Bill Leak’s cartoon today does not add to this constructive dialogue. Indeed, it demeans the important role that The Australian newspaper has played over a long time. Contrary to the view that it raises important issues for debate, it has only had the impact of portraying a view of Aboriginal Australians that is, frankly, offensive.
My name is Joel Bayliss and I’m an Aboriginal man. My cultural ties stretch from Borroloola in the Top End, to the Arrernte lands of the central desert of the Northern Territory. I am a proud husband to Hilda, doting dad to to Ava and Isaiah.
The word identity means different things to different people. I identify as a husband, a father, a Crows and Glenelg supporter, a member of a political party and as stated before, an Aboriginal man.
What is the true Australian identity?
This is Aboriginal land. Our people were always here.
When land rights were first won for Aboriginal people, it was about asserting our rights and traditions. Today it’s about continuing that legacy and ensuring future generations can benefit from the land.
In our fight for land rights in the 1970s and 1980s, we dodged bullets, we got beat up and locked up. But we kept turning up and we won the day. In New South Wales the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 was enacted and we had the power to make our own decisions and elect our own representatives to make these decisions on our behalf.
There are many current issues in Indigenous affairs I could write on: the closure of Aboriginal communities in Western Australia, the deregistering of sacred sites, the levels of uncertainty surrounding constitutional recognition, the poor outcomes for Aboriginal people on every significant social measure in Australia.
However, if people already refuse to listen to the evidence and the experts, the reports and the statistics, or to everyone else that talks so powerfully and passionately about these issues, then it’s more than likely that they, and the powers that be, won’t listen to me either. I’m no expert. I’m just a person who, like so many others, quietly and humbly works hard at their job and struggles to ensure that – together with my partner – I put food on the table and keep a roof over my children’s heads.
I recollect being in school and being given an exercise that required you to match images to well-known sayings. One image was of a light bulb with lines radiating from it to indicate it had been turned on, with a number of hands stretched up towards it.
Many hands make light work.
When I was a child, I loved the 3Rs – reading, ‘riting and ’rithmetic. I still love reading and ‘riting, but once I went to secondary school and was expected to work with things like 6 + x = 13, I couldn’t cope. No one could tell me why anyone would want to do that, and I was lost.
However, every Friday (and sometimes Saturdays and Sundays) for some time now, I have engaged with my keyboard and collaborated with others to further develop the 3Rs. No, not reading, ‘riting and ’rithmetic, but respect, relationships and reconciliation (rrr.edu.au).
Sandy O’Sullivan was Indigenous X host from March 7 to March 14, 2014. Five questions to Sandy
Lee Bevan was Indigenous X host from November 22 to December 1, 2013. Five questions to Lee
Peter Buckskin was Indigenous X host from October 11 to October 18, 2013. Five questions to Peter
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