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The end of Innocence

By Cally Jetta

Any parent can relate to the desire to protect their children from hurt and bullying and understand the pain it causes to see your child upset. As parents of Aboriginal children there is an understanding that sooner or later they will encounter racism and come to understand that some will judge them for what they are, rather than who they are.

I think most Aboriginal parents would relate when I say that I dread the day my eldest son discovers the status of our people in this country. Whenever he comes home upset I wait with bated breath for him to tell me he has been called some awful name. Much to my relief this has not yet happened. But it will, there will come a day, a moment in time when he will discover that being Aboriginal has implications and that he won’t necessarily be received by everyone based on who he is, rather than what he is. This may sound paranoid and negative, but it’s true and when that time comes I will help my boy to understand it and deal with it in a constructive way. I guess part of this fear comes from my own realisation as a child in primary school. I know very few kids get through school unscathed, children can be cruel, but the racism adds a whole different dimension to it for us. In my grandparent’s era, ‘coons’ weren’t allowed in public schools. In my parents era there was a zero care factor approach to racism rather than a zero tolerance one. Racism was rife but there was no one to tell, nothing to be done.

For the first few years of school I attended in my home city. I had a large and well-respected family and many of my relatives held important positions in different organisations. There were many Nyoongars at the school, many my cousins. Then we moved to a smaller agricultural town not even an hour drive away and my whole life changed.

We were one of 3 Aboriginal families in the town and it was an uneasy feeling being there. For the first time I felt different, looked down on. I was standing in the line outside of class in year 3 waiting to go inside. A girl next to me asked ‘hey wanna hear a joke my mum told me last night?’ She didn’t wait for a reply. ‘What are Aborigines?’ She asked. Everyone stood silently waiting for her response. ‘Once God has used up all the good stuff he gets rid of the waste, Aborigines are God’s poos’. The class howled with laughter. I felt myself get red hot and I wanted to be anywhere else in the world but there. I can just remember thinking ‘why is she saying this?’

That’s when I got ‘the talk’ at home. Not the birds and bees talk – that came later. The racism and why people say mean things about us talk. The very talk I’m relieved not have had cause for yet.

My son’s school has had me in to teach some language and asks me to participate every NAIDOC, they value diversity and tolerance and I feel confident that if my son was to be the target of an experience like mine, his teacher and the school would address it. Things are changing, slowly but surely, and they will continue to do so, as long as we keep pushing for better.

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  1. Jim B

    Cally, racism is alive and unwell. Look no further than yesterdays Courier Mail cartoon (page 78).
    A Lethbridge cartoon was titled “Angry Anthony Mundine”, with the word ‘Angry’ and the letters ‘Ant’ (in Anthony) in red characters. The cartoon depicted Jeff Horn as a human and Anthony Mundine as an insect. The caption bubble for Horn read “Why yes, we do have unusually noxious and annoying pests in Australia” as he spoke to the USA Media.
    The words ‘degradation’ and ‘MSM’, look different, but
    Words are not nothing, they indicate the intention (in-tension) of the speaker.
    Overcoming the formative brain-washing of our society is not easy but is possible.
    To that end I recommend a book by Mexican author Don Miguel – Four Agreements.

  2. townsvilleblog

    Personally I believe we owe Aboriginal Australians a huge debt, a debt that to this date has not been repaid. The English used Aboriginal Australians as cannon fodder, they massacred them in the thousands, they made slaves of them on cattle stations where the men would be used to muster, while the women would be used to do domestic chores, a history of which we should be absolutely disgusted in our behaviour.
    As time has moved on I have seen growing acceptance since the time when I was a boy in the 1950s/60s til now one of few good things in this 21st century is that Aboriginal Australians have been subject to growing acceptance, and this is only right. These people belong to the oldest living culture on Earth, going back some 50,000 years. I don’t know about you but as soon as I pay for something I assume that it is mine, it must have come as a terrible shock that following 50,000 years of living on this land, suddenly they were dispossessed and slaughtered.
    There is as I say rapidly growing acceptance to the stage now that if an Aboriginal Australian suffered a racial slur the surrounding public would react against the person or persons making that slur. Australia is a multi-cultured country now, but everyone should know who owned the continent originally, and Aboriginal Australians should feel rightly very proud of their place in Australia’s modern society.

  3. diannaart

    Indifference is the (unwarranted) privilege of the dominant.

