Trio recently watched Season 1 of the SBS Documentary First Contact on Stan. I put it on to watch while the kiddies cleaned their room and I folded washing on the couch. The moment Uluru came on the screen GG and BB were enthralled! At their old school they had an Aboriginal Elder, Aunty Brenda, who frequented the campus and told the children stories about dreamtime and about caring for the land & your family is super important. At their new school there is a permanent sign acknowledging country and each assembly begins with it also. As such, I thought it might be a program that my little people could get some benefit out of – I didn’t realise the amount of swearing that would be involved in the filming of the program, but I instructed my outraged Twosome to ignore the swear words and focus instead on what the people were trying to tell us about their thoughts, feelings and experiences.
After pausing to explain about a lot of different things, which included me signing Colours Of The Wind and many references to Disney’s Pocahontas, GG in particular seemed fascinated by the plight of the First Australian’s and watched intently as the program played. There were tears from GG and outraged disbelief & many hugs from BB when the subject of the Stolen Generation was broached. Their large empathy cups runneth over as they tried to fathom WHY anyone would steal children just because their skin was a different colour and because they lived differently. They watched with fascination at the traditional dancing, hunting and community activities in both urban and rural areas.
After the first episode finally came to an end after our protracted viewing, I turned it off and sent GG and BB to at last tidy their room. Quick as a whip and to my surprise they were back begging me to put the show back on! Our little family sat there on that beautiful rainy day all snug on the couch and watched the remaining two episodes (I censored out some parts where I knew there was going to be particular adult content that they really didn’t need to hear about) and learned about the culture of the First Australian People. GG and BB watched with fascination as children in remote communities went to school and learned FOUR native Australian languages as well as English – and expressed their annoyance that they didn’t get to learn any native Australian languages at their school! lol They marvelled at communities that had no electricity, no mobile phones, playstations, ipads etc. They laughed at the families playing together. They listened as one lady was asked why she chose to stay living in that area of poverty and to my surprise they nodded their heads and spoke in agreement when the woman replied “Because the grave of my grandfather is here, my brothers, my mother and father, my aunts and uncles. All their graves are here and I stay here to look after them and care for them.”.
As the final episode came to a close they both breathed a sigh, that sounded almost like relief, that it was over, but they both expressed their satisfaction at having watched it. And believe me, I shared that same sense of relief and satisfaction. Whilst I don’t regret watching it with them, it brought up many subjects that made me think and brought a lot of issues home to me. Thinking of the stolen generation for a start. That was happening when my Grandma was born and continued throughout her childhood. My ancestors have been in Australia for 7 generations now, we came from England, Scotland and Ireland. So it was my great grandparents and great, great grandparents generations who were the adults alive at the time that these children were being forcibly removed from their families with no intention of ever being returned nor without records being kept. T
hat affects me as a person knowing that my ancestors were in part responsible for my peers growing up without Grandparents. I think about my Grandparents and the profound, everlasting impact they have had on my life and I cannot imagine my life without them. A conversation with my cousin recently echoed how I have always felt about your Grandparents, she said “They were never just ‘Grandparents’, they were a second set of parents for all of us”. I wouldn’t be who I am today without my Grandparents and my family that they made who have shaped who I am, how I look at the world and the choices I make. If my Grandparents were different, my parents and extended family would be different also, and I would have been shaped by that alternate reality instead of the one I was fortunate enough to be born into.
National Sorry Day was always something I was wholeheartedly in favour of, and every May 26th I speak with my children about what the day is all about. A National Apology to the First Australian’s past and present was needed and deserved, because I WAS sorry that all of those things happened to so many people AND because I was empathetic enough to understand that just because it happened a long time ago doesn’t mean it is forgotten. I was very pleased when, on Wednesday February 13th 2008 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd addressed Australia’s Indigenous Peoples to say sorry – not to take responsibility for the actions of the Government of the day, but to condemn the choices and express regret that it occurred.
Now as a parent, I feel that message even stronger in my mind and heart. I am a mother and I honestly believe that if I was one of the women who lived back then and I had children lawfully stolen from me I would absolutely lose my mind. I would search far and wide for my babies, I would never be able to stop looking. Imagining my parents grief under those circumstances would be too much for me to witness, as would my own grief be for them.
I think about the children that were stolen and essentially punished for the colour of their skin. White hot tears of rage prick my eyes at the idea of anyone treating children like that, but more so when I think about my own children being treated that way. My blood boils and I see red at the mere thought of someone coming in and taking them from me, from our family then forcing them to become slaves who were raped, assaulted, abused and treated like property. It makes me sick to my stomach and I loathe the Government of the day for doing this to generations of my fellow countrymen, women and children. Because an act as heinous and reprehensible as that didn’t just impact one generation, or two, it impacted two to three generations of adults as well one to two generation of children who were all alive at the time, and it has continued to negatively shape the lives of the last three to four generations of Aboriginal children born into this country. It will continue to cast a pall over many lives until there is sufficient education and programs to help bridge the gaping rift that the fallout from the Stolen Generation and the subsequent years of institutionalised racism, ignorance and hatred that is still rife in the Australian community at large.
When the argument is raised for changing the date of Australia Day from January 26th because it represents Invasion Day for the First Australian’s, I say DO IT! If it helps to unify us as a country, if it helps to heal the wounds that have been festering since Australia was Invaded (not “founded” by heroic pioneers, as mine and previous generations were taught at school) I say do it! I don’t care what date is chosen, what matters to me is that we have a national day of celebrating this great country of ours, so no matter where we are in the world we can ALL come together as one people to honour this great, multicultural nation that we all call home. In the words of our very own Boy From Oz, the late Peter Allen: