Yarning Circle

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Words || Rhys Cutler and Saliha Rehanaz 

Grapeshot reached out to individuals with different Indigenous backgrounds to understand where they consider home and their sense of belonging and identity

What is your experience with your Indigenous heritage? 

“My indigenous heritage and my experience of it, is an exercise in searching. I’m 24 and a uni student up on Awabakal country in Newcastle studying history. I was born in Windsor on Dharug country and grew up about an hour away in the Blue Mountains on the Putty Road between the Wollemi and Yengo. I believe the country we lived on was either Darkinjung or what I was told was ‘Mountain Dharug’. Either way, I love that place and I guess my whole experience is trying to get back to the feeling I had living there.” – Brad Cunningham

“I suppose I came into my Indigenous heritage later than others did as I found out when I was about 10 or 11 but I didn’t really come into it and embrace it until I was 13. My family struggled to find information and it took us several years of researching and investigating to figure out the truth. My father’s family is Kamilaroi from Tamworth and I was born and accepted into the Dharug mob. My family’s chain of culture was interrupted and temporarily broken as it took two generations later to reconnect back to our mob because of the stolen generation. My great-grandfather died when my father was very young, so he never got to tell his story.” – Ky Stewart

“My family is from Wiradjuri country out near Bathurst; however, I grew up in Biripi country in Port Macquarie. There have been discrepancies with my heritage and which Mob we belong to, as my grandfather was a victim of the stolen generation … Growing up my father did not have much indication of his Aboriginality and was subject to racial abuse for reasons beyond his control and to his knowledge.” – Anonymous

What is Walanga Muru and how has it created a sense of community and acceptance for you? 

“Walanga Muru is the Indigenous centre at Macquarie University. It is made up of student advisors, Uncles and Aunties and the Macquarie University mob. It is a place where we are all welcomed, and we all belong despite any of our differences. It gives our mob the space for us to grow, succeed and thrive not only in university but also in life.”

“Walanga Muru is a place where everyone, no matter where you are on your journey of self-discovery, is connected through cultural connection. We are a family where everyone genuinely wants each other to succeed and thrive … I didn’t ever really feel like I had a place to belong growing up and Walanga Muru was where I finally felt like I was meant to be. They have given me the opportunity to meet so many incredible people and make life-long connections.” – Ky Stewart 

 What does homecoming mean to you?

“Homecoming to me really means heading back to my country in the mountains. I can’t describe the love I have for the place I originally grew up in, but whenever I go back, I feel at ease and happy. It also helps that I can’t stand the city noise and how cramped it is. The Indigenous experience is dismissed both in its resistance to the white occupation and in the oppressive conditions that came with it. People and governments hide behind the legal definition of genocide and use it to diminish the notion that indigenous peoples have undergone several genocides even before the ‘acknowledged’ genocide of the Stolen Generations.” – Brad Cunningham

“Homecoming and the ability of being able to go back to our land is such a profound experience. Land is obviously such an important aspect of our culture, it is the primary reason for our existence, it brings our mobs together, provides for us and cares for us. Having the ability to go back home is so powerful because it connects us again, re-centres us and reminds us that we will always belong. Even if I can’t experience homecoming with Kamilaroi it doesn’t lessen my connection to that mob and my pride in being Indigenous.” – Ky Stewart

“For me, homecoming means going back to Queensland and visiting my Mum and Dad’s family and learning about all my different cultures.” – Tetei Bakic Tapim

What is your perspective on how Australia handles Indigenous people? Do you think there has been changes and how has modern Australia handled the situation as a whole? 

“My friends are unfortunately in a similar predicament as myself, the records of their grandparent’s birth, name and biological parents being lost in an orphanage fire. All the same, their family experience is shaded in politics of trauma. Victimhood is a weakness in our contemporary society. We all face it, and there is a difficult reconcilement between it, and pride in nation and people.

“I firmly believe that Australia has consistently dealt with the ‘race question’ as shallowly as possible to avoid any form of blame or responsibility. The political capital of Indigenous people is very slim, and any effective change is scrutinised as – ironically being too ‘PC’ – to the typical layman. The black experience is swept under the rug of ‘yet another minority trying to bring down the white man’.

“Like everything, modern Australia sweeps the bad stuff under the rug, so it does not need to deal with it or when it does, it is done as shallowly as possible to avoid widespread reform and reconciliation processes.” – Brad Cunningham

“I think Australia likes to believe that they are handling Indigenous peoples and their perspectives to the best of their abilities which is extremely damaging. If the government believes that they are doing all they can to help when there is so much more that can be done, it minimises the complexity in Indigenous issues.

