Sunday, November 30, 2014

Only when relevant...

Australian media is guided by various standards and frameworks which, apart from legal requirements, are often internally developed and implemented. These included how to discuss certain topics, how to refer to certain groups, whether or not to capitalise certain words, and how to decide which information to include or omit in a given story.

These documents are what determine whether to say ‘Aborigines’ or ‘Aboriginal‘; whether or not to spell Indigenous with a capital ‘i’; and most recently, if you should say ‘X is a Gamilaroi’, ‘X is Gamilaroi’, or ‘X is a Gamilaroi person’.

They also include whether or not you should even bother to mention that a person is Aboriginal or not. Usually this is something along of the lines of ‘no undue emphasis of race’, or ‘only if relevant to the story’, and some even acknowledge that there has been a long history of media outlets placing undue emphasis on Aboriginality in stories related to criminality and drunkeness.

This is what I’d like to pause on for a while.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, just letting it quietly bubble away in the back of my mind waiting for it to naturally surface on its own, but last night on Twitter it was thrust into the forefront of my mind.

I was grumbling away in my frustration of democracy and elections and media to help celebrate the elections in Victoria, and mentioned that a part of my lack of engagement in the democratic process is that, as an example, the only party to have an Indigenous candidate running was the Liberal Party, who has Sean Armistead down in Frankston.

In case you are not familiar with my personal politics, I am not a huge fan of the Liberal Party… or the Labor Party, or the Greens, or any other party really, but particularly not the Liberal Party. I am also not a huge fan of the huge underrepresentation of Indigenous people in politics.

(For those whose minds are tempted to wander off on thoughts about how if I want that to change then I need to engage with the democratic blah blah blah, don’t. Stay focused. That issue is another blog which I’ll address at another time, or not.)

It was then pointed out to me that no election coverage actually even noted that Mr Armistead is Aboriginal.

This was quickly interrupted by people effectively arguing that as we live in a post racial society it shouldn’t be mentioned at all.

The problem with this thinking is much the same as the problem I have with the documents I mentioned earlier. It ignores everything that is going on around us everyday. 

Just as over reporting on crime committed by Indigenous people (as well as non-crimes perceived as offenses against ‘Australian society’) serve to reinforce any number of stereotypes, the under reporting of Indigeneity in a variety of other contexts serve to maintain homogenous, dehumanising, and generally ignorant views on Indigenous people.

In short, if the media only report on Indigenous poverty, crime, infighting, abuse, flag burning, and sport, then that’s pretty much all people are going to know, and think, about Indigenous people. Even the stories that are not directly related to these issues are often framed against the backdrop of them.

So if it is relevant when an Aboriginal person commits a crime, then it should have been equally relevant when an Aboriginal woman was tasered in the eye by a police officer. It should have been relevant when an Aboriginal man saved a family from drowning; or when an Aboriginal man was mistaken for another man who had escaped from care, and was subsequently heavily medicated with someone else’s drugs; and it certainly should have been relevant when an Aboriginal man was running for office.

But what is the context that these stories be told in? And what would these contexts suggest about our society?

The story of a women tasered in the eye is viewed by many people as an example of ongoing police harassment, brutality, and over policing of Aboriginal communities. In the time that has passed it has also become a story of a gross lack of police accountability for crimes, including murder, committed against Aboriginal people. It is a story of abuses commonly suffered by Aboriginal people, and it is a story of institutional racism.

The story of an Aboriginal man saving people from drowning is a feel good story. An everyday hero. The sort of person who restores, if only temporarily, our faith in humanity. The sort of person we hope we would be if we were ever tested. The sort of person we hope would be there for us or our loved ones if needed. The sort of person you would imagine that you would like to shout a beer for their bravery. In this instance, an Aboriginal person. 

The story of mistaken identity resulting in terrifying consequences the likes of which would make for a harrowing movie experience. ‘It could happen to anyone’ sort of story. What if he was never discovered? What if he spent years wrongly incarcerated, medicated, pleas ignored as the ‘delusional rantings of a madman’? The script writes itself. But what if that person is Aboriginal? What if the dehumanising nature of how Aboriginal people are viewed by many, and are regularly treated within institutions, played a part? Is it a case of ‘they all look alike to me?’ or ‘they are all crazy and not to be trusted’ or ‘who cares?’. If the person’s Aboriginality is included, the question of racisim, both personal and institutional, potentially comes into the frame.

The story of an Aboriginal man aiming to become the first ever Aboriginal person to be elected in Victoria speaks not only of a history or under representation, and makes people wonder why no other party has any Indigenous candidates. It also speaks for Indigenous participation in the highest levels of political involvement. It raises the bar for what young Indigenous people believe may be achievable in their own lives. It serves to raise the bar of expectation. As we often say in education: ‘You can’t be it if you can’t see it’.

