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In the midst of an unhappy love affair

AUSTRALIA | Saturday, 26 April 2008 | Views [1495] | Comments [2]

I left Australia when I was 25. Happy to be rid of the problems I had no experience to try to face. I was too sensitive. I was passionate and angry and had no patience for the real work, for the real caring that a place like this needs.

I came back 11 years later, ready, I thought, to face one of the biggest relationships in my life.

My relationship with my country.

It has all the earmarks of tragedy. It seemed full of magic and promise, and the more you find out, the more you don’t like, but it starts pulling you in. The more you know, the more responsible you feel. There are other bonds to attend to. Not just attraction, but responsibility and finally, discovering that after the infatuation dies a quick death, you have to leave, or its time to start the real loving.

I can’t keep running. I have to stand and face the onslaught. I have to take the history and be a part of the future. Its time to put my money where my mouth is.

I was a proud cultural cringer. Wincing at the accents, the debasing of the English language, the distortions from the British path. I read English Literature, thank you. I partook not of Neighbours, or Crowded House or AC/DC. I spurned cold beers, Barbee’s, bluey and lifted my eye brow to silvanian waters.

What a prissy, stuck up little bitch I must have been.

But the fact is I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t know my place. I’m mixed heritage. Scottish, English, Welsh, Chinese. My Chinese grandmother was more British than the British. I wasn’t bloody anything mate. Just a mongrel breed in a land with no tradition but fumbling for something to grab a hold onto.

Before I left, there was a new marketing campaign. We are Australia. Trying to give some sort of stamp of Australianness to all faces, what ever the shape and colour. But it didn’t wash with me.

What did I honestly feel?

I loved the country. I loved the trees, the smell, the earth. But I was unhappy with the treatment of the indigenous peoples. I felt it snaking through my feelings for Australia. The dark and savage history covered up with a white smirk of power and a quick glance over the shoulder. Everyone knows the power of karma dude. Yours is coming. A mix of arrogance and ignorance that set my blood boiling.

So now, after living in the safe shores of Norway, a blissfully peaceful place with lots of money and snow, I return.

Emotions fly like sparks. It calls me and smiles while it reveals dark shadows. I am forced to compromise. I am forced to see the rose with the thorns. ‘The beauty and the terror, the wide brown land for me.’

I feel an open wound in my chest. I can’t bear to see indigenous Australians on the streets, drunk, screaming, displaced, cut off from their traditions. Unable to move forward, unable to go back. I’m guessing most of the whites who side step the issue like dog droppings on the sidewalk are hoping it will be fixed by someone else’s hand.

Yes. Let’s talk about what’s positive. The government, smelling a buck, buckled under the world’s gaze and introduced incentive to help draw tourists to the country. Thanks for that. As we travel across the Top End and across Queensland, we are reminded everywhere that we are on lands that once belonged to an indigenous group. They once had a say about what goes on in the land, and once welcomed you to their country. Now, well, you can visit a shop and give some money and buy some art work. The land ‘given back’ is subject to some, err, conditions. Like if someone wants to prospect, explore or mine in the area…. Don’t ask me what it really means.

Then what???

How the hell do I know? I’m struggling with it all at the moment. But there are things we can do. And one of them is increase awareness, increase information, increase respect, increase positive communication. I am more than happy to hear from you, if what I’m saying stirs some kind of agreement or disagreement. Go for it. That’s what the comments are enabled for.

The Lonely Planet is doing a pretty good job of trying to cover each area with indigenous awareness. In the newest Australia guide, you can have a look at a little essay by Steve Kinnane that explains a bit about what’s going on from an Aboriginal perspective.

Let me finish off my little tirade with his final words of advice ‘As you travel around our countries, it is important to be aware of our history, and in each city and town, from the desert, through freshwater to saltwater country, respect the stories of each place and the people who belong there.’

Tags: allwelcome, ambassador van, t a j



Beautiful, dogshit 'n ' all!
I was born English and have lived in WA since I was 4yrs old. I have known/do know many Aboriginal people, I was brought up amongst them. My baby is part Aboriginal and although I did not know his father, I was immediately welcomed into their family. We are both so lucky to have such a large loving family.
I think that racism serves many who are on the winning side (white) by making them feel superior and alleviating them of guilt and the obligation to do anything about it.
Despite all that has been done to them the Aboriginal people are not all drunk on the street (nt. they are the ones that get noticed, yet ignored). Pardon me for generalizing, but for the most part they are a resilient people with a fantastic sense of fun, strong family ties and great love for each other and their country. Few white people have any idea or respect for just how much of thier culture they have managed to retain.
White Australians need to drop thier almighty arrogance and ask the Aboriginals how can we live sustainably on this continent? After all they did it for over 40,000yrs. This could be beneficial to all.

  Milgu Sep 23, 2009 2:20 PM


Thank you! Much love!

  Tiffany Oct 22, 2009 3:14 AM

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