It’s a gong for Dr AtkinsonYorta Yorta woman, Dr Sue Lopez Atkinson, has long championed the importance of early years education for Aboriginal children and of the importance of non-Aboriginal educators to move beyond tokenistic Aboriginal inclusion in their services.
- Jessica Staines
Black deaths in custody in Australia
29 years ago the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody published its final report. It essentially found that Aboriginal people are more likely to die in custody than white Australians because they are arrested and jailed more frequently.
- Jessica Staines
ANZAC Day and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
Did you know that over 800 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander diggers served in the First World War? And around 3,000 in WWII? Some even served in the Boer War!
Of course, we don’t have accurate figures (you didn’t have to declare your cultural background when you enlisted to serve) but attempts are being made to clarify this number by organisations such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans and Services Association and the Australian War Memorial.
It was technically illegal for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to enlist during WW1. Because neither group was recognised as Australian ‘citizens’ and only Australian ‘citizens’ were allowed to fight for Australia, technically they couldn’t enlist. But so great was the need for soldiers that the Defence Force overlooked this requirement! In 1917, a change was made to the law to allow “half-castes” to enlist.
Why did they bother enlisting? Much of this is lost to history but probably a mix of loyalty, patriotism and a chance to receive living wages.
We now know the stories of some of the Aboriginal soldiers who fought. We also know that on return to Australia, these soldiers were often treated with the same disregard as other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. We know that soldiers bought back virulent influenza that swept around the world in 1919 and many Aboriginal communities were decimated when the flu was introduced by returning soldiers.
We also know that many Indigenous veterans had their wages stolen. Others who died were never given a Defence Force burial or grave. Of course, none were allowed into RSL clubs! For the majority of black diggers, it was hard to go from being treated equally while in the war to being treated unequally when they returned home.
And the inequality is not over yet. Just last month the Western Australian Branch of the RSL introduced a ban on Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country ceremonies as well as the flying of the Aboriginal flag at Anzac Day ceremonies in Western Australia. Why? Because some RSL members were unhappy that the Ode of Remembrance was translated and delivered in Noongar at an ANZAC ceremony at Fremantle last year.
A large public uproar saw this unpopular and iniquitous decision overturned.
Given that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders fought for Australia as non-citizens, recognising the traditional owners of the land on which ANZAC day ceremonies are delivered seems the least white Australia can do. Well, that and recognising that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander soldiers make up part of the ANZACS that are being remembered.
Image courtesy https://aiatsis.gov.au/explore/articles/war-service
FREE THE FLAG
In 1971, Harold Thomas, a Luritja man of Central Australia, the first Aboriginal person to graduate from an art school in Australia, designed the Australian flag.
In 2019 Aboriginal people first became aware that they would have to fight to “free the flag” as it’s use is protected under copyright law.