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A migrant living on stolen land

  • 25 July 2019


I wasn't born in this land I now call home. My family migrated to Australia when I was young and so I enjoyed the privilege of growing up without the war and discrimination that has marred my birth land, although there is a different type of discrimination that I have had to face being an Asian in Australia. In being here though I know I am living on stolen land.

I also know that my not being here would not change the injustices that Indigenous people face on a daily basis. We cannot turn back time and remove the presence of non-Indigenous Australians.

What we can, and must, all do is seek to understand what was done, what is being done and how we can move forward in a way that addresses past injustices and ensures they do not occur again. It is not about guilt and shame, but empathy and being willing to feel the sorrow that must arise when hearing the horrors that have been inflicted in the name of Australia's nationhood.

Non-Indigenous Australians can choose when, if ever, we pay attention to the rights of Indigenous Australians. Commemorative occasions like NAIDOC Week briefly draw attention to Indigenous rights. This year saw a renewal of discussion of a possible referendum on constitutional recognition of Indigenous people.

But it was starkly juxtaposed with images of a line of people snaking their way up Uluru. A last minute rush of people determined to climb this Australian icon before the Traditional Owners stop people climbing later this year. The insistence of some people to defile what is a sacred space for the Anangu people is just one of many instances where Indigenous Australians are disrespected and sidelined from effective control of their own lives and communities on a daily basis.

In 1989, Aboriginal activist Charles Perkins said: 'My expectation of a good Australia is when white people would be proud to speak an Aboriginal language, when they realise that Aboriginal culture and all that goes with it, philosophy, art, language, morality, kinship, is all art of their heritage. And that's the most unbelievable thing of all, that it's all there waiting for all of us. White people can inherit 40,000 or 60,000 years of culture, and all they have to do is reach out and ask for it.'

I keep hearing from Indigenous Australians this desire for all Australians to respectfully share and care for this country