Black History

Aboriginal Australians

01/04/2015

If we take a look at modern Australia be it through TV shows, films, newspaper articles, the list of media goes on we’d rarely glimpse any of the aboriginal people. Where are they? Mainly on the outskirts of towns and cities, in the outback, or sadly many would find them in prison.

Australia’s history has made many attempts to annihilate any form of association with the true natives of the land. Whenever I’ve researched the Australia, I’ve found that Australia was “discovered” in the late 18th century where Captain Cook, known as an explorer landed in the east of Australia in 1770. He called it New Holland. The Brits wanted to establish a penal colony in this land. Their jails had become overcrowded. They could no longer use America as their dumbing ground since the American Revolution prohibited convicts from England to be sent there. So Australia was perfect for the British.

They had disregarded a huge very large fact: the land had already had inhabitants roaming it for (as long as) 60,000 years prior. Aboriginal Australians were a nomadic group hunting animals using spears and boomerangs. They had natural diet of fruits, nuts, yams and insects. They had never cultivated the land like the Europeans had; the aborigines had never built towns or cities like the Europeans had and so in the eyes of the European man – mainly the British, the aborigines were not people at all. The British saw that they had not taken possession of the land and instead decided Australia did not belong to the aborigines but to the British.

So as soon as British placed their blue, red and white flag on the soil in what we know as Sydney, the battle for the Australian land had begun. Unfortunately, you and I both know who won this battle.

Why do I say that it’s an unfortunate event? Why am I siding with the Aborigines? Is it because I’m black and therefore must side with anyone who shares my complexion? Definitely not. But in this instance, I tilt my head and think, these people didn’t harm anyone yet they were killed deliberately by the gun and through diseases. And it was for land, possession, power. Maybe I’ll never see perspective of the British despite being from the former creator of such imperialists.

I’d like to highlight that history books always refer to Europeans as settlers

Now, today, if someone, anyone comes from another country to live and work in Europe especially Britain, they aren’t seen as a settler nor are they welcomed with open arms. Instead, they’re seen as an immigrant (where the term is used offensively) or more to the point seen as a huge problem. Though, many of these immigrants want to work, improve their lives and get to experience what the European life is all about. After all, they’d gone and imperialised so many parts of the world – why would these cultures not want to see these European cultures first hand?

 

From an imagined perspective of an aborigine, the rest of this post is written from Merindah’s eyes. Merindah or Miranda means beautiful. So, using facts I’ve researched in order to create a voice from a silencing past, this is what I’ve conjured up. Here goes.

My name is Merindah. I live near a long stretch of golden coastline a beautiful one with a high ground, where, most days I’d sit for hours just watching the sea. One day I did that. ‘Twas a normal day, sun was hot over my head burning my brown skin just a little more and making my hair become a brighter shade of yellow. My mother always chastises me because I’d sit in the sun – but I like the feeling it has on my skin. The winters were soon approaching and I wanted to bask in as much of the long sunny days as I could. The birds sung and danced in the trees behind, the wind rustling through the leaves above, the grass waved in response to the winds. The sea was blue and there was nothing out on it save for seagulls catching some unfortunate fish. My hair fluttered gently before resting itself on my shoulders again. I was content here. I laid back and rested my head against the soft green velvet and stared up at the blue skies. Large chunks of fluffy whiteness blew overhead and then into the trees beyond my view. I stretched and then sat up again.

What was this that disturbed my view? Something large took up the whole horizon. The large object was heading in my direction. Then, almost suddenly, I noticed more, about 10 or so more.  I thought that maybe my mother was right, sitting in the sun was probably frying my brain. But I blinked and blinked again and it was definitely not my imagination. I thought I should get someone else to see what was happening so I ran to get my older brothers. The grass what hot under my feet but it became cooler when I began to grow closer to the thick browny reddy trees, that provided them with a good amount of shade. Maybe I should sit under here when it’s this hot. She brushed the thought aside as she ran to get her brothers. There were bigger problems coming. They were lying against talking together as they usually do after they’d eaten. They weren’t impressed that she’d interrupted their deep conversation since she rushed the sentences making every word stumble upon itself. After she caught her breath, she slowed down. At first they didn’t believe me. They thought I was bored and needed something to do. So I agreed if I was wrong, they could throw me into the river as they usually did whenever I got something wrong or they just felt like picking on me. If I was right they’d had to give me the credit and tell the elders. They sluggishly got up and followed me to where I was sitting on the high ground. This time the ships were a lot closer. My eldest brother cursed and sprinted away. My two other brothers stood in awe. The ships showed no sign of deviating; they were coming closer and closer by the moment.

