These are various questions I have been asked about the whole idea of ‘Sorry” over the years. Some of the answers are what I have said, others what I should have said, and some others I probably shouldn’t have said, but I did; so, you know… sorry about that.
Q. “Why should I be sorry for what my ancestors did?”
Trigger Warning: This article contains personal stories of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.
My story of ongoing survivorship of mental health issues is not unique. There is no triumphant victory at the end of this article. My personal history which I have chosen to share has no miraculous breakthroughs, no Hollywood ending of a woman having a road to Damascus moment, there is no phoenix rising from the ashes in this intimate account.
By now everyone is or should be aware that RDH left Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu to die from a chronic illness he has suffered since childhood. He had vomited blood, had internal bleeding and required immediate surgery and yet he was forced to wait 8 hours before he was attended to in which time he could have quite easily died. There are allegations that he was either racially profiled or that the hospital is completely incompetent. “The racial profiling allegations were “completely ridiculous”, said hospital spokesman Professor Dinesh Arya.” So we will have to assume that the professor while dismissing the racial component is admitting to the complete incompetence because no hospital in Australia should be leaving any person vomiting blood to wait 8 hours to be cared for.
But there are signs Professor Dinesh Arya’s denials about racism being involved are also wrong, Gurrumul’s long time manager Mark Grosse sighted the notes made by hospital staff that essentially stated he was a “drinker” and well you do the math. Professor Arya claims he visited Gurrumul, although this is denied by his manager as Gurrumul does not remember the visit, nor do the ward’s staff and Gurrumul’s Specialist also sighted the suspect notes. Mr Grosse paraphrases those notes as “It clearly says to me that he is Aboriginal, as a result of heavy drinking his conditions has developed. He’s unlikely to survive, therefore not sure really if any action is needed, that’s the message essentially in his notes”.
That slogan is decades old, and it’s meaning hints at white Australia’s long standing reluctance to meaningfully acknowledge Aboriginal people and perspectives in the telling of our national history. Earlier this year a person wearing a shirt with this slogan on it was forced to turn it inside out before being allowed to enter Parliament House. Apparently this seemingly obvious concept is still perceived as threatening to the white Australian ideal of this land being ‘settled in peace and not war’.
Earlier this week, our most recent former PM went to great lengths to rewrite his own history in an article for Quadrant, and although he didn’t mention the words ‘Aboriginal’ or ‘Indigenous’ whatsoever in his article, he did manage to include the line that ““Unlike France or Britain, we lack a colonial past to complicate the present,” – this was just the latest in a long line of similar comments from Abbott in denying the existence of Aboriginal people (“Nothing but bush”) and the realities of invasion (“a form of foreign investment”).
Today is Invasion Day for my people, officially known as Australia Day, an anniversary of the day when white Australia began its occupation of this country and commenced its mass genocide of the first peoples of this land. There isn’t much I can say that hasn’t already been said by countless others, but I grow tired of and frustrated by the relentless calls for our silence about this countries horrific history; particularly at this time of year.
One thing I enjoy about being framed as an ‘Indigenous writer’ is that I don’t have to pretend that I’m trying to be objective. Even if I made every effort to do so not many people would believe it anyway as Indigeneity is perceived as a form of inherent bias, whereas whiteness brings with it at least the potential to feign objectivity.
I think some journalists probably try their best to be objective, those who are acutely aware of their inherent biases would be those best placed to reach a point vaguely resembling objectivity.
If there was one thing we needed more of in the discussion on Constitutional Recognition for Indigenous people, it was the centring of the voices of wealthy, conservative white men. The entire discussion on CR has been missing the voices of conservative white men and what they think on a topic which is going to have very little impact on their lives. And no conservative white male voice has been sidelined more on this topic than that of Andrew Bolt. What with his regular News Limited column, his blog, his TV show and his radio appearances, poor Andrew has been struggling for space to elucidate why he thinks Indigenous recognition would be racist. Therefore, I think it’s wonderful that the ABC have sought to rectify this travesty, and have engaged Bolt on their documentary series I Can Change Your Mind About Recognition and give him the platform he’s truly been lacking.
The past week has seen a continuation and an escalation of terror. Attacks of terror and counter-attacks of terror have hit numerous countries, leaving hundreds dead, thousands of friends and family members in mourning, and many around the world feeling lost, fearful, hurt, confused, and looking for something, anything, to ‘do’ in response to all of it.
I don’t “feel” Australian. I don’t ever identify as just “Australian”. I don’t sing the anthem. I don’t wave the flag and don’t really care when I see someone burning it. I don’t feel proud on Australia Day. I don’t eat lamb chops. Frankly, I don’t particularly care for the people who do all the aforementioned. Indeed, a good portion of the time, I tend to view them with disdain and frustration.