This issue is also relevant to the push for colour blind casting in roles where race isn’t central to the character. Apart from the inclusion of a very small number of Indigenous actors, all of whom are household names, something which is drastically missing on our screens. If a character has to go see a doctor, and that doctor is Aboriginal, it sends a similar message not only to Aboriginal people, but to other Australians as well. That Aboriginal people are involved in Australian society at all levels, and that those roles are not always framed by, or not to be made specifically related to, their identity. If I go to see a dentist, and that dentist is Aboriginal, I don’t congratulate them on their overcoming of adversity, or question them on the difficulties of living in two worlds, or ask them to play the didgeridoo for me, I open my mouth and let them fix my teeth. Their Aboriginality shouldn’t need to be a focus of any aspect of your professional interaction. It may however, act to reinforce the illogical nature of racism, and that people are not defined, or limitlessly bound, by stereotypes)

These sorts of roles on tv, and inclusion of these sort of stories in media, serve to humanise Aboriginal people (a painfully tragic thing to be needed in 2014, but it is what it is). They serve to break down the all too common stereotypes which have been perpetuated by media reporting, on screen story telling, and by those who make the decisions off screen about who is included, when, and why. This is not always done consciously, it is simply what happens when whiteness is mistaken for the status quo.

This is something that largely seems lost on those calling for total colour blind reporting.

Whiteness is the unspoken norm. So much so that if you read a story about a ’35 year old Sydney man’ it is fair to presume that the person in question is white. If he wasn’t it likely would have said ‘a 35 year old Aboriginal man’, for example. So much so that if we suddenly started reporting it as ‘a 35 year old white man’ there would be endless uproar from white people about it. White privilege includes the privilege to not need identifying by any means other than omission.

Whiteness is the unspoken norm which others must be identified as ‘different from’. A white man does need to be identified as a white man, he is just ‘a man’. I am not just ‘a man’ however, I am portrayed as a hyphenated subset of men, ‘an Aboriginal-man’. I am ‘an other’.  

There are no easy answers however. Perhaps if the identity of Mr Armistead was reported on more widely it would have had a negative impact on his perceived electability. Perhaps it would have had given hope an inspiration to a young Indigenous aspiring politician. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…

What we do know, however, is that are clear correlations between media reporting and health outcomes, both directly on individuals, and at a policy level. We do know that the current interpretation of ‘no undue emphasis’ or ‘only mention when relevant’ has no clear guidelines for interpretation or implementation. We do know that involvement from Indigenous people in establishing these frameworks, and considering these issues is severely lacking. We do know that there are far too few Indigenous journalists, and ever fewer editors.

We know that the current state of affairs on reporting on Indigenous affairs is sub par at best.

Indigenous people need to see themselves included in all aspects of society, not just as criminals, as impoverished, as victims; as people at best misunderstood and under represented, and at worst people who are maliciously demonised, ridiculed, and despised.

Indigenous kids need to see role models celebrated in the wider society as well as in their own families and communities. They also need it to see it as a normal, everyday occurrence. Because it is.

They need to see Aboriginal people who are successful on their own terms, for their own merit, and not having their success called into question simply for their Aboriginality. And if their success is framed as exceptional because of their Aboriginality it needs to be in reference to success in spite of racism, not in spite of Aboriginality. Aboriginality should not inherently be perceived as a deficit. It isn’t. The deficit only comes from the obstacles society places in the way of Indigenous people, the conditions that many Indigenous people are forced to endure. It is nothing to do with anything inherent to being Indigenous. It is do with the inherent obstacles of living in a racist and oppressive society. Sometimes even that isn’t relevant to an individuals’ interpretation of their own life story.

These issues are complex, and there is no dot point list of protocols that can tell you whether or not to call someone an Aboriginal person or an Aborigine, or First Nations, or a First Australian, or an Indigenous person, or a Gamilaroi person, or any other possibility. The only ones who can speak to the most respectful way to refer to themselves is themselves. When you are talking about all of us collectively, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders alike, then whether you choose to use the former, or Indigenous, or First Nations, some people will agree, some will disagree, others won’t care. This is not an excuse for ignoring the issue and just referring to us however you want though.

 For what journalist or editor should have power over how Indigenous people are identified? Whether, in a particular story, I am ‘a person’ or ‘an Aboriginal person’?  Whether I am a business owner and a social commentator or I am a Indigenous leader and an activist? A teacher, or a troublemaker? Someone you should listen to or ignore? Why do I never hear about ‘white leaders’, ‘white criminals’, ‘white activists’? It is because many white people see obvious problems with those labels, but see no problem when equivalent terms being used to describe Indigenous people? Is it because many white journalists do not perceive themselves as ‘white’, but only as a ‘human being’, or more like likely ‘I’m just Australian’? Do they not believe that their identity has been in any way relevant to their success, to their worldviews and experiences, or to their own sense of ‘objectivity’?

If you are tempted to call someone a leader, first ask yourself if they actually have a title, or job description, and ask why it wouldn’t be more relevant to use their title instead? Ask yourself if you are trying to honour them, or if you are trying to dumb it down for white audiences, or if you are using the label to make some other sort of statement about the person or issue being discussed. Or better yet, ask them how they would like to be described. If ‘Aboriginal’ or ‘Indigenous’ or ‘First Nations’, or their actual country name, is what they prefer, or if they would prefer to have their Aboriginality not specifically mentioned at all. Ask if ‘leader’ or ‘activist’ is how they or others identify them, or if they would rather just use their name and title. 

