dark version of our nation's history. The version that the settler-colonial Government wants to hide, dismiss, and whitewash. So, here is the story of one of my matriarchs.
The story of my great-great Grandmother is one of strength, resilience, and hardships. She was born on 3 June 1897 in Ashford to two Aboriginal parents who had many children, some of whom were taken away. She grew up during a time of assimilation, dispossession, segregation and extreme violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. She was forced to live on Pindari Station. Established in 1893, Pindari Station was an area where Aboriginal people were forced to live. It was a 23-acre area along Pindari Creek, between Wellingrove and Nullamanna. Whilst living there, my great-great Grandmother was forced to work for a family as a servant, but the station manager controlled and kept her income.
The wife of the station manager/teacher, Elsie Burrage, wrote letters during her time at the station. She speaks of her previous worries of being lonely but celebrates that she receives visits from the other non-Indigenous people at the station. She further reflects that "the Blacks' houses are in the hollow about ¼ mile off. They are not at all repulsive. I thought they would be".
In a later letter, she describes attending a dance at the station where she speaks of my great-great Grandmother, saying, "One girl had on an evening dress, looked like art muslin. It was bright scarlet, such a pretty shade and trimmed with silver trimming. She happened to be home as the people she was working for had gone for a holiday. She's about 18, but the girls all have gone to go away to work when they are 14".
Elsie Burrage speaks of the station as a pleasant and civil place to live. However, she is viewing the station through the lens of her white settler privilege, the same lens that all colonisers looked through whilst they stole our land, children, and culture, and tried to assimilate us into their 'civilised' white settler society. I would also argue that this white settler lens of privilege and sense of superiority remains present within contemporary so-called 'Australia'. This is clearly evident with the contemporary settler-colonial Government continuing the strategic and active elimination of Indigenous people. It may not be the same as it was throughout the Frontier Wars with the massacres, assimilation, and dispossession. Still, the Government continues to strategically eliminate Indigenous people through the extreme limitations of Native Title, allowing the destruction of sacred sites, police brutality and deaths in custody, the continuing forced removal of our children, and systematic and institutional racism that is deeply embedded within our society.
It's important to make obvious that whilst Elsie Burrage reflected upon her worries of loneliness and living with "the Blacks", my great-great Grandmother was forced to live in a hollow and work as an enslaved person for a white family. We do not know what else happened to Annie and her sisters while living at the station and working. Still, it is essential to shed light on the truth that other Aboriginal women throughout this country were forced to work as domestic servants where they suffered both sexual and physical abuse and were forced to live and work under horrific and inhumane conditions. What I do know is that whilst living at the station and working, my great-great Grandmother's brothers came and broke her and her sisters out of the station and took them to Moree. The brothers then had to change their last names as police hunted them for their 'crime'.
She later married a Swedish man and lived in Moree, where they raised their children. These children would later face the threat of their own children being stolen. If it weren't for my great Grandmother hiding her children and protecting them, my Pop would have been taken. Although my great Grandmother protected my Pop and his siblings from being taken, they were still forced to face extreme racism and attend a school on the Moree mission where they received inadequate education. She also couldn't protect herself from the health inequalities and disadvantages that Aboriginal people face as she passed away in her forties.
This is only a brief story of my great-great Grandmother and a mention of my great Grandmother. These women are only two of my matriarchs who have paved the way for me and are the reason for my presence in this world. I thank my matriarchs for being the reason for my presence in this world and for everything I do.