Let's All Be Better Humans!
Staying silent is being complicit, we have a responsibility as humans to do better, to be better, and be a part of the change. That said, I don’t believe that we have the authority to speak more broadly on this topic without learning further as individuals. I am NOT OK with racism or with Australia’s own treatment of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people, past or present. But I will not be bullied into supporting thuggery or forced to buy into a mob attitude, nor will I expect it from others. Educate and inform yourself with facts, not emotive dialogue.
So what right do I have to have an opinion?
Everybody has one and is entitled to their own.
My husband was the grandson of a woman born on Thursday Island, in the Torres Straight, just North of mainland Australia. She was of what is now called the "Stolen Generation," being moved to country NSW as a maid. She married a European migrant and lived the rest of her life in a wooden hut with a dirt floor and kerosene lamps right up until her death in the early '80s. Her son and, my father in law, was a man I admired greatly and miss very much, as I do my husband who died in a car accident in 1985.
I myself am the daughter of a drover, born in the 1960's and grew up with many children of many mixed races, never noticing the differences, we all lived, worked and played in the same paddocks, streets and playgrounds. I was never told I could not be friends with a single soul, not for any reason.
After joining the army at 18, I travelled extensively around Australia and spent many years in the Northern Territory, where I remained after discharge in 1987. I lived and worked in remote regions, worked with indigenous communities, with children and adults, spent years on Groote Eylandt, Melville and Bathurst Islands, and many wonderful years experiencing and exploring places like Kakadu and Nitmiluk.
Having a design background and after winning several awards in fashion and textiles, I was asked to design the collection of garments to represent Tiwi Fabrics for an AusTrade exhibition in Hong Kong, then later the "Droving Australia Tour", the last great cattle drive in 1988.
I became friends with a lady called Sylvia around this time in the NT, a woman of indigenous heritage, also of the "stolen generation" as a baby, and at that time a social worker. Through our many conversations she confided in me that had she not been removed from her family should would certainly not have survived, as many mixed race babies, at that time, in that place, were left in the desert and not welcomed into the community. Needless to say I was horrified but she assured me this was indeed the way things were in some communities prior to the 60's, but did not in any way condone the forced removal of mixed race children. Her long term goal is to raise awareness and to educate, developing a culture free from violence and abuse in Aboriginal communities. "To do so we need to address the sociological and external factors that may promote abuse; lack of education, social isolation, overcrowding, poor housing and unemployment."
Nowadays I have friends, colleagues and clients of all races and cultures. We continue to grow and learn from each other, in a comfortable and respectful coexistence. Respect for each other, our achievements, differences and similarities.
Racism is real, yes there are those who have either a lived experience of it or have made an effort to self-educate with the gargantuan task of communicating how racism works, and the language in which it manifests. Many organisations, academic institutions and businesses are stunned by revelations of the scale of racism being experienced by its workers, colleagues and students.
None of the people I associate with are comfortable with or exhibit any racial hatreds, behaviours, speech or opinions but we all agree the current culture is threatening freedom of speech in Australia and around the world. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and free speech, but nobody has the right to disrespect the opinions of anyone else or their culture. The attempts to wipe out select areas of our history only opens it up to be repeated and is not an action of a respectful, acceptable society.
I certainly feel disgust at the thought of living in a country where people can treat each other with such a level of disrespect and feel certain that most of my friends would jump into action if they found themselves witnessing an incident of racist abuse or unfairness, and would step in to defend the victim, I certainly would and indeed have done. Bystanders often really do want to intervene in these sorts of situations, but feel powerless to help, and worry about putting themselves in at risk.
We should all be striving to create opportunities for all people, converse and be informed. Challenge the topics of race, gender, segregation and discrimination, but don't lead these conversations. It’s important for all to not just be heard, but to listen and learn. Everyone has a responsibility to become a part of a bigger movement, humanity. It will go a long way to stopping emotional, mental and physical abuse of all people.
We all need to do better, to be better and be a part of the change!