Archive for the ‘indigenous australia’ Category


Part of Tony Albert’s incredibly powerful series, this is Brother (Our Past) 2013.

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This is beautiful, beautiful, heartbreaking writing from the Black Snob on Trayvon Martin .. as it should be:

Take this burden and just accept it as your burden. It’s just “how it is.” You’re all statistics. Take these statistics. And black people get shot everywhere everyday by everyone. Police. Non-police. Crazy people. Bigots. Their parents. Other kids. Just take it. It’s part of your Life In America, Black People. Accept this tragedy and go through the motions of appealing to people’s decency and demanding justice and having protests and press conferences and crying and asking why and demanding answers and then eventually getting that bad dead cold thing that just sits there and says, “Take this.”

Here’s your load. Pick it up.

Pass it along to the children, so they can carry a bit of it too. Let it weigh down on their worlds. Let it rob them of their childhood and innocence. Tell them to take it, so they grow up faster and accept the unfairness in life and just give up. Be cynical and fatalistic. Be cold when it happens to the next person. Or be cold themselves when they do it to another person. And as they rob that person of what was once robbed of themselves and that person asks them why or looks for recourse or retribution or answers, they can stare back unblinking in the shadow of our common oppressors and say, “Take this load and pick it up.”

But I’m sorry. I’m not going to pick up this shit anymore. It’s not mine.

I cannot emphasize enough (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) that the justice system – prisons, policing, law-making.. these are motherhood issues, they are primary components of mothering for some of us and the motherhood movement must ensure that it/us takes up these issues and incorporates them as a key part of our conversation, a key part of our concerns, a key part of our activism, and a key part of our political voice.

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Hmm, my god how disadvantage accumulates many times over with poverty. You must read this at The New York Times (via Tedra Osell) and think about how we might run our justice systems differently:

“What would happen if we organized thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of people charged with crimes to refuse to play the game, to refuse to plea out? What if they all insisted on their Sixth Amendment right to trial? Couldn’t we bring the whole system to a halt just like that?”

The woman was Susan Burton, who knows a lot about being processed through the criminal justice system.

Her odyssey began when a Los Angeles police cruiser ran over and killed her 5-year-old son. Consumed with grief and without access to therapy or antidepressant medications, Susan became addicted to crack cocaine. She lived in an impoverished black community under siege in the “war on drugs,” and it was but a matter of time before she was arrested and offered the first of many plea deals that left her behind bars for a series of drug-related offenses. Every time she was released, she found herself trapped in an under-caste, subject to legal discrimination in employment and housing.

This is an American story and the incarceration rates in the USA are truly mind-blowing – I mean they are stop, take a deep breath, pinch yourself and check you are not imagining what you just read, kinda mind-blowing – but there are some parallels here with the Aboriginal incarceration rates in Australia, too.

Now, watch this Def Poetry from the political poet Black Ice (via Sociological Images):

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Renee over at Womanist Musings has written a great post in response to a piece by Twisty from I Blame the Patriarchy, calling for mothers to stop participating in the sexism of nuclear families (the same one that I re-contemplated recently):

Just raising a kid in a family is challenging the status quo for many Black families.  Of course, it may seem like the norm to Twisty, because she doesn’t come from a history of Whiteness selling husbands away from wives, and ripping children away from their mothers arms to earn a fucking buck, and that’s just Black women.  What about the so-called friends to the First Nations people who thought it would be a good idea to send Indigenous kids to schools to divorce them from their traditions, culture and heritage?  Apparently White women know more about how to raise our kids than we do.  Then of course there is the history of forced sterilizations of Latinas, Indigenous women and Black women to confront.  We didn’t have a gilded cage that trapped us.  We were working to put food on the table and clothes on the backs of our children, trying desperately to raise them, when we were allowed to have them that is.

Renee’s post reminds me of Andrea O’Reilly’s Toni Morrison and Motherhood: A Politics of the Heart, which I talked about here:

Consider this, white feminist motherhood has been preoccupied with how motherhood has trapped women whereas black feminist motherhood sees motherhood as a political act of resistance. This is because white mothers take preservation for granted in the dominant white culture. On the other hand, black mothers need to work hard to protect their children, teach their children how to protect themselves, ensure culture is passed on, and heal those around them who missed out on this kind of mothering. White mothers have a history of their lives being narrowed to the home and have consequently focused their fight on getting the choice to work outside the home, whereas black mothers, who were rarely able to indulge the question of whether to work or not, have instead been faced with a consistent struggle to have their femininity even recognised.

Basically, the motherhood debate needs widening beyond its very white and middle-class sphere. If we are actually to be talking about ‘Motherhood’ and not just a little pocket of mothering experiences then we need to let many more voices into our debates. And in that vein it is also worth reading lauredhel’s response, as a mother with a disability, to that Twisty piece in my comments section, too.

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1. This was Cormac’s first camping experience. We waited until he could walk before we took him camping, for some reason.. I don’t recall now why that was exactly because his mobility combined with his strong independent streak made him a pain in the arse to camp with. Watching him every single second while also trying to find where we packed the cutlery was all quite tiring. But then, camping with children, what to say? Both wonderful and god-awful at any given time.