    Listening to ABC radio, outraged white male called in utterly offended at the use of the term “Invasion Day”, “It was disgraceful of Jon Faine calling Australia Day Invasion Day, he should stop saying it.”

    Jon explained that to many Aboriginal people, January 26th was an invasion of their home, what else should they call it?

    Jon was told to check his history, there was no invasion.

    Yeah, right, Terra Nullius…

    Across the world we are watching a change, a change of narrative by people who have been oppressed, ignored, dispossessed and neglected and the oppressors are outraged.

  4. diannaart

    Tony Abbott, history’s little white-washer.

  5. Wam

    I wonder which is most insulting? The days of the Lord when Aborigines were not visible in the streets, an annoyance to the public service, commercial enterprise treated the Aboriginal workers like slaves(tea flour sugar and tobacco) and the government hired them out and kept their wages.
    The present where Aborigines are stared at, when they venture into exclusive white areas like footpaths in the city.

    Sadly should the Aborigine have a white partner and move into an exclusive restaurant or a BBQ, the stares are as obvious as the whispers.

    In my town, those who are are addament that they are not racists have no hesitation in sharing a russian post of an African slapping a european woman, in the midst of the Australia day debate.
    These ‘non-rednecks’ would return to the ‘unseen’ days in a trice(if they ever left them) but are horrified when I call them pink-necks.

    ‘Why is she saying this’? Because in Australia it is the norm. The media decides what will sell ads and Aborigines are in the ‘negative’ is good category the cruder, ruder, louder, more violent the better. Unacknowledged file footage is acceptable, as is careful cutting to remove any positives.
    Why will she say it all her life because she will not read posts like yours and if she ever did her friend, the media and facebook will quickly return her to the fold.
    As usual the remedy requires effort and that is hard, just repeat the stereotypes and keep the Aborigines outside.

  6. Andreas Bimba

    My father was Lithuanian and he spoke only Lithuanian to my brother and I so we learnt the language to a basic level and took the time to learn some of the history of the country.

    When WW2 started Poland and the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania which were independent nations, were divided between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Russia. Stalin at the same time also invaded Finland. During the initial Soviet occupation of Lithuania the local governmental and administrative structures were removed, there were some executions, some deportations and people were terrified of the NKVD and the Red Army. When the Germans invaded Russia there was in general a great sense of relief but few wanted German rule. During this period at least 90% of Lithuania’s Jewish population which made up 7% of the population were eventually murdered along with tens of thousands of Jews that had fled from Poland, by specialist German liquidation units and local collaborators. When the Germans retreated, Lithuania and the other Baltic States were again occupied by the Soviets but this time the forcible incorporation into the Soviet Union began. The political class, administrative class, senior business leaders, priests and more affluent landowners were brutalised and most were executed or died during imprisonment. Nearly all military officers and police of rank were executed. About 5% of the population were deported to labour camps in the Soviet Far East and a further 7% imprisoned in prison camps all over the Soviet Union. About one third of these people died from executions, brutalisation, starvation, disease or exposure. Many more were prevented from returning even after eventual release after Stalin’s death. Most industrial and urban development that occurred in Lithuania used immigrant Russian labour and professionals and a process of Russification implemented until independence was again attained in 1991.

    Even though the Soviet occupation was an exercise in extreme brutality, especially during the first decade under Stalin, against a proud and independent people eventually the local people were treated almost equally to the Russian majority and a reasonable but basic living standard was attained.

    Now to the point of my comment. The occupation and incorporation of the Australian continent and its indigenous people under European colonial rule and even the ongoing treatment or neglect of these people in general to this day, based on any reasonable analysis, is worse than that of Stalin’s Soviet occupation and the Communist rule of the Baltic States. Considerably worse in fact yet many expect the remaining indigenous people to be grateful for being part of this ‘great’ nation?

    There is still a callous and selfish ruling oligarchy in this country that has an inflated and misplaced positive view of itself that continues to inflict injustice on Australia’s indigenous people and also on the poor and disadvantaged in general and even on the working and much of the middle class. For example wealth inequity has returned to the levels of over 100 years ago.

    I see this kind of sociopathic person in many business leadership positions, in many industry associations and think tanks, amongst the extremely affluent, in the commercial mass media, in the bureaucracy in the political leadership of the Liberal and National Parties. They are not currently implementing mass murder but that is about the only difference.

  7. Jack Russell

    Would it be over the top to suggest that Dutton might have a few thoughts along the lines of your last sentence Andreas? I can’t even look at a photo of him without an involuntary fight/flight reaction . . .

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