By Pamela Nathan
Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
It is a poignant end to a week that began with last Friday’s horrific act of violence and hatred against people practicing their Muslim faith. No, it wasn’t an attack on the Muslim community. It was an attack on humanity and our entire community – New Zealand and Australian.
It was a week that has been peppered with reports on calls for Indigenous youth suicide to be declared an “urgent national health priority”, with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) calling on our political leaders to launch a “coordinated crisis response” and invest in Aboriginal-led strategies “before more young lives are tragically lost”. https://www.smh.com.au/healthcare/leaders-urged-to-declare-aboriginal-child-suicides-a-national-crisis-20190319-p515fh.html
It was a week where the Djab Warrung people’s desperate battle to prevent trees of great cultural significance from being removed to make way for an expanding highway came to a head. The standoff between the ‘Djab Warrung protectors’ and bulldozers continues today. https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/article/2019/03/19/isnt-over-djab-wurrung-protectors-increase-presence-police-stand-down
It has also been a week when, for the first time, the High Court placed a financial valuation on First Australians’ cultural and spiritual connection to the land, with a ruling to provide compensation for the unlawful loss of this connection. https://www.theage.com.au/national/high-court-paves-way-for-billions-in-native-title-compensation-20190313-p513sc.html
This article, published on the ABC, provides practical, useful ideas on ‘how to be a good ally to those who feel marginalised’. Please take the time to read this article. Yes, we can all make a difference – for worse or for better. https://www.abc.net.au/life/after-christchurch-how-to-be-a-good-ally-to-the-marginalised/10911252?fbclid=IwAR2lMz4aG9TF_89outS4HQ3YzCIlm3ZZ4ouJWLDhjC-85y0Auux_0aexGzU
The effects of racism reverberate through our entire community. When we can sit together, listen to one another, and try to understand, we can find new possibilities for a future, together.
Let us support the Uluru Statement from the Heart. The First Nation people have clearly said they want a Makarrata Commission that can herald a Treaty, Truth Telling and Justice. The foundations of Australia have been built on Terra Nullius. Australia remains a country of racial discrimination until such time that the First Nation people, the original inhabitants on their ancestral lands, are granted their rightful Treaty. The past has a living presence and racism is the lived experience of many in ordinary life. The horror and trauma of discrimination will only be stopped if we accept individual responsibility for never allowing it to go unchallenged. Australians need to hear and stand up for the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the government needs to implement the Makarrata Commission. To heal the racial wounds which have haemorrhaged and scarred the ancestral lands we need to, in the words of Alexis Wright (2009) from the musical performance Dirtsong, ‘bring the country back’ and to ‘settle down country’. She writes about the “crying shame to see the country like this”:
Listen for the heartbeat.
The heartbeat now—with the pulse of the land,
The bird; the tree; the grass and the wind
Bringing it up.
Dry country some places now
I don’t know if we will get rain soon.
Who will make it rain?
Some of them old people passed away now,
You know the rainmakers.
They been make it rain.
Make it rain and the country come back.
You got to look after the rainmakers.
People need to listen
The wind blows strong
Through the tree it blows
Come visiting you
Spirit talking to you
It comes in dreams
You can hear it too
We are made the same, you and I.
Hot wind bringing the goose
Referenced in ‘Walk in my tracks‘ by Pamela Nathan