Friday, July 12, 2013

#NAIDOC guest blog 3 - @Dalayva

Father and I

I remember distinctly in NAIDOC week 1992 when our teacher mentioned the word “Aboriginal”. All kids slowly turned their eyes to me. The seven-year-old Kodie proudly got up and marched to the top of the class. There I held a flag with the only other black kid in year two (hello Christopher  Kickett if you are out there) and told my seven year old peers the meaning of each colour presented on the Aboriginal flag. I had spent all night studying those three colours. Not because I wanted too, but because my father made me sit on his bed in our Geraldton house and continued to quiz me this information until I got it right. A week before I am sure he was quizzing me on the Aboriginal Legal Service importance but it went over this kid’s head.

But I think back to that first NAIDOC moment and it brings back that special moment of my Dad and I practicing my talk. Whenever I am made to write articles about myself, I usually talk about the women in my family. They constantly surround me and have strong personalities that you can’t ignore; from my mad Aunties; to my strong and staunch Grandmothers on both sides of my black and white family. I am proud of these women and the impact that they have had on my life.

It wasn’t until my Father rang me up the other day and complained that he didn’t get a mention some newsletter that profiled me and got back to him. Instead I mentioned my role models as my grand mothers and Michelle Obama (who wouldn’t).  He told me he would spend the rest of the morning being angry at me and wished me a good day.

“Rightio,” I said. “I’ll talk to you later Father.”

It’s not that he lacks attention, he is known all through Western Australia football circles as one of the best full forwards to play in Geraldton. To this day I have to hear those ‘when I was a footballer’ stories and see those old cherished memories of football photos and memorabilia branded through his house. But in a family of women, he is kind of put back in the shadows.

As the only child of John Bedford, I have quite a reputation due to that famous East Kimberley last name. No matter where I go in the country, someone always asks the same question. “Are you John Bedford’s daughter?” I kid you not, I was even in Tasmania, 4000kms and 40 degrees colder than Halls Creek (where my namesake come from) and a man came up to me and asked the question.

Sometimes they know him because of my family, sometimes because of the footy reputation, sometimes because they had run into him at the Court Wine Bar in East Perth where he often frequents.

But you see, being John Bedford’s daughter is not as easy as you think. Any of these people who run into him always relay to him what I am doing and who I am with. I call them his spies. This means I can never be caught ‘misbehaving’, not that I would (but a girl's got to let her hair down with vodka sometime).

 A father-child relationship is sadly non-existent in most black families I know. Those Aboriginal men, for reasons of historically, environmental and their own damn lack of responsibility issues, are yet to master the art. It’s sad when I see single mothers struggling to raise our boys into men, overcompensating at the lack of a real male role model. The sorry cycle continues and our men are locked up or just plain gone to face what they have left at home- even a child.

My relationship with my father, like everyone, is not all-smooth sailing. My parents divorced when I was ten, and my father moved back to the Kimberley. I was, as my mother says, unexpected when I was born. Young twenty-year-old parents, one on the verge of a bright football career, struggling to juggle their new responsibility.

But I will say one thing. My father did stick around for newborn me, maybe at the cost of the football career, he’s never really said. And with him there I was taught and raised to be proud of my identity as an Aboriginal girl; to the point I would stand up in class and preach to them about colours of a flag.

When he left, I was without a male role model and shipped off to black and white Aunties and grandmothers every holidays (I loved it). A father absent in a girl’s teenage years doesn’t bode well for the girl’s outlook on men when she is at that age of noticing boys. But in my older years, my father mellowed out in his old age, and I’ve realised life is too short for grudges. Oh yeah we fight, we both have a short fuse, I have to take a deep breath before I call him out for being, what I refer to, a typical black male. And then he rings me every now and then, usually every week or so, and even though our conversations never past two minutes, I can tell he is making an effort and showing his love in the ways he does. 

Those same spies relay to me that often talks about me like only a father could, my Aunties send me secret emails which show him talking me up to them and the family; and one day, amongst his football pictures, I found a photo of him and I hanging on the wall. Yes, my father is proud of me.