So long as the frame of objectivity used to determine the answers to these questions runs in parallel with the lens of whiteness rather than the views of the people concerned, we will still have a long way to go to finding anything near a sensible balance on what is ‘newsworthy’, and how Aboriginality makes something less or more likely to engage the readers, and whether this tool for engagement perpetuates stereotypes, combats them, or transcends them.

 We do not live in a vacuum.

We do not live in a post racial society.  

And we most certainly do not live in a society where everyone is given a ‘fair go’.

Media plays a crucial part in maintaining the status quo of institutional, societal, corporate, and personal racism. It plays an integral role in what issues the public is made aware of, and how they should feel about them. It directly influences Indigenous affairs policies. It directly impacts on how Indigenous peoples and cultures are viewed by the rest of the nation, and on how we perceive each other and ourselves. It also directly impacts on the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the rest of the nation at personal and collective levels.

And while I do no claim to have the answers, I think it is time we all started paying a lot more attention to what is going on in the media.

It is time we started being more aware of how race and racism are framed, and reflecting on how we all contribute to, exist within, and challenge that framework, or not. 

 Colour blind reporting.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Australia: If You Don't Love It, Blah Blah Blah...

There are so many reasons why I hate this slogan that I am struggling to find a place to begin without my mind racing away on all the myriad ways in which this slogan is pathetic, hypocritical, and illogical.

*Takes a deep breath*

So, what are people trying to say with this slogan, and who are they trying to say it to? That seems like a pretty good place to start.

They are generally saying it to people who complain about Australia, its laws and customs, or who don't appear to want to assimilate into Australian way of life.

I need to clarify here though, not the people who complain about the non-White Australians, especially Aboriginal people; and not the white people who came here and refused to respect the original laws and customs of this continent, learn the languages or assimilate into its way of life. And not the ones who hate Australia so much that they constantly try to change its laws; ie the right to be free from racial vilification, to due process, to justice under the law, to seek asylum, to migrate, to manage your own income, practice your own religion, wear the clothing that you want to... not them. They're patriots apparently.

They generally mean the people who don't love the real Australia™, and all that it stands for: meat pies, beer, footy, the flag, southern cross tattoos, the White Australia Policy, racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, abusiveness, drunkenness... you know... STRAYA!! (Unless you're in one of the many other countries that also have all of those things)

And while I hate to burst anyone's bubble, that's not what being Australian is. That's what being a wanker is.

Because while I do like meat, and alcohol now and then, and sport, and various other things that are enjoyed in many parts of the Western world and beyond, and I do like the Southern Cross as much as anyone in the dozens and dozens of countries who can see it in most nights, or have it on their flags as well, I don't think there is anything exceptionally 'Australian' about them.

And as for all the other stuff, I kinda want to say "Stop living in the past you racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, assimilationist clowns... ', but I know that 'Get over the past' is only for Indigenous history. For White Australian history its 'Lest We Forget', except for all the stuff they would rather forget... which most have forgot.       

You don't have to like it when I say that Australia is run by racist fuckwits, and most racist fuckwits out on the streets wearing those weak as piss, made in China shirts are tragically gullible people who sadly believe whatever they hear on TV as long as it is said slowly and hatefully because they lack basic commonsense or individual thought, but you should be willing to defend to the death my right to say it... because some white guy was misquoted as saying that once, in specific reference to a book some other white guy wrote.

Same deal for when I point out that in Australia, you don't have the right to ban people's religions, to ban their clothes, or their languages, or them... well, not anymore anyway. The government does still have some very racist powers in the Constitution, but they seem to have no problem being racist without always needing to invoke them.

In Australia, you don't have the right to racially vilify people.

You don't really have 'the right' to be a bigot either, it's just not always illegal to be a bigot. 'Rights', and 'things that aren't necessarily illegal' aren't really synonyms though.

In Australia, we have had Indigenous people for tens of thousands of years. We have had white people for 226 years. African people, Jewish people, and various others got here at the same time, on the same boats in fact; and lots of other people came here long before white people, at the same time as white people, and immediately after white people, and will continue to so for the foreseeable future.

And even with all of this ongoing migration, it still is and always will be Indigenous lands.

You can wrongly say that anyone who was born here is Indigenous to Australia; and I can say how ignorant that is and how detrimental to our nation it is.

You can deny that science is real, and I can say how ignorant that is and how detrimental to our nation it is.

You can openly demonise innocent men, women and children for the corporate and political gain of others, and I can say how ignorant that is and how detrimental to our nation it is.

You can even wear racist shirts, and I can say how ignorant that is, and how detrimental to our nation it is. 
FYI: It's very ignorant, and very detrimental to our nation. 

You can deny our children a balanced education. You can deny other people's children food, shelter, and safety. You deny justice to people who are wronged by our police, politicians, or corporations. And I can say that you are evil as fuck for all of the above... because that is pretty fucking evil.

I can say that you are a part of the problem and not the solution, because you are.    

That is Australia... that is what we each have the right to do.