Merindah exhaled. That was a sad day. Since then, these ghosts have tried to negotiate with us – the elders of most of the tribes near where I live – but they speak another tongue. The elders asked them in their own tongue, what were these foreigners doing here? I heard my father express some frustration as they had trouble communicating. So one day, these ghosts came to our camp with gifts. Unusual ones, I’d say, but maybe beneficial since the nights got cold sometimes and these long warm things did the job. Some of the tribes asked their young men to be of assistance to these foreigners. Making sure they knew where the rivers were, and if they needed food they’d assist them. Looking back at it, I wish they’d just said get off our land and go away but as they didn’t things grew worse.

Several months after the arrival of these ghosts, I began noticing some changes to the trees. Some of the trees were on the floor. There were lots of leaves scattered about. Many of them were disappearing. One fine morning, my father had specifically warned me not to go anywhere near them as my disappearances worried him. He’d already heard about some women going missing since these men had arrived and he wanted to hear nothing happening to his only daughter. Suppose I couldn’t disagree with him. So being the obedient daughter, I promised him that I’d only go to my usual spot. On this specific morning, I watched the water as much as I could – but there were huge ships distracting my view. I heard a sound behind me as if someone was struggling with something, grunting and breathing awkwardly. I turned and noticed it was a ghostly men gathering up some of the logs and carry it off somewhere. I followed him, of course. Curiosity in my opinion never harms anyone. Turns out these foreigners had a plan. They were building huts. They weren’t just visiting. So you can imagine, I told my father – not before he scolded me for going near them. The issue again arose as to what they were doing here and how long they were here for.

The young men who were assisting the ghosts came back with a report – they were here to annihilate us. Naturally, not everyone believed them. Many mocked them because the people thought that they, these ghosts were the friendliest bunch of people around. After all, they did give us gifts and they haven’t harmed us in any way. I did though. I believed them. They were wrecking my territory by cutting down the trees. They were building something odd and it seems they were staying around for a while. They stole our food. They polluted our water. Wherever they came from, they fit the description of the ghostly people the elders spoke about some years ago who came into the land with similar attitudes and behaviour. Most people in the east thought they were just stories until diseases these ghosts had brought to our golden land were killing my brothers and sisters in the north and east. Only since they’d been here have we had so many problems. My, my. Many times I thought I’d been dreaming, but my eyes are wide open.

They come with this strange tongue, objects I’ve never seen and a plot I’d never imagined. They came to kill. I’m a part of the handful that survived. But only barely. Pemulwuy, was one of few people who stood up to these immigrants. He brought a large group of fighters with him. Boy, were we grateful for his intervention. So many people had been killed and he had had enough of it. We were forced to move out of the areas. The ghosts used guns as threats, fences as their defence and introduced enforcements that banned us from setting foot anywhere near ghost territory. They grew larger in population. Lots more arrived each year until we were officially outnumbered. And Pemulwuy was killed.

Their plan seemed to be working. They had gained control over a land that was never theirs. Year after year, decade, after decade my children became more and more secluded from society and the land that was once ours. Why didn’t we fight them off? We did. Many of these ghosts were killed too. But our death toll outweighed theirs.

What bothers me more is that a century or so later after these ghosts had interrupted our land, they, what society calls them Australians, stole my children from me. They took them with the intention of ‘breeding the black out of them’ in order to make Australia an all-white world. My land that was once beautiful had drastically become ugly.  Now so many of my children barely make it into the history books.

Though there are many of them making a change today, they are a forgotten group. Australian society still denies their existence. When aborigines are displayed they are drunkards. When white Australian’s are asked is there a problem between you and the natives, they are quick to deny any problem. Of course, they can’t see the problem because they haven’t stepped back and viewed it from my perspective.

Now, you don’t have to believe me. You really don’t. After all, there aren’t too many of us left – who’s to say I haven’t exaggerated some things? You can always research for yourself. Maybe the history books will highlight a piece of information that may make you want to question it.

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