Saturday, January 23, 2010

Southern loss

I've always had mixed feelings about Australia Day. I already feel ashamed that while non-Indigenous Australians celebrate our ability to conquer new horizons and set up camp in an unforgiving land, our Indigenous brothers and sisters mourn the loss of their land, language and traditions and celebrate their survival for more than 200 years in the face of great adversity.

This year there is another reason to feel ashamed. Ever since the Cronulla riots, displaying the Australian flag has come to represent white supremacy - a symbol of blatent racism tattooed on the arms of anglo-Australians who believe they have more right to be here that more recent immigrants or first Australians. I fear we have become too familiar with these expressions of violence. When I saw a car the other day with the Australian flag flying from its roof, my immediate reaction was "racist".

Sadly, I'm not the only one. Warwick Thornton, who made the film Samson and Delilah, was quoted on AdelaideNow as saying that "Aboriginal people have used the Southern Cross for the last 40,000 years as a beacon guiding them to travel through country for survival, and I'm starting to see that star system symbol being used as a very racist nationalistic emblem - and that is seriously worrying me.''

What to do? Some of my recent migrant friends are immensely proud to be new Australians and to call this beautiful country home. They know how lucky they are. Yet, many of us who grew up in this great southern land seem to take it all for granted. Is there no way for all Australians be proud of our country and flag without excluding others or inciting violence, anger or hatred?

1 comment:

Char said...

While I feel similarly regarding the plight of the indigenous people, I've not felt that the Australian flag is a symbol of racism. Call me naive, perhaps even ignorant. My view of the flag is that it's a shame we don't honour our flag to the same extent as others in the world (yes, I'm referring to those Americans for one!).

The flag should unite us all, whoever wants to be called Australian. Having said that the flag does not reference the Indigenous Australians.... which brings up a whole other debate.