By Cally Jetta
The Cronulla Riots were a confronting eye opener for me.
I watched the footage and was shocked at just how easy it was for one idiot on a megaphone to whip up an angry mob already affected by sun and alcohol, and incite them to violence against people on the basis of their ethnicity. The footage that followed was just as disturbing and it forever changed how I felt about the Australian flag.
I’d never been a big fan of the flag, but I accepted the fact that others may not understand why it was offensive to Aboriginal people and that with time and education it would eventually be updated. I felt that Australians flew their flag because they were grateful for the many great things about the country they call home, and I respect that.
That all seemed to change in more recent years – not for everybody of course, but from my perspective the flag started to become synonymous with a bigoted Australia movement that was anti-immigrant and anti-Aboriginal. Bogans whom felt that a mullet and Southern Cross tattoo gave them the right to intimidate those they considered to look, sound and act less than ‘Aussie’.
It started to symbolise exclusion and ignorance towards non-white, non-Australian born citizens.
Our family refer to Australia Day as either Invasion or Survival Day. Both are accurate titles and represent the mixed emotions our mob often feel on this day – sadness and pain; but also pride and hope. Our children wear their Aboriginal flag shirts and usually have their faces painted. Our Aboriginal flag is proudly displayed on our car or front porch.
It’s our way of saying “we are still here and we are proud of who we are.” On several occasions other Australians have taken offence to our flag- they have yelled abuse at us while at traffic lights; thrown beer over it when it was on the back window of the car; and even lectured us on an occasion for being ‘disrespectful’ and ‘divisive’.
I think some people misinterpret Aboriginal people’s pride. They make the assumption that our flag is a threat or deliberate insult to their own. Or, that Aboriginal people are anti-white. Or, that we are not grateful for the positives in our lives.
For me personally none of that is true.
Genuine reconciliation is a dream of course. I’d love to think that one day Aboriginal culture, history and knowledge will take its rightful place in Australian society and that our people will finally feel properly recognised, respected and self-determined.
I am hugely grateful for my beautiful country, for my people and family and for the many non-Aboriginal family and friends in our lives who have made our struggles their own. We are grateful to our ancestors and Elders for surviving so much and for fighting so hard to remove racist policy and inequality and for ensuring our cultural identity and knowledge outlived the attempts to destroy them.
We are grateful for our land, sacred sites, waters, plants and animals.
It would be wonderful if one day we could all celebrate and connect with the unique culture and beauty of this country as well as acknowledge how far we have progressed together as a nation in solidarity. And on a date that does not have painful associations for the nation’s First Peoples.
I don’t think it’s an impossibility.