We shouldn’t have to choose between culture and opportunity

27 Sep 2019

We do not want to have to choose between two worlds, and we do not want our world to keep being misheard and misunderstood. Enough is enough.

Ned Jampijinpa Hargraves

We do not want to have to choose between two worlds, and we do not want our world to keep being misheard and misunderstood.

Enough is enough.

Aboriginal people don’t want to be forced to choose between our way and Western way anymore. We’ve already been there for too long. That was the choice our parents and grandparents had to make, and I don’t want my children and grandchildren to have make that choice too.

We are happy to meet half way, 50/50. We are happy to respect Western culture, but it needs to respect Aboriginal culture too. That means listening to Aboriginal people.

We want to continue to protect our cultures, and we want to manage our own lands and resources. We want to be able to access Western culture in our languages as well as in English.

Our children and our people are struggling to cope in two systems that don’t understand each other and too often come into conflict with each other.

We need to find a way for our two systems to work together.

Aboriginal people who practice culture want to be heard. We want to keep culture strong AND also be able to have our kids go to school, to get a job, and not be forced to choose between culture and opportunity.

We want our way of life acknowledged and incorporated into Australian society. We want to be part of Australian culture. Not just our art put on planes or on buildings, but really a part of Australia. We want all Australians to know whose lands they live on, to know which places are special, to protect the lands that we all live on, and to respect Aboriginal people.

For this to happen Traditional Owners need a strong voice to ensure that misleading impressions of Aboriginal people and culture are addressed.

Some of the things I would like to see include:

Land management to incorporate traditional burn off practices to lower greenhouse gas emissions. This is already in some parts of Australia with great success, but it needs to be happening in more places.

School holidays need to be redesigned to incorporate important ceremonies.

Infrastructure needs to be redesigned to allow for wildlife corridors.

Independent translators to ensure that all members of community are involved in discussions and that agreements are fair – all written agreements between communities and governments or businesses should be written in local Aboriginal languages as well as in English.

These are just examples though, there are many other important issues we need to work out to find a way for us all to exist together and respect each other.

There have been lots of things wrong in the past 200 years. But we need to move forward together. We need to find a way to understand each other. To share our cultures with each other. To share the resources with each other and protect them together, to make sure there is enough to go around for everybody and to ensure that there will be enough for the future.

We have a lot to teach other, and we can all benefit from understanding each other but in order for that to happen Aboriginal voices must be heard. Aboriginal culture must be respected and allowed to coexist with Western systems.

We do not want to have to choose between two worlds, and we do not want our world to keep being misheard and misunderstood.

We are the first peoples of this land. We want to keep our culture.

We want to walk together, but we want to do it the right way.

Listen to Ned tell his story in Warlpiri here:

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