Guest blog by Karen Newkirk
I migrated to Australia with my family in 1961. We were ‘ten-pound poms’ because the Australian government subsidised our passage to Australia. We only had to pay 10 British pounds for our family of 4 to travel to Australia. This is the first and clearest indication of the systemic, institutionalised privilege that I received.
Throughout my childhood and youth, I recognised that I was treated better than Aboriginal people in Australia, which embarrassed me. It felt wrong.
The disadvantage of being born female began in my own family, which may be the origin of my empathy for people who are marginalised. Or it could have been that, we had a beautiful big tree in our back garden and I always felt that there was a spirit in that tree (still so big and proudly standing, not that I live anywhere near it now, but I have visited). The spiritual connection I had with that tree made me feel that it took me under its wing and guided me toward things that are important in this country.
When I was in 5th grade, aged 9 or 10, I distinctly remember my teacher stating, “Actually, Aboriginal people were very badly treated in Australia.”
I don’t know if it was the way she said it that indicated to me that she was deviating from the curriculum in making this proclamation, but it is the only thing that I specifically remember Miss Pisca saying.
From 1984 to 1994 I had the privilege of living on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara land. There I lived and worked as a literacy and numeracy educator to people in their workplaces. I learnt that the people there have a great deal of important knowledge. I also realised that to reach self-determination, which was the government policy at the time and was clearly the desire of the people, the attitudes of non-Indigenous Australians were going to have to change.
I realised that I was teaching the wrong people!
There is significant ignorance on the part of non-Indigenous Australians in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is not surprising since Indigenous Australian knowledge and the history of mistreatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples has been virtually absent from the education system for a very long time.
Exposure to Indigenous Australian knowledge and history is patchy. Still, I believe that there are a lot of non-Indigenous Australians who know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices are valuable, and we know that Indigenous Australians have been wrongly treated for a very long time. So why aren’t more of us speaking up for change?
When Malcolm Turnbull rejected the Uluru Statement from the Heart I was very disappointed. I thought that as a nation we were making progress toward respecting, recognising and listening to Indigenous Australians. For the Australian government to endorse a process of consultation and then reject its outcome is shameful. It also provides a very clear message that the Australian government does not want to listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices. An Indigenous Australian’s Voice is something specific that we can rally for.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a direction provided by Indigenous Australian people calling for specific change and as such, it is a direction that non-Indigenous supporters can follow. To live in a just society, we need Indigenous Australian voices to be heard, and non-Indigenous people have to act to support the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
About my guest blogger:
Born in Sussex, England in 1957. I have a partner of 14 years and between us, we have five lovely kids, five wonderful in-laws and five beautiful grandchildren. My personal vision/mantra is: One world, one humanity; at peace with itself and in harmony with all that is. We have a lot of work to do.
If you would like to subscribe to the Uluru Statment and First Nations Voice campaign you can do so at www.1voiceuluru.org
If you would like to join the Australian-wide campaign team, you can request to join the team on Facebook Here.
Want to know more about the Uluru Statement, then pop over and read my blog: Have You Heard of the Uluru Statement From the Heart? It’s a must-read for anyone new to the Uluru Statment.
Got a story you’d like to share about why you support the Uluru Statment from the Heart and a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice? There’s no time like the present, please contact me today!
Until next time Love, Joy and Peace to you.