2. Speaking of packing and the pain in the arse that that is.. a mother camping near us told me that after she finished packing her children’s clothes for the trip she was too tired to pack food so she declared that for the entire weekend they would eat nothing but nutella sandwiches. Good in theory. I do enjoy hearing about other parents’ poorly judged short cuts, gives me a little moment of satisfaction, which I desperately crave when I am taking so many ill-conceived short cuts of my own.

3. Music festival camping is not like regular camping. For one thing, it is both more crowded and less peaceful than anywhere back home in the city. But, there is also much to be fond of when you’re part way through a day at the festival and you’re able to take the kids back to the tent to re-group and nap and eat cheaply. Also, Lauca still rises in the morning in a most atrocious mood so it was nice being all crammed in together and sharing that experience with everybody.

4. Cormac joined the hula hoop dancing workshop without bothering to put his name on the sign-up sheet. Hippies are not chilled out about sign-up sheets.  Cormac has hippy running through his veins; he is terribly cheerful and wide-eyed about the world, and friendly with everyone and very quick with the applause even for relatively inconsequential performances.

5. The white hippies do love themselves some traditional culture (should we buy another Native American dream catcher or go to the African drumming class?) and this being an indigenous music festival the punters were turning cultural misappropriation up to volume nine. But who am I to talk, was I about to deny my child the ochre painting classes? Nuh-uh.

Appropriate away my little colonialist.

6. While we’re watching the bands play this is how the kids spend the bulk of their time: running up and down hills trying to tackle other kids to the ground. Occasionally a father will kindly donate some of his own music-viewing time towards further entertaining the children with their crash-tackle activities. And I will buy him a beer for his trouble. I guess we’re hoping that the children are somehow absorbing the music we are trying to expose them to while all this is going on.

We went with two other couples and their children. They were pretty much the perfect company to do a camping/music festival with. Go us with our good taste in friends.

7. I thought Aboriginal hip hop group, The Last Kinection were amazing – so political and so dance-able. Plugging them here is probably doing them a disservice though in terms of their credibility. Hey, someone’s Mum likes them, they must be cool.

8. It must have been a success for all concerned in our little group because we’re all talking about plans for the next camping trip. I vote for less freezing-fucking-cold and also less music festival (fun but too expensive).

9. By the way, you young things thought it was difficult co-ordinating meet-ups at a music festivals when you were all drug-addled, well try doing it stone cold sober but with each couple having two or three kids to sort out along the way too. As with any festival experience I spent a good deal of it missing rendezvous (plural?) and arriving only in time for the last five minutes of the shows I wanted to see.

10. The best way to finish the night is in one of the tents with the lower tempo musicians and a bottle of wine. This is not how we finished though, we pushed it a little too far and tried to make it back to the big arena for one of the big name acts only to have both children become extremely needy of me all at once. It didn’t end well. I tried for a while to breastfeed the baby and cuddle the preschooler on my lap while also crowded into the audience, but then one grizzle too many and I threw my hands up and said I had had enough and goodnight everybody. On the way out to find our car I spoke to Lauca most gravely about how disappointed I was in her for not being able to lie on a blanket under the stars like the other kids were so their parents could enjoy one last performance before driving back to the city. Get your guilt trip on, kids. Then I felt guilty myself because earlier in the evening she had ducked off with a terrific urgency down ‘over-priced shit for sale’ lane to buy me some dreadful jingly-jangly necklace thingie that fortunately her father talked her out of and instead she bought me a “racism sucks” sticker. Kid. You do my head in, but I do love you.

P.S. I don’t know why I am so mean to the hippies. I love you guys, really.

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Among the highlights of NAIDOC week this year was going to a big Indigenous family festival with some mother friends and our children. A good friend made me laugh by describing us as looking a little “Populate or Perish”– with the exception of two among us, one Korean and one Sri Lankan, the rest of us have a bunch of very blonde kids and we were surrounded by a sea of gorgeous Aboriginality. It does us all good to feel like a minority every now and then, no?

Happy NAIDOC week to you!

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Like most Australians I know very little about Indigenous Australian culture and I don’t have any Aboriginal friends so I never hear a personal perspective from an Aboriginal person on an Indigenous matter. This is my fault, not theirs. 

I don’t know what it feels like to live in a country where you have thousands of years of ancestral ties and history. One way or another, I’m an immigrant. The recently discovered ancient burial site referred to in this article was found by the traditional owners of the land upon which it is located, so the fact that it is several hundred years old and completely undisturbed would be very special to those Aboriginal men because it is the burial site of their very own relatives.

What an amazing feeling that must be. But like I said, I really don’t know what that would feel like. That is until I heard one of them interviewed on radio this morning and he said it felt “like the first time you fall in love”; a description I am enthralled by. Giddy with excitement, fascinated to the point of obsession, tender-hearted, warm and emotional. I am so grateful for that description.  

Our gift to Lauca for her Naming Ceremony was her participation in this scientific project (the Genographic Project). We scraped the inside of her little baby cheek and sent the samples away for analysis. Not quite an ancient burial site but a link to our ancestral past never the less. I guess we are trying to retrace our story “across the desert, in the desert, up the river channels and wherever the story takes us”. 

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