Why we need to #ChangeTheNation

20 Jan 2020

It is evident that Australia has no shortage of black expertise and leaders. What Australia does lack is the ability to centre these voices and leaders where we need them the most; in our policies, education, health and legal systems. Changing the date will not achieve anything while the nation itself is what needs to change.

Shira

Every year I find January to be a month riddled with anxiety, ignorance and blatant racism. ‘Australia Day’ is the highlight of the month for so many Australians and my reaction is one of trauma and fear. I force myself to limit social media and don’t read the comments section on posts discussing January 26, mostly from mainstream media outlets. It’s triggering and the vitriol that is spewed is hurtful and degrading.

Admittedly, I have jumped on board the #changethedate movement over the past few years but after numerous discussions with my Aboriginal family members and friends, I recognise that we need more. I feel that changing the date would be tokenistic without genuine acknowledgement of and investment in rectifying the continued oppression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in this country. I am fully aware of the complex issues experienced by our communities and how this forces our country’s governments to file it in the ‘too hard basket’ but we have to start somewhere

It is evident that Australia has no shortage of black expertise and leaders. What Australia does lack is the ability to centre these voices and leaders where we need them the most; in our policies, education, health and legal systems.

If I were to dream of the ideal Australia it would look a little something like this:

  • The true and factual history of how Australia was invaded, not settled, would be taught to every child attending school – sovereignty never ceded!
  • Indigenous knowledge and values systems would be acknowledged, prioritised and integrated to ensure country continues to be cared for appropriately whilst we as Indigenous people thrive in all areas of society with our cultural capital at the heart
  • Our culture would be celebrated. Not in the tokenistic once a year for NAIDOC way. Celebrated in that our ceremonies and uniqueness is understood and acknowledged by all
  • Indigenous leaders would be at the forefront of any government led policy or initiative in Australia. As First Nations people and custodians of nations across Australia, our voices and expertise NEED to be centred. All policies and decisions have an effect on our lands and us as First Nations people.

It frustrates me that in 2020 we are still asking for the same things that our Elders and ancestors have been asking before us. I could give you my extensive wish list point by point but let’s keep it simple.

Acknowledgement. Truth. Respect. Voice.

Acknowledge the violent history on how this country was ‘settled’. You don’t need to be proud of it but you do need to be honest.

Tell the truth about the current state of this country. The continued oppression that leads to overrepresentation in jails, out of home care and alarmingly high suicide rates. The destruction of our natural resources for profit. The systemic racism present within our government, education, legal and health systems.

To genuinely move forward and progress, respect our knowledge and systems. Take a step back and provide space for Indigenous knowledge to be centralised. In doing so, we would see an Australia that prioritises culture, wellbeing and connection over money, power and greed.

First Nations voices have shaped and cared for country for more than 80,000 years. We as Aboriginal people operate from a collectivist perspective. Everything we strive toward is for the betterment of mob. We don’t operate in isolation; it’s not our way. Our voices need to be prioritised and considered when making decisions that impact not just us as First Nations people, but our fellow Australians and country.

How do we make this happen? How can we as a country truly come together to change the nation? I thought about writing upbeat, optimistic, fluffy buzzwords about ‘reconciliation’ but I am tired. I am tired of being expected to play nice and fall in line just to be given an inch. We are expected to continuously extend the olive branch and to be honest, our arms are tired. I strongly believe that we need to dismantle the current oppressive system, aka the government, and start again. But, we can’t do this alone. It is no secret that that we are only 3% of the Australian population. We need you Australia. We need non-Indigenous Australians to step up and become our allies in the pursuit of what we convey is needed to overcome the oppressive history that continues to this day Speak out against racism, oppression, discrimination and the destruction of our lands. Listen and learn from us by engaging in real, sometimes uncomfortable conversation. Be inclusive within your every day environments including the workplace, educational institutions, sporting clubs. The road to changing the nation is long and I want to see us, as First Nations people, come together to set the pace with our non-Indigenous allies by our side. The current state of the country, we have so much more to gain than lose. Let’s be on the right side of history and be active in creating a nation that we can all be proud of. We owe it to our Ancestors. We owe it to our Elders. We owe it to ourselves and those that will come after us.

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