And don't you just fucking love it?!

Australia has long allowed the blurring of lines between nationalistic pride and fascist beliefs and practices, and this shirt is an embodiment of that. It is the litmus test to how socially acceptable fascism is in this country. And at the moment, I'd have to say: very. It is very acceptable to declare to the world that you are a horrible person in general, and a hate filled bigot. Not only is it acceptable in public, you can make a very good living in politics or media with absolutely zero other skills on your resume.

You can also make a decent living selling racist shirts to racists apparently.

And while Australia is doing a pretty good job at keeping out lots of non-white people who would be happy to live here peacefully, and tormenting the hell out of the non-white people currently living here; that doesn't change the fact that there has always been plenty of other non-white people already living here who aren't going anywhere. So either we can all start trying to respect each other and make this country great again, for the first time in over 220 years, or we can just keep hating each other while our government robs us blind on behalf of a handful of greedy billionaires who look down upon all of us with absolute contempt.


And if you really can't come to terms with that. If you hate Australia so much that this information is just too much to bare, then yes, you can leave... If you want. Or not. Whatever.

Ossie Ossie Ossie - Ostrich Ostrich Ostrich.

Or whatever.
And for those who come across the seas, we've boundless plains to share - you just might need to wait a while while we try and deal with all of these racist fuckwits who are trying to make our national anthem into even more of a lie than it already is...

But if there's one take home message that I want to leave you with, it's: buy an IndigenousX shirt.

Not as a 'message to the racists' or whatever, I just want everyone to wear an IndigenousX shirt... and I want your money.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

When it's OK to be 'Part Aboriginal'

From the moment White people enforced the control and regulation over the lives of Aboriginal people, they also made great effort to define us. Categorise us. Study us. Dissect us. Reshape us in their own image of who and what we should be.

And from nine months after the first White men used and abused Aboriginal women, White Australia has worried about the 'Halfcaste Problem'.

"What are we going to do with all these Halfcastes?"

A line from an article in The Abo Call in 1938 sums up the history of the Halfcaste experience quite well. It is titled "Halfcastes - By one of them.'

'It is said that God made the white man, and God also made the black woman, but the Devil made the Halfcaste. This is why Halfcastes have such a Devil of a time.'   

We have had countless laws and limitations imposed on our status as Aboriginal people, our status as non-Aboriginal people, and even our status as human beings. Laws that did not simply determine what we were called, but that determined all aspects over our life and death. Even as late as 1980s powerful White men were advocating for the incarceration of mass sterilisation of halfcastes (Lang Hancock in 1984). In 1988 the Victorian State president of the RSL, Mr Bruce Ruxton, called on the Federal Government "to amend the definition of Aborigine to eliminate the part-whites who are making a racket out of being so-called Aborigines at enormous cost to the taxpayers".

And of course, Bolt brainfarts the greatest hits list of stupid imaginary racist shit over the past 200 years and pretends to pass it off as 'original thought' or 'opinion'.

One particular aspect of these most recent brainfarts was chorused by an individual who chooses to identify as 'part-Aboriginal', as is his right and is something I do not care about in terms of his personal identity.  It's his identity, he can do whatever he wants with it. What does annoy me though, is the mock superiority when asking why the rest of us don't follow his lead. Why is it that we are all so ashamed of our White heritage? Why do we reject and deny it by choosing to identify ourselves as simply 'Aboriginal' and not 'Part White and part Aboriginal', or as Bolt occasionally likes to pretend to care about, just as 'Australians'.

The reason, for me at least, is not that I so reject my White heritage, so much as it is the knowledge that after generation after generation has been rejected, mistreated, ridiculed, tormented, regulated and abused by White society, so my opinion became: 'Well fuck you too then, I never wanted to play on your Team Australia anyway!'

You read articles in old publications like The Abo Call (1938) and you see regular attempts to leverage the fact that many Aboriginal people had White fathers in an attempt to justify why they deserved basic human rights. There is talk of a willingness to learn White ways as well as to retain our own. To have the basic freedoms to choose our own futures, and our own identities. Spoiler alert: it didn't work too well, not for another 50 years or so at least, and since then every step forward in this regard has been staunchly undermined by White power structures, often resulting in two steps back.  

For many it was more about getting basic human rights than labels or wanting to 'feel special, including the right of a mother to be with her child. These rights, in their absence, were often deemed more important than whether or not that parent or that child was defined as White or Aboriginal. So when kids were being taken to be with White families, it was 'Fuck You, these kids are Aboriginal!'. When kids were being denied safety, schooling, medical treatment, blankets etc on Missions and Reserves it was 'Fuck You, many of these kids were fathered by White men'. These were responsive arguments designed to try and appeal to White hearts and minds, and to those within the power structures enforcing these Draconian measures against us. They were not always sincere reflections on how we saw ourselves, or how we wanted to be identified on even terms, but how these labels of identity would influence the way in which we were treated. Treatment which could literally determine life or death for you and your family.

I'm not remotely ashamed to admit that I'll sign a bit of paper saying that I am whatever you want me to be, if you torture me long enough or if you sincerely threaten my family. That's how torture and blackmail work.

