Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Black Side of Australia

I often have conversations with people over here in Europe about Australia, my homeland. Often locals here have very romanic ideas about what Australia is. Many use the word "Paradise" when the imagine how it is for people to live there. In one sense it is true that it is a land of plenty and of great beauty. But there is more to it than that as it is a very complicated society with a history that is both acknowledged and completely hidden. This morning I was thinking this when I looked at a photo a good friend had sent me that is stuck on our kitchen notice board:

This is a picture taken at Aurukun Community on Western Cape York, Northern Australia in 2004. These are Wik people dancing in a tradition that is part of the oldest living culture on earth. Aurukun is an isolated community 12 hours drive (dry season) north west from Cairns. Although administered by the white Australian government they have gained freehold title of their lands and the culture is alive and strong in many ways. The problems of alcohol and violence are being addressed and alcohol bans were introduced into the community last year and are holding. Petrol sniffing is another problem that is being attacked by motivated people in the community.
If you are interested in hearing more about contemporary Aboriginal Australia listen to THIS, the Speakout program from ABC radio, taken from just before this year's Australia Day by European Australia, called Invasion Day by Kooris. On the 26th January 1788 Captain Arthur Phillip and his crew of soldiers, convicts and privateers raised the Union Jack at Port Jackson (present site of Sydney) and claimed all he could see for the King of England.

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