So this NAIDOC I am remembering that girl who was taught about the world from her Dad. From space, to history, to community life, to simply the colours of an Aboriginal flag (and lets not forget the ALS talk).

We talk about identity and people have even challenged mine. I am, after all, a product of a white and black relationship. But never have I not known who I was. It’s been instilled in me since the day I was born and I am reminded constantly. I am a Djaru woman whose family is hard working royalty in the Kimberley, I am a music lover who was taught piano from an early age by my white grandmother, I am a writer, I am West Coast Eagles supporter (much to my Father’s dismay), and yes, I am John Bedford’s daughter.

Boy’s beware.

Happy NAIDOC father.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

#NAIDOC guest blog 2 - @TheKooriWoman


So when someone asked if I would be interested in writing a piece on NAIDOC week, on 'dunno, whatever you want, thanks', I thought hmmm yeah I could do that, no worries, I'll write something up later, after dinner and before I start my Gears of War campaign on Xbox.

Originally I was going to write something about funding for NAIDOC events, and the difficulty in stretching it to say, a known performer coming to town, the butcher mysteriously puts up the price of sausages, or how sometimes the person holding the purse strings for NAIDOC is an arsehole and you cant stand interacting with them, not even on an email only level.

What I discovered, after reading the 1000 odd words I had stream of conscious vomited onto the screen says a lot about how much my thinking has changed over the past year. Being on the outside of Aboriginal/Government employment, and just how much fucking shit I swallowed and pushed in the name of keeping my job and not rocking the boat.

Well the boat is well and truly rocked (that fucker's on the bottom of the ocean now, along with any respect I had for local councils), the job is long gone and with it, my integrity has returned, I sleep like a rock and I'm halfway done getting the boot off my neck.

Even writing about an organisation I admire greatly and have a lot of respect for, I still cannot take off the unconscious political lens that I write my pieces through when it comes to Aboriginal Australia.

After I hit the delete key and erased the brain fart that not even Luke Pearson, editor extraordinaire would have been able to save, armed even as he is with a thesaurus brain and media savvy I've yet to see any Aboriginal match. I started to really think about NAIDOC, what it is, why it is and trying to untangle the contradictory thoughts I have about the week of celebration of culture it represents.

Through reading the other blogs in this series for NAIDOC week, you will have an understanding of the origin story of NAIDOC, it's significance and it's unrefuckinglenting feel good message.

Because when you remove all the lovely flowery talk of celebrations of history, achievements of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people, the festiveness of all walks of life enjoying and participating in Aboriginal culture, you are left with the bare bones of what this week is really about.

This week is about the people that came before us, who were fed the fuck up with being classed as animals and plants, people who were smacked down every time they tried to change their lot in life, people who were being told, in no uncertain terms, that for all of their ideas, and for all of their pleas, this wonderful, beautiful, awesome, fuck, go crazy, use all the adjectives, country used the Australian Constitution to reject all of their petitions.

The theme of this year's NAIDOC week are theYirrkala Bark Petitions, which were sent to the Australian House of Representatives in 1963. It is widely held that the Bark Petitions helped kick off the process of constitutional change that led to the referendum in 1967 on giving Aboriginal Australia the right to be counted, as human beings (well shit, we are so fucking grateful) and allowing Aboriginal people the right to vote in the elections for their new Sovereign overlords who have consistently and without fail, fucked us over for 235 years.

But I have to take a moment here to really pay tribute to the Yolngu people who saw that all attempts to engage with white Australia regarding Aboriginal rights were failing. They saw a very real need for Black Australia to get the Government to consider correcting the then current conditions and in true Black Mad Men style, came up with the hook to get grab their attention.

I imagine the brainstorming meeting went something like this:

Black Peggy – We need something shiny, white people like shiny things

Black Ginsberg – No, shiny is played out, we need something completely different, something earthy

Black Ted Chough – Yes, but it has to be modern somehow

Black Ginsberg – And Helvitica, white people love them some Helvetica

Black Don Draper - Clicks his fingers – I've got it, we do it our way, our paperbark, our art, our words, but we use the Helvetica as well, we blend the two.