By the 70s though, you see much less of these arguments being made and more and more efforts being put into the rights of Aboriginal people ourselves to be in control of these definitions, criteria and labels, and abandon what was never anything more than quantification by White outsiders through visible identification/guesstimation anyway.The shift towards the capacity to demand our rights, rather than having to plead and cajole for them.

So by the time I was kid in NSW in the 1980s, anyone who said 'I am half Aboriginal' or 'I am part Aboriginal' would invariably be told by someone older and wiser, 'No. You are Aboriginal or you are not. There are no parts", or the classic "Really, which part, your leg?" or something else designed to highlight and to ridicule the pointlessness of such a qualification.

This was the atmosphere of identification which I was raised within, so it is little surprise to me that such a profound concept at an early age has left a permanent mark on the way I see myself, the world around me, and my place in it. Just as I was once firmly, and falsely, believed that it was impossible to have a word with a 'q' not followed by a 'u', I likewise have expanded and adapted my earlier views to be more accepting of the fact that there are people who legitimately identify as 'part-Aboriginal' or as a 'halfcaste', or even as 'part-White'. And not all of them do it for a non-competitive easy payday in the right wing public speaking circles either. Some people legitimately choose to identify this way, for reasons which are entirely their own business, and they have every right to do so. Just as I have every right not to.

One group of 'part-Aboriginal' people who have been largely exempt from this though, at least within my own observations and experiences, are those who, like me, are technically 'part-Aboriginal', but significantly, the other 'parts' aren't White.

I have plenty of mates who freely and happily assert 'I am half-Aboriginal and half-Tongan'. 'I am a mix of Aboriginal, Chinese, and Fijian' or whatever combination of non-White heritages they come from.

The reason that such people get a pass, and I and others do not, is quite a simple one really: Tongans never tried to commit genocide against us. The Chinese never tried to commit genocide against us. No one in the thousands of years of outsiders visiting Australia (Muslims included) who weren't White tried to regulate, control, dismantle, define, redefine and destroy us with such fervour. All the while stealing our land, our resources, our wages, our women, our children, and our very lives while telling us to be thankful, to smile more, to stop being so damn lazy, and to stop picking on poor defenseless White victims like Andrew Bolt.    

So if I can only be who I am on other people's terms, and must smile politely and respectfully at the ignorant and hate filled demonisation of who I am, then I'm not coming to your party... and you can get fucked.

I am Aboriginal. My skin is white and my eyes are blue. My mum is White (and I love her to bits). My heritage is mixed. Whiteness permeates by being, my language, and my thinking as I was raised within this White dominated colonial society, but my identity has always been Aboriginal. For as long as I can remember I have never been anything else. For as long as I live I will never be anything else.

But since the other 'part' to my heritage IS White, I will probably be retelling this story in various forms, and refightng this fight well into my old age. Just like many other 'part-White' Aboriginal people before me for the past 200 years. This will happen regardless of what I choose to call myself, because the problem is not and has never really been with our label, but with our very existence. The original plan did not include Aboriginal people ('part', 'half', or 'full') still existing by now, and we will never be forgiven for refusing to go quietly into extinction.

But whatever...

It is what it is.

I am who I am, and I'll do what I have to do.

Deal with it.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


NAIDOC is often looked upon as a week where Indigenous Australia gets to showcase our talents, celebrate our strengths, come together as a community, and educate the rest of Australia about our history, our culture, and ourselves. This is undoubtedly true, and is something I have long enjoyed taking part in as a dancer (in my younger years), a workshop provider (sharing song and dance, games, and stories), and an event organiser (organising NAIDOC activities for schools, regions, and communities) 

This year though, I was asked my opinion about a NAIDOC event (which shall remain nameless) with a slight difference to the above. It was intended to be exclusively for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

This challenged me to consider how essential is the 'educate wider Australia about our history, our culture, and ourselves' to a NAIDOC event. Is it an essential requirement? Do we need to be 'inclusive' of others in how we celebrate NAIDOC? If we have an Indigenous only event, are we being 'exclusive', and if we are, is this necessarily a bad thing?

When I think of all the work that is still being done, all the things that are still being fought for, I wonder how high on the list is 'educating others'? 

My initial response is that it must be fairly low on the priority list. It cannot stack up against the need for education, employment, health, housing, land rights, Sovereignty, or ending the youth suicide epidemic. Personally, I only ever really regard the issue of 'Reconciliation' (for lack of a better term) as a means of reducing racism. This I feel is important because it is the ignorance and animosity that exists against Indigenous people and cultures that facilitates government policies devoid of evidence, negotiation, or adequate planning. It is the same animosity and ignorance that helped water down land rights, that helped ignore the recommendations from the Bringing Them Home report, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in Custody, and the Little Children Are Sacred and implement programs and policies completely at odds with these reports. It is not for warm feelings of friendship, to alleviate white guilt, or to 'reconcile' with White Australia. It is simply to remove what I see as a roadblock on the path to progress. If friendships are made on this path, if people are able to better come to terms with living as part of a forced occupation, if we 'reconcile' our differences, that is lovely, but largely inconsequential to the cause of justice for Indigenous people.   

