When ‘Australians’ think about ‘Australia’ as a place, history, and peoples, there are gaps in the overall narrative, writes Lay, proudly Gumbaynggirr and Gunganji; a descendent of Dunghutti; Vanuatu, and various First Nations around Queensland. This is Lay's reflection on Truth.
“If you start with a lie, you’ll end with a lie.” – Bruce Pascoe
There are lies and voices of ignorance in Australian history books, values and beliefs. The lying and ignorance has built laws which uphold the nation of ‘Australia’. Lies about who Indigenous people are, how they lived, and the land itself. Lies about who the colonisers are, what they did, and why they came to Aboriginal land.
Ignorance upheld these lies by systematically enforcing white, western imperialism. Imperialism stems from capitalism, as a process that ‘others’ people, land and animals for profit, which then grew into colonisation. In the process of othering, there was a violent attack from the coloniser that intended to wipe out Indigenous peoples and take their land for profit. Colonisation doesn’t just happen, it takes generations, otherwise it’s just called war.
The lies used to cover up the coloniser’s atrocities were based in language. The type of language used around the systematic racism against Indigenous peoples lessened the terror for White settlers. If the kids were being neglected and the government took them off their parents for the child’s safety, that sounds reasonable. But what if the real situation was that the parents were living in poverty and couldn’t feed the kids because the grandparents were being removed from their source of identity and wellbeing via missions; being forced to live off rations and subjected to slavery and abuse?
Colonisation upholds white supremacy in a precise cycle of withholding the entire truth and telling lies that become ‘facts’. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve heard people say things like ‘Captain Cook discovered Australia’; ‘Australian vs Indigenous Australian’ and ‘Aboriginal people were hunters and gatherers and didn’t have a civilisation’ or ‘Aboriginal people are a dying race’.
The fight for justice includes all of us sharing our stories, with Indigenous voices at the centre. Every movement in this nation concerns Indigenous people. Everything in Australia impacts Indigenous land, people and culture.
Truth-telling is collective consciousness of the stories of different peoples’ relationship to land, that centres on the oldest living relationships with land. Truth-telling means we can act for justice and not just ‘social change’.
NAIDOC Week is a national celebration of the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Find out more at naidoc.org.au.
Image credit: Aboriginal Australia Map via Indigenous Instyle.