A few hundred years ago, a group of Europeans took a treacherous boat journey. Some to find a new beginning, some to live a life of punishment for having to do desperate things to feed their families.
When their boats reached the shores of a distant territory, people were already there. Living on the land … and with the land. Land that was sacred to them, that was part of them and they were part of it.
65,000 years ago, the ancestors of those people arrived on a continent of a different shape and size. That under them and with them merged with the water, became multiple, breathed and separated and moved with time and tides.
But when the Europeans set foot on the place that land had become, the people who had been breathing and moving with it through tens of thousands of years were nothing. But an obstacle. The Europeans said:
“The question comes to this, which has the better right, the savage, born in a country, which he runs over but can scarcely be said to occupy or the civilized man, who comes to introduce into this unproductive country, the industry which supports life?”
The people who were part of the land had been borne of it, lived through it and because of it for tens of thousands of years. Produced by the land. Supported by it and supporting it.
Killed for the land.
Subjugated for it.
And for hundreds of years, those that could survive the ongoing oppression felt the land under them and with them. Calling to them. Breathing through them.
And still they were denied. All the while being told:
42 years ago, groups of people began taking treacherous boat journeys. Hoping to find a new beginning. But instead, those that do so now must live a life of punishment for having to do desperate things to feed their families.
Because when they try to set foot on the place that the Europeans had landed on a few hundred years ago, these people are nothing.
But those who are part of the land – borne of it, produced by it, supported by and supporting it – would say
(To read Indigenous Social Justice Association President Ray Jackson’s open letter to Kevin Rudd on the governmental approach to refugees, click here.)
I am not ashamed to put my name to this piece. I am Alison Earls. I am no one. Not a politician or a leader. I have white privilege that I have never earned.
I am ashamed to be Australian when Australians are known for taking what isn’t theirs when they already have so much. And for denying so much when what they already have isn’t theirs.
I am free to say this in a world where many are not free to say many things. So I will use my undeserved privilege to try and give my fellow human beings a “Fair Go”. Because that is what Australians say, on this day, that they stand for.