I do not need to be your friend to have respect for you, to understand elements of your story, or to support your cause for justice if it is denied. 

I don't need one week a year specially set aside for me to educate you about who I am in order for you to understand this, nor do I believe that it is really what NAIDOC is about. 

In the spirit of Self Determination, I support individuals and communities right to decide for themselves where to focus their energies, how to celebrate NAIDOC Week, and who to invite to the party. I also understand that government support, financial or otherwise, might quickly disappear if too many communities decide to hold events just for Indigenous people. I'm just not sure that is necessarily a bad thing either...

All I do know is that I view NAIDOC Week as a week to reflect on the year passed, to catch up with friends and family, to see some amazingly talented individuals do their thing, and  occasionally recommend some deadly young brother or sister out there for a dance job, a speakers gig, a workshop, or some other work they rely on to make ends meet... but to those who want to focus on the needs of themselves, their families and communities instead during NAIDOC Week, I say go for it. And to those who want to share their story with other Australians, I say go for it. 

That's what NAIDOC Week should be about. Doing what you think matters, in the way you want to do it, with the people you want to do it with. 

Respect those who have come before you, honour them, and join them in the ongoing struggle for justice, and for survival. 



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

IndigenousX Dot Com

Hey peeps,

Sorry I haven't been blogging or vlogging much lately but life went and got itself really hectic really quick... good ways though.

I have been busily working away in the background setting IndigenousX up for the next stage of development. This has included registering IndigenousX as a trademark, establishing it as a Pty Ltd, and bringing together a number of Indigenous collaborators to provide support, guidance and assistance as it starts to grow into much more than just a Twitter account.

The most significant step in this journey at the moment is the introduction of an interim website which is helping raise funds for the actual website, currently being developed. This is being done through direct donation (via paypal) and t-shirt & hoodie sales (via Redbubble).

While we are pursuing a number of business options with IndigenousX, to date it has been unfunded and has made only minimal income. In the simplest terms, this means that all of the things I have mentioned above, plus the hundreds of hours I have put into the development, management and promotion of Indigenous so far have been done in my own time, and out of my own pocket, and at the expense of numerous career options (funnily enough, lots of peeps don't like the sort of things I, and some of our hosts, have had to say about all sides of government, and various areas of industry). The reason that I have not pushed too hard so far on gaining sponsors and funders is that most of these would have come with conditions that IndigenousX is not willing to be subjected to. It is essential that IndigenousX remains independent and has the capacity to speak about whatever issues it chooses, and sources hosts who are able to do the same. This provides a lot of opportunity, but also brings a number of significant challenges. Namely, getting money to do stuff, and to pay other people to do other stuff. Lawyers, accountants, web developers etc don't come cheap. Just because I am only using Indigenous people in these roles doesn't mean I am getting any discounts or freebies, in fact it has been important to me to not do this as I want to pay these professionals what they are worth for the services they provide, just as I want IndigenousX to be paid for some of the services it provides. As we have always been buoyed by our fans and supporters online I wanted to see how we would go with raising the funds through our online community. So far, we've done alright... We've had about $2k in donations, and sold a dozen or more T-shirts and hoodies. This has been an awesome start for our first week, but still leaves us a fair bit short of what is needed to do the website up right.

The simple truth though is that most of the people and organisations I want to work with are the ones who don't have the resources to afford it. This means we will need a lot of support, and some subsidiary income streams, to become sustainable. The other main focus is on making a comprehensive and exciting website. This will provide additional opportunities for hosts to engage with our audience once their week has concluded; will provide potential to showcase more Indigenous voices online; and will provide a wide range of information about Indigenous people and issues to help raise awareness and provide assistance to those who want to improve their knowledge and understanding, and find opportunities for how they can get involved. None of this really brings in a dollar though, it is just something that I really want to do, and something that I believe IndigenousX is uniquely positioned to do.

Some of the things I am looking at include an IndigenousX speakers conference (in planning - hopefully coming before the end of the year); in-school workshops around science education for Indigenous students ages 8-13; professional development/training programs; independent content creation (video, print, images, etc); advocacy, fundraising and campaigning support for Indigenous driven projects and campaigns; and continuing to improve the social media visibility of Indigenous people, issues, and projects that IndigenousX supports.  

So rather than looking at this project as a typical business model, I am looking at it in terms of: what needs to be done? and what is IndigenousX in a position to do? The financial sustainability side of things I will trust to the universe (including you mob); supported by my ability to work my ass off with little sleep, and to go without shiny things, or 'weekends'.

So, if you want to lend a hand, go to and buy a shirt or make a donation, or if you want to get involved with any of the other stuff I mentioned, drop me an email to and say hello.

NB: I probably should have written this in more of a 'promotional' style but I only got here by speaking plain and true, so I don't see much point in changing tact now.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

IndigenousX can help you to StartSomeGood!

Crowdfunding is quickly becoming recognised as a viable source of funding free of the constraints of government, corporates and philanthropic groups. It allows people to raise money from the public (the crowd) for a good project or activity. It often involves raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, most commonly through the Internet. Many individuals and groups have successfully raised funds and fostered awareness through crowd funding.

