I’ve written previously on the trouble Australia has as a nation coming to terms with the fact Anglo-Australians didn’t ‘discover’ the continent, Dark Heart Top Five. This ideology of a historical mono-cultural white Australia is both dangerous and wrong.
All of my ancestors were boat people and arrived in South Australia in the 19th century, the earliest in 1840 when South Australia was a four year old colony. South Australia was colonised by not just the English (who were also from different cultural backgrounds), but the Scottish, Irish, Germans, a multitude of other European groups, then Chinese miners, Afghan cameleers and all before Federation in 1901. South Australia has the oldest mosque in Australia, built in 1861 in Maree, and The Great Mosque of Adelaide was built in our capital city in 1888.
Predating this multi-cultural colonial South Australia was occupation by First Nation/ Aboriginal peoples, and I say peoples because of the diversity of language groups that occupied and still live in South Australia. South Australia, unlike the other states, wasn’t a penal colony. It was set up as a company that sold lots of land, and the first Governor (Hindmarsh) was given strict instructions of how to treat the Aboriginal people.
Inevitably the demand for land overtook any good intentions of fairness and equity, and so South Australians today live on land that was formerly occupied by Aboriginal people without permission or compensation.
All this history forms the ground of denial for white Australia, and recognising the past is what former Prime Minister John Howard called a ‘Black Armband’ view of history, rather than accurate historical fact.
Whitewashing Australian history brings us to the debate in the news today about the possible early retirement of Sydney Swans (Australian rules) football player Adam Goodes. A few years ago he called out a 13 year old girl in the crowd for a racist taunt. American singer Kanye West addressed the frustration of similar derogatory racial stereotyping and vilification in ‘Black Skinhead (Blkkk SkkkN Head)’. Adam Goodes has faced more recent abuse through the crowd booing at him for performing a ceremonial dance during a game, no different from the widely accepted and celebrated Maori Haka.
This isn’t a black problem, or a First Nation/Aboriginal problem, but a white problem. Our history of denial is based on fear that we may have to face up to the fact Australia belonged to First Nation/Aboriginal people and that our colonisation of the country was just that, with all the ugliness that goes with it. Adam Goodes has done us all a service by calling out racism and making us look at ourselves to acknowledge and deal with our deep seated attitudes. We need to acknowledge and face the wrongs of the past, like any mature developing nation should do, and move forward celebrating our First Nation heritage.
Stand for Adam Goodes by signing the petition here.