“If we had proper Indigenous perspective on mainstream media, it would start to help breakdown taboos and stereotypes that continue to damage our communities. This may seem harsh, but I believe that Australian governments have formulated their national identity where we are not included so they do not wish to properly help Indigenous peoples otherwise they have to restructure their falsified national truth.

“Whether it be incarcerating Indigenous children at rapid rates, removing families from their land or not giving it back to them, or taking Indigenous children from their families and putting them into foster care (when there are other family members capable of taking care of the child) reflects the processes started in 1910.” – Ky Stewart

“I properly learned about the Stolen Generations in ABST1000 and it really opened up my eyes to a horrible part of Australian history, and I was really angry that I wasn’t taught about this in high school. Australia still sucks at acknowledging the Stolen Generations. That’s literally all I have to say.” – Tetei Bakic Tapim

“I personally do not think the government holds Aboriginal perspectives with much consideration towards legislation or wellbeing, such as land rights or even caring for country. Aboriginals are subject to all forms of racism and abuse through the denial of land rights and even welfare. The fact that Aboriginals are the only indigenous culture in the world that must prove their identity just to receive compensation from the government is ridiculous.

“The way in which Australian’s view Aboriginal’s is quite appalling. I believe that there is still a negative viewpoint towards Aboriginal peoples. Though, times are changing, Macquarie University for example, is taught from an Aboriginal perspective.” – Anonymous

Where do you consider home? How do you think the place where you come from affects how others perceive you? 

“Home is very much in the mountains – something that dad, my brother and I all share in, even if we don’t live there anymore I’m so proud of home. Whenever I talk about it, it makes me smile and want to go and see it again.The bad side of this is whenever I made mention of dad’s aboriginality and our identity, that perspective changed. They only saw that I didn’t live in the mountains now and that because we lived with mum, dad was a deadbeat.

“What’s interesting is that this is an Australian perception. I lived in Bavaria (I can’t help it; I love the mountains) for seven months and I was never considered the worse for being an Indigenous Australian. It was only in the company of other Aussies that I was different. I often think about this difference when I’m told I can’t be aboriginal (too white to be black) or am treated differently because of where I grew up and what I am. It’s sometimes difficult to articulate it, honestly.” – Brad Cunningham

“I consider home to be a feeling or sensation one gets when they feel completely free from harm and feel like they belong. Home to me is when I can freely express myself and be who I am without fear. It absolutely should not matter where you come from but unfortunately there is so much division between low socio-economic places compared to those of higher ones. People like to believe that they are better because they have green grass and water views.” – Ky Stewart

“Home is wherever my Mum is and home is also with my Grandparents in Townsville, FNQ. Every time I go back to visit, my Grandad says “Welcome Home” even though I have never lived there. It feels like home and it’s nice that they can see that I feel that way too.” – Tetei Bakic Tapim

“Home for me is Biripi country, (Port Macquarie) I know that place like the back of my hand and I have always felt a spiritual connection to that land. I am responsible for the caring of the land there and I feel at peace and connected to the land when I am on the waterways.” – Anonymous

 Do you wish you could learn more about the place you call home? If so, what is it and what is currently preventing you from doing so?

“I do wish I could learn more about home, my mob, language, and totem. It would give me a greater connection to my past and identity. Iso has made it pretty hard to continue my research and unfortunately I’ve hit a brick wall in my research. So, at the moment I have to be content with what I’ve learned so far (I never will be, this is a lie).” – Brad Cunningham

“Home is a bit tricky for me as I didn’t really feel comfortable growing up. From my own personal experiences, I think I’m afraid to find out about home. Most of the fear stems from experiences with my sexuality which prevents me from wanting to know more about home because I fear the people there will not accept me for who I am.” – Ky Stewart

“I have already been to Serbia and Papua New Guinea a few times, but I am yet to visit the Torres Strait Islands. I am planning a trip with my Grandparents after I finish Uni though.” – Tetei Bakic Tapim

 Why do you think it is important for an individual to know where they come from? 

“I think it’s important that people know where they come from, it removes identity anxieties and the suffering that comes with not knowing who you are or where you belong. Others might not feel the same as I do or consider identity as having a great bearing on their life, and that’s okay. It’s important to me though and the search for my mob is equally important to me.” – Brad Cunningham

“I urge everyone to find out who they are and where they come from, it’s obviously not going to be an easy thing to do but along the journey you will find parts of yourself that would have been known previously. Who knows, maybe you’ll find out about your heritage and belong to a massive community you didn’t know you ever could.” – Ky Stewart

“I think that it is important for an individual to know where they come from because it connects you to something bigger than the family you meet on a day to day basis. For example, knowing where you come from means you know your creation story, you have a place that you can go where you know the first person in your family came from and you can physically walk in the same country they would have walked on every day.” – Tetei Bakic Tapim