IndigenousX is a social media project developed and run entirely by Indigenous people, and a key part of this project is supporting fellow Indigenous people, communities, and projects to raise much needed funds through our partnership with the excellent crowdfundingplatform, StartSomeGood. StartSomeGood connects people and their ideas with the support they need to get them happening -- all in a fun, engaging and community-driven way, and unlike most platforms is focused on projects that make a positive impact on the world.

IndigenousX has access to a growing audience of potential supporters who can help spread the word and raise funds online for your campaign, project or idea. Through StartSomeGood, it can help you tap into supporters locally and from around the world. Currently, IndigenousX and StartSomeGood have access to a combined audience of 50,000 people on Twitter alone, as well as numerous other promotion opportunities. Combine this with your own networks and audiences and we have an opportunity to reach thousands upon thousands of people who will be made aware of your project, and will have the opportunity to support it.

Not only does IndigenousX offer a specific platform to raise funds for your project or campaign, it also provides support in the development of the campaign, and a massive boost to promoting it once it is online. Your fundraising venture can be for social good projects, community initiatives, artistic projects, or any number of other good ideas.

Since November 2013 IndigenousX and StartSomeGood have together raised funds for a range of Indigenous issues and projects. Early successes have included the Vote Yes film starring Miranda Tapsell about the 1967 Referendum (over $20,000), an Elders Report into Indigenous self harm and youth suicide (over $9,500), and an Aboriginal health blog series (over $7,500).

How to apply

Becoming an IndigenousX StartSomeGood campaign requires firstly discussing your idea with IndigenousX and meeting the StartSomeGood criteria. IndigenousX can support fundraising ideas that fit with the aims of IndigenousX and that it has capacity to support at any given time.

If selected, we will help you to develop your idea into a complete StartSomeGood fundraising campaign, including help to create an inspirational project description, comprehensive plan for use of funds, and promotional support.

If you would like to discuss your campaign ideas with IndigenousX, please contact Luke Pearson at

For more information and terms and conditions on the IndigenousX & Start Some Good partnership, go here:

To check out other StartSomeGood projects, go here

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tony Abbott's Bolt Obsession

There has been endless debate on the issue of removing 18C, purely because Bolt found himself on the wrong side of the legislation.

Not, as many argue, because he dared discuss issues of the Stolen Generations (he still writes prolifically, and very poorly, on this issue), and not because he dared explore the issue of laws pertaining to Aboriginality. These issues are both wide open for exploration, debate and criticism.

He ran foul of the law because he racially vilified a group of individuals, using a number of false assertions and accusations.

You can discuss whatever you want about Aboriginality, and many, many people do. You just can't use untruths to maliciously racially vilify people in the process. Other people have argued that much better than I am able with my insufficient legal expertise, so I will leave it there and focus on something that amongst the endless debate, has yet to be explored.

Why exactly is it that the self proclaimed 'PM for Aboriginal Affairs' is so eager to ensure that Andrew Bolt, a Stolen Generations denying, court established racist and inept journalist, keep writing?!  

So much so that he is striving to have the law changed to exonerate him, and allegedly went to Bolt's house after he lost the case to plead with him to keep writing.

There are plenty of journalists who get into strife for printing inaccuracies, or who have to apologise or remove articles because they border on defamation or other forms of offense. None of whom to my knowledge have had Tony Abbott rock up at their house to beg them to continue on their crusade.

Many people, myself included, feel that Bolt blames Aboriginal culture itself for the high number of Aboriginal children being removed, denies that the Stolen Generations ever existed, and believes fair skinned Aboriginal people to be frauds and charlatans. What is it about that, that a self declared PM for Aboriginal Affairs is so desperate to see continue? And why is this issue of absolutely zero interest to anyone on any side of the debate?

This issue is way beyond the generic points about the importance of Free Speech. It is a specific desire to move mountains to ensure that Andrew Bolt can continue to write this rubbish.

Could it possibly have anything to do with the fact that governments have more than once had to suspend the same Racial Discrimination Act to pass racist legislation?

Or could it have anything to do with the fact that several Liberal ministers boycotted the Apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008?

Could it be simply be because Tony Abbott agrees with Bolt, and has similar problems with Aboriginal people, culture, and the history of the Stolen Generations?

Whatever the reasons may be, I think some more media attention is seriously warranted.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A bit of perspective

I was around for the whole Aldi Tshirt fiasco the other week on Twitter, threw in a few tweets as you do, and did an interview on NITV about it too because Aaron Nagas, who was hosting the account I look after, @IndigenousX, wasn't available to take it.

The short story for those who missed it: someone tweeted a pic of the Aldi catalogue to @IndigenousX, Aaron retweeted it and commented on it, tweeted Aldi asking if they would remove it. Big W too. A bunch of other people threw in tweets too (by a 'bunch', I mean we are probably talking about a few dozen, maybe a hundred or two tops). They removed the shirts. Life continued unimpeded. Probably no individual spent more than an hour or so of their time in total tweeting about it.