Black Captain Jon Luc Picard – Make it so.

However the idea was formed, it was genius. And a testament to the resourcefulness of the Yolngu people. The petition certainly caught peoples eyes, and to this day, they are a work of art that is a perfect blend of ancient and a then burgeoning modernness, I have seen them and they are breathtaking.

So look, yes, we got some constitutional change, but we still have a very long way to go. It is a wonderful thing to celebrate our culture. It is a wonderful thing to have pride in our race. It is a very wonderful thing to share our very different and vibrant cultures with everyone, but fucking hell mob, we need to keep pushing, we have to honour those that came before, by not giving up on pushing for full Constitutional recognition. We cant stop petitioning, yelling, telling anyone who will listen that we still do not have equality.

Because until this country recognises that we need a more sufficiently inclusive constitution that covers us, as the original inhabitants of this land, and accords us the rights and respects that go with that. Then celebrating a half measure made in 1967, and allowing Australia to continue thinking it has done enough is no reason to celebrate.

So, this year, I changed my Xbox bio to read Happy NAIDOC week, and along with writing this, that's all I have to say about NAIDOC week.

Monday, July 8, 2013

NAIDOC guest blog #1 - Dion Devow

My name is Dion Devow and I am an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander man and the founder of Darkies Design.  I was born and raised in Darwin but moved in Canberra in 1994 to attend university and after graduating with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Health Education in 1997  I decided to stay in Canberra.  On my father’s side I am Manbarra, and we are Traditional Owners for the Palm Island Group in North Queensland, and South Sea Islanders( Kanakas) from Tanna Island.  My Mothers people are from Erub or Darnley Island in the eastern Islands of the Torres Strait. 
Darkies Design is a clothing range for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I started the business because I had a concept about creating an Indigenous clothing line and was encouraged by family and close friends to create it, but also because I wanted to be able to wear fashionable clothes that expressed how proud I am of being an Indigenous Australian.  My use of the word Darkies was deliberate, in that I want to reclaim the word Darkies, hence the slogan Darkies Design- RECLAIMING THE NAME!  I’ve often asked myself, why the word Darkie or Darkies still should be seen as negative or derogatory in contemporary Indigenous society, especially when we as a people were not responsible for the derogatory or negative use of the word.  I am very proud of the colour of my skin and so are all of the Indigenous people I know, no matter how light or dark they are.  I hope that Darkies will no longer be seen as a negative word by our mob but a positive word both now and in the future. 

As the owner of Darkies Design I await the arrival of NAIDOC Week with much
excitement and anticipation.  I set Darkies Design up in 2010 to give us as Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander people the ability to express how proud we are of being
Indigenous Australians by being able to wear clothing that celebrate our Culture/s
and give us a sense of pride with respect to who we are as Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander people living in contemporary Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander society.  What a better week than NAIDOC week to reinforce the messages
that I am trying to share such as through the: "100% Pure Australian" range of
hoodies and tee-shirts.  This powerful message seeks to break down barriers, stamp
out discrimination and eliminate racism through its unspoken meaning that no matter whether a person is light skinned or dark skinned if they identify as an Aboriginal or
Torres Strait Islander person then this should be embraced.

NAIDOC week is always a sensational time of year as our mob get to celebrate our
culture in our way and show the rest of Australia what a strong and proud culture we
have.  When I'm out and about out events such as the ACT NAIDOC ball and AHL NAIDOC week luncheon, I love being a part of everyone coming together in harmony and love to put differences aside and unite as one to celebrate that as one of the oldest living group of peoples on earth we are still here and our culture/s remain strong!

Whilst NAIDOC week will be a very busy week for me as I am holding a stall at a couple of events, I really love yarning with people I know but also meeting new people. If you are in Parramatta on Sunday 14th July 2013 from 10:00am onwards come along to my stall at the Burramatta Family Fun Day:
Darkies Design stalls would love you to visit over the next week or so but if you are
unable to please visit the Darkies Design website: and If you have questions about Darkies Design or just want to have a yarn then please email me: or find me on Twitter: @DarkiesDesign

Looking forward to seeing you mob this proud and celebrate!!!