ON IN­DIGE­NOUS IDEN­TITY AND JUST WHAT IT MEANS IN ‘MOD­ERN’ AUS­TRALIA.

GQ (Australia) - - GQ INC. - STAN GRANT

There’s one image I can­not cleanse from my mind: it’s seared into the dark­est part of me. It is of a 10-year-old girl who took her own life. I have a daugh­ter – I re­mem­ber her at 10; long, lus­trous dark hair, learn­ing to ride her bike, throw­ing her arms around her Dad, gig­gling with her friends. I re­mem­ber pick­ing her up from school, jump­ing into the back seat bub­bling with the ex­cite­ment of the day. She has grown to be a con­fi­dent, beau­ti­ful young woman with the world be­fore her. My daugh­ter has lived a life de­nied this other lit­tle girl. They have lived in the same coun­try; a gen­er­a­tion apart but from such to­tally dif­fer­ent worlds. Like my daugh­ter, the lit­tle girl was In­dige­nous, con­nected to an an­ces­try rooted in this con­ti­nent and deep in tra­di­tion. But while my daugh­ter has grown proud of her her­itage and se­cure in her place in the world; the other lit­tle girl could not face an­other day of life in a coun­try that is in so many ways the envy of the world: pros­per­ous, free, co­he­sive and tol­er­ant. The girl com­mit­ted sui­cide in a remote cor­ner of Western Aus­tralia. She was one of more than a dozen In­dige­nous peo­ple to take their own lives in that part of the coun­try in just three months. She re­minded us that In­dige­nous kids un­der the age of 15 are up to 10 times more likely to kill them­selves than non-in­dige­nous Aus­tralians. She was born into a world of sta­tis­tics; damn­ing num­bers that tell us Abo­rig­i­nals and Tor­res Strait Is­landers die 10 years younger than other Aus­tralians, fill up our pris­ons, live in over­crowded hous­ing and suf­fer dis­eases thought long gone from our coun­try. When I heard the news of the girl’s death, I felt a pro­found fail­ure. What good are all the words I speak? What dif­fer­ence does it make to write of such things? When I go home to my priv­i­leged sub­ur­ban life what do I do to ease the suf­fer­ing of those I would call my own? We spend bil­lions of dol­lars each year on In­dige­nous pro­grams: for what? For a lit­tle girl to sur­ren­der to mis­ery? We can blame racism, or dis­pos­ses­sion and coloni­sa­tion – but then what? Be­tween my daugh­ter’s life and the sad short life of a lost, lonely girl in Western Aus­tralia, is a world of pos­si­bil­i­ties; a world of op­por­tu­ni­ties. My fam­ily is born of the same dis­pos­ses­sion, my an­ces­tors suf­fered from in­jus­tice, were rounded up and forced on to re­serves and mis­sions, had their chil­dren re­moved, were locked up in pris­ons, saw their lan­guage si­lenced, knew too many cold and hun­gry nights. But we sur­vived. As the walls of seg­re­ga­tion fell, we emerged from the dark­ness into an Aus­tralia where we de­manded equal­ity and jus­tice and fought for a place in this coun­try. My an­ces­tors fought in this coun­try’s wars and came home de­ter­mined not to ac­cept a life on the mar­gins. They suf­fered in­dig­nity and stared down racism. They took what work they could find, found homes in town and walked their kids with pride to schools they were once banned from. To­day, we are grad­u­at­ing more In­dige­nous stu­dents from uni­ver­si­ties than ever be­fore. We have lawyers, doc­tors, ar­chi­tects and teach­ers; we are run­ning small busi­ness, we are plumbers and elec­tri­cians and car­pen­ters. The In­dige­nous mid­dle class is grow­ing faster – much faster – than the com­pa­ra­ble white mid­dle class. They are chal­leng­ing the no­tions of In­dige­nous iden­tity and push­ing open the bound­aries of what it is to be an Aus­tralian. We live in a world that is more con­nected than ever be­fore. To­day, for the first time in hu­man his­tory more peo­ple live in cities than in ru­ral ar­eas. It is a world where bor­ders are being erased even as we strug­gle with the idea of what it is to be a global cit­i­zen. My dream for any In­dige­nous child is that they can live in this world with the best of our cul­ture and open to the best of other cul­tures, too. We can re­mem­ber our his­tory but not be chained to it. We can fight against in­jus­tice but not lose the joy of liv­ing. I wish the lit­tle girl could have met my daugh­ter.

Wool-blend jacket, $949, and wool turtleneck, $249, both by BOSS at David Jones.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.