As a non-Indigenous Australian, Law's not proud of the limited and often skewed stories she learned about her country’s history growing up. Here are some of the stories that are helping her re-write her own story of Australia.
Last year, I committed to doing the work to unlearn, re-learn, and grow. The time to deepen my understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, histories and experiences was long overdue.
These are the stories that helped me. I hope they stay with you as much as they have me.
WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that the following content contains names, images or references to deceased persons.
Book: Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu
This is the book I wish I had when I was in history class. First published in 2014 by Bunurong man Bruce Pascoe, Dark Emu – Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident? is all about challenging the common ‘hunter-gatherer’ myths about pre-colonial Indigenous Australians.
The award-winning author, lecturer and researcher presents evidence from the diaries of early explorers to argue that Indigenous people were using sophisticated food production and land management systems long before colonisers rocked up. They were irrigating, harvesting, and thriving in large villages. This is one of the many truths missing from any version of early Australian history I heard at school.
The book has also been adapted for younger readers, called Young Dark Emu – A Truer History. I reckon you should add it to your reading list, stat.
Bonus book: The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper tells the harrowing tale of Mr Doomadgee’s death in custody on Palm Island in 2004. The deep injustices in this book shook me. It’s a tough but very necessary read in my opinion.
Podcast: Pretty For An Aboriginal
Pretty For An Aboriginal is a Buzzfeed podcast hosted by Gamilaroi/Torres Strait Islander woman Nakkiah Lui and Larrakia woman Miranda Tapsell. The series sets out to smash traditional perceptions of Indigenous Australia, serving up brutally honest and hilarious chats to re-define what women of colour can and cannot do. The 10/10 banter between Nakkiah and Miranda, and their special guests, gripped me. There was a lot of laughing out loud on public transport from me.
My fave episodes are Episode 1: Hustle Baby, Hustle, a deep chat with rapper and TV writer Adam Briggs, where you feel like you’re accidentally eavesdropping on a D&M between best mates. Then there’s Episode 4: Sex & Power with fierce model Emily Sears who talks body positivity and slaying male entitlement on social media like a boss.
Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
P.S. If you haven’t already, you’ve gotta see Nakkiah and Miranda de-colonise the heck out of breakfast television on ABC’s satire, Get Krack!n. Also, get around Black Comedy, the LOL-fest sketch show Nakkiah co-wrote and stars in.
Website: Common Ground
I shouted very loudly with glee when I came across Common Ground on a late-night Instagram trawl. I was stoked to find an online space for exploring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, histories and lived experiences, and stayed up long past my bedtime getting the real facts on topics like ‘The Dreaming’ and The Stolen Generations. It’s been my trusty go-to ever since.
Founded by proud Kaytetye woman Rona Glynn-McDonald, Common Ground is a library of engaging, authentic and educational articles and videos to help Australians see the value of our Indigenous heritage. It’s definitely one for your bookmarks.
Bonus online resources: Deadly Questions and Share Our Pride are two great Q&A sites with strong You Can’t Ask That vibes for quick answers to common questions about the Indigenous experience, answered by Indigenous people.
Film: Gurrumul (2018)
There are some stories in life that we can experience over and over again and they still feel as new and as beautiful as the first time. For me, the story of Indigenous artist Dr G Yunupingu is one of those stories.
Gurrumul is a documentary about what I regard as one of the most important voices to ever come out of this country. Blind from birth, Dr G Yunupingu wrote and recorded songs in Yolŋu languages and English. It’s music deeply inspired by his community and Country—Elcho Island in far North East Arnhem Land. His self-titled breakthrough album was embraced by audiences and famous artists around the world, from Sting to Elton John, and more.
The film celebrates Dr G Yunupingu’s enigmatic and deeply spiritual way of being as much as it does his remarkable gift as a musician. It taught me so much about connection to Country, and about the complex challenges faced by Indigenous people walking in ‘two worlds’— the balance of belonging to the world’s oldest living culture and a contemporary western culture, at the same time.
Watch this film. Get these albums on your playlists. Ensure you have tissues.
So that’s a wrap for this list, but learning is never done, my friends. It’s not up to Indigenous people to teach us what we don’t know, it’s up to us to take responsibility for our education and do our own independent research. Because when we work to change our own stories, we help change the stories of the future. Let’s make it a future that all Australians can be proud of.
And if you know of more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories that I should get around, please let me know!