Staying strong: Responding to racism

Back then when I was 18, 20, I probably would
have done the angry young man sorta kinda sounds like a cliche, what the grrr! Now you learn to play with it a little bit better and throw it back in their direction. As a young kid I used to be quite shy and
didn’t give eye contact and as I’ve gotten older I’ve started to look at say shopkeepers
in the eye even more and I’ve become more confident I suppose. The confidence helps
you deal with it. And the confidence in knowing who you are and no one can rock you from that.
I think a tool in help dealing with racism would be culture. It’s a strength and as soon
as you know who you are I don’t think anyone could say and do anything to you that would
rock you or shake you off your path. And that’s culture through language, through dance, through song. Even just through going back to country and eating the food from that country which
is medicine for your body and your spirit and your soul. That I think is a really strong
way. First and foremost a strong community, and
family. I don’t speak of family as just mum and dad and your brothers and sisters; our
family’s your cousins your aunties your uncles the whole extended family thing. And being
a part of that is just so good to nurturing your well being. When you don’t have a community, you don’t really have much. You’re just like a lone soul floating in the ether. I come
from the stolen generation that didn’t have much contact or knew anything and when I came
to Victoria, to Melbourne, to this particular community it offered all of that to me. It
went, “Hey slow down, we know you, you’re welcome in our community and your family will find
you eventually.” And they did, which they wouldn’t have without the nurturing of the community.
And that’s a big thing of giving you a sense of belonging and place and respect and love.
And then you’re a lot better equipped to deal with the other crap I would suggest when you’re
in a good position and it makes it a lot better. I think that non-Indigenous people… Its
funny you say you don’t need to do anything but they should, they should learn about the
history of this country because we’re the original inhabitants of this country. And
if you have come into my place, you’d want to learn about my place. And I think through
the history, the real history that usually isn’t taught in schools, if that is known
to the majority of Australians they would look at Indigenous people in a different way. I’ve always approached it with non-Indigenous
people to go, “Look, ask me anything, even if you think it’s offensive, ask me anyway, I won’t
beat you up. I will correct you in nice respectful way and then you walk away enlightened and
you understand from that. You won’t if you don’t ask.” I like to create that environment
where people don’t feel scared to actually ask. If you get an understanding of what our past
is, you’ll get an understanding of what our present is as well. And that’s a learning
experience I think that a lot of non-Indigenous people can find out for themselves really,
just whose country they’re on. I think once they understand and are educated they’re less likely to put someone else down. I know it’s a cliche but the youth are the
future. And if the young ones are on to it and starting to come to these conclusions,
as I say through my daughter and her friends let’s nurture that and develop it and stuff.
Yeah, I do love it because I see all her friends she hangs with and it’s not based on race or
gender, it’s just like, you’re a nice person or you’re not. It’s beautiful. There’s this beautiful story I just remembered
from my niece. I told her I was doing this ad and she asked what it was about and I said, “Racism.” And she turned to me and said, on the phone, “What’s racism?” and she’s ten
years old and it was the most beautiful thing of having a ten-year-old going “What’s racism?” I almost cried. And my sister was with her and I said “Don’t tell her, don’t tell her!”
and in that one fact of not telling her what racism is, that she wouldn’t go out to either
look for it or recognise it. I wanted that to be… Have her innocence still there.