Tag Archive: racial justice

Continuing to consider this years theme for NAIDOC week of “Always Was, Always Will Be” with the Collins Australian Clear School Atlas New and Revised Edition.

This image shows Economic-Population. There’s a sense looking at a map like this that there’s still Terra Nullius – land where no people are and no work is happening. You can see that the measure used for ‘economy’ – doesn’t recognise the agriculture or trade practices of Aboriginal people.

Recognising Aboriginal people must surely need to begin by recognising the profound, enduring relationship and connections they bear with the land.

“Aboriginals engaged in seed propagation, irrigation, harvest,
storage, and the trade of seed across the region.”

― Bruce Pascoe, Dark Emu

When you say/hear an Acknowledgement of country, does considering the above make you reconsider what it means? “We acknowledge that we gather on the lands of which Aboriginal people have been custodians since time immemorial, and pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging”

The dashed line above denotes the ‘limits of agriculture’ (at least for the 60s-70s when this atlas was published). What can we learn about what is considered ‘agriculture’ from this image? Who gets to determine that?

Does the image raise any considerations for balance?

Always Was

This years theme for NAIDOC week is “Always Was, Always Will Be”. I’m interested in finding ways to creatively and contemplatively explore what this means as a white-presenting Settler in this place.

I love old books and paper, I’m going to use some of these as a lens: First up is the Collins Australian Clear School Atlas New and Revised Edition.

p.9 “AUSTRALIA – Territorial Changes”

These maps show the territorial changes (6) between 1786 and 1861. Here they are shown with an overlay of the AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia. It’s hard not to liken that to a shadow, a haunting overlay, crossing and connecting countries and communities across territorial lines drawn and re-drawn.

What arises when you look at these? Has your home country/town been in different states?

It’s important to understand that when you are speaking to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait person and recognise that their cultural tale is millenia-long that the image of Australia they might imagine is the reverse: Aboriginal land with state and territory lines superimposed on top. When Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people say: “Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land” this is what they mean… these many countries and territories existed prior to 1786 and they are still here.

Yesterday, Gomeroi woman, Rachel McPhail, living on Wiradjuri country did a call out to challenge Australia Post to encourage Aussies to include the traditional Nation name in the extra address line when sending letters and packages. To support this idea, you can check traditional Nations at AIATSIS.gov.au.

by Talitha Fraser with Kaumatua Gregg Morris
[this piece first appeared on Radical Discipleship‘s website 17/02/2017]

Allow me to invite you to join in for a game of kilikiti, to sing and dance with us, to walkabout…  sit here at the campfire and I will tell you story…

Coranderrk was one of several Aboriginal missions set up in Victoria .  Wurundjeri leaders William Barak and Simon Wonga advocated for Aboriginal people to live in their own place, their own way. Many times to petition the Victorian Government Barak and Wonga would gather a delegation together, speak to motivate and inspire them, then they would walk together the 60 miles (12 hours) to deliver the message: “Please leave us alone, give us our land back, don’t take it away again”. Leaders of one people to another, approaching as equal and in person.

The Mau was a passive resistance movement seeking Samoan Independence.  When hundreds of members were arrested, hundreds more turned themselves in until all were released because there were more than the system could contain.  People stopped paying taxes and gave the money to the Mau. All local Councils and committees stopped meeting, children stopped turning up to Government run schools which were forced to close, instead of working in the plantations to harvest bananas and coconuts the women would play kilikiti all day.

Communities at Ratana, Hiruhārama, and Parihaka in New Zealand saw a farm converted to a township as taking people was more urgent than the harvest; a poet-led commune of Maori and Pakeha living together; an invading army greeted on the marae with songs, food, and children holding white feathers of peace running counter to the cultural tradition of utu.

All of these expressions of non-violent resistance share elements in common:

  • they were born out of an intention to create safe space – refuge for the dispossessed. Any political activism or engagement brought about was a by-product, not an intention, of what these places existed to protect.
  • they were led by or held in close relationship with indigenous peoples of the land.
  • there was, be it tendril or tap root, a connection to and influence of Christian belief.

Having people elected over you who are imposing laws and structures that are not aligned with what we know about how to live in harmony with each other and with the land is not a new idea.  Romans 12:20 says: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”  How may we engage a world that is broken, challenging what comes our way – to change it or be unchanged by it – preserving our peace and not be overcome?

As High Chief and leader of the Mau, Tupua Tamasese Leolofi III, lay dying his last words were, “My blood has been spilt for Samoa. I am proud to give it. Do not dream of avenging it, as it was spilt in peace. If I die, peace must be maintained at any price.”  The message of  Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi, leaders of Parihaka: “Just as night is the bringer of day, so too is death and struggle the bringer of life.”

We need to tend to the sovereignty of our own belief in what is right, to the inspiration of ideals bigger and beyond ourselves, to seek the Spirit and be led thereby to feel and act. Who do you look to, to define who you are? Come, sit here at the campfire and tell me a story…