The media got onto it, mostly because they see this stuff as controversial click bait. Stir the pot a bit before 'Australia Day'. Another opportunity to talk about how the left (which I do not identify as, nor the right for that matter) are just waiting around for stuff to get angry about... 

This is all pretty stock standard, and as someone who occasionally pops up on NITV, NIRS, or some radio station wherever I understand that this is just par for the course. Nothing I do is ever for the purpose of getting on TV, or on the radio but I know some of the stuff I say or do will eventually make it into some media thing somewhere and if it's gonna happen I'd rather it be me talking about it than someone else talking about me. Also, it helps promote IndigenousX, and to be blunt it helps me raise my profile a bit as well which doesn't hurt to do now and then. Helps keep a few more options open for me... I don't get to choose what makes it into the media though, I just have to try and ride the storm and hope it doesn't make whatever issue we are talking about too much worse, as media more often than not does whenever it comes to anything Indigenous.

I have for the most part given up on asking media to report about what I think they should report on. Except the few Indigenous journalists I know; I usually tell them when I see something that hasn't been reported on but should.

I didn't really pay much attention to any of the media about the Aldi shirt because quite frankly, who the hell cares what they say about it, and besides, I was actually there. Still, I thought it was awesome that Aaron was able to effect some real world change during his week as host. It is an amazingly empowering feeling to be able to affect change from something as simple as a twitter account, and I am very proud that IndigenousX is able to facilitate that occasionally for the people who generously volunteer their time to take control of the account.

It only lasted a day or so and it was all done, and that was a whole week ago now so I had pretty much forgotten about the whole thing until I saw a pic on Twitter with a quote from Warren Mundine chastising us over the issue. I tracked down the article and found the quote:

And quite frankly, it pissed me off immensely.

During that same week on Twitter Aaron talked about a huge range of issues, including the fact that he helped establish the Australian Indigenous Basketball Championships, Marriage equality, everyday racism, Climate Change, education as well as help raise awareness for many Indigenous Organisations/events by giving them a plug, and I myself was promoting a fundraising campaign trying to raise funds to print and distribute an independently made Elders Report into Indigenous Self Harm and Indigenous Youth Suicide (which to date has raised over $5000 in donations and zero media interest whatsoever). None of that is deemed media worthy, except of course for the Guardian who post interviews with our weekly hosts online (which is awesome because they don't write articles ABOUT our hosts, we came up with a list of questions together and we let the hosts answer them in their own words).

Unlike a group of Aboriginal people so small I could give them all a ride in my car at the same time, most of us don't have the PMs ear; we don't get to directly influence which Indigenous programs live or die; and we don't get to have our opinion pieces published in whatever paper we choose to publish them in whenever we feel like it.

We don't even always get asked to comment about stories that we personally instigate on Twitter (with a couple of exceptions as mentioned earlier).

We don't even get asked or notified when they publish our tweets.

If you want to get fired up about something, get fired up at the way the media misrepresent Aboriginal people and issues, and don't publicly chastise us over what the media choose to quote us on. It's twitter. People talk about what they are eating for lunch, post pics of sunsets and kittens, and talk about whatever else grabs their attention. You are very active on Twitter, or your approved account is at the very least. And you should know better. You know full well that the media avoid us like the plague when we do get fired up (which we do more often than not) about education, employment, incarceration, youth suicide, health, mental health, racism masked as patriotism, media misrepresentation, leadership, government advisory committees, and a whole range of other issues that matter far more than a dodgy T-shirt for sale. Most media only refer to us purely to generate the idea that all we get upset about is trivial matters. There was no 'Twitter storm' as reported, and Aaron handled himself like a champion throughout the whole ordeal, managed it as best he could, got a great outcome, and should be applauded for how competently he navigated it. Not contemptuously spat on from one of the less than a dozen Aboriginal people who can get any issue raised in the media whenever they want to, and maintain a strong voice within the media through to its conclusion.

We have nothing to influence change on a national level but our twitter accounts, our blogs, and the occasional online petition... And we are getting better and better at using them all the time. 

I don't doubt that media will continue to misrepresent what we talk about, and even the majority of media who are actually on our side will still dumb it down to a two dimensional interpretation of what is really being discussed. Not much we can do about that though, so whatever. As I mentioned, we aren't saying this stuff to get into the media, and we aren't thinking about how the media might choose to misrepresent us, or dumb down an issue as complex as the Australia Day vs Day of Mourning/Invasion Day/Survival Day issue by focusing on one tangible aspect which can be used to undermine opposition to choosing the 26th of January as our national day. Instead, we are usually thinking about nothing more than enjoying the opportunity to speak our own minds, and engaging with the amazing community of Indigenous and non-Indigenous tweeps that has formed around IndigenousX.

As far as I'm concerned if the media never mention my name again it will be doing me a favour. It impedes my ability to affect change far more often than it enhances it. But if they are going to, you better be certain I'll do what I can to have my voice heard and try to add some perspective. As will others. 

NB: Aaron did do one interview on 720 ABC Perth radio, which was awesome. Here 'tis