“If you are Aboriginal, why don’t you look like one?”
“How come you live here (in Brisbane) and not out in the bush?”
“You aren’t a ‘real’ Aboriginal though, are you?”
As a young boy these were the questions that formed my identity. One that was rejecting the 40 000 plus years of gravitational pull to the greater truth about who I am. If everyone tells you that you that you're a duck, aren’t you going to start believing that you're a duck? (And not in a cool Mighty Ducks chant way).
In high school that gravitational pull became too strong for these ill-formed questions though. I finally understood what it meant to be a proud Indigenous man. But I had to do a lot of soul searching to find this place. We didn’t know a lot about our culture and our history. Most was dislocated from us years ago like many First Nation’s cultures all around the world.
I find it hard for others to understand how I feel about this country. How the ground feels under my feet. How it feels when the morning breeze hits me as I walk outside. The way the water reacts to my skin. The way my heart beat fits seamlessly with everything that is going on around me. The way I feel in unison when we are all together.
And then there are the times I feel disconnected and the gravitational pull has to work harder to keep me grounded.
“Aren’t they are all doll bludgers and alcoholics?”
“Don’t they just sit around and get handouts from the government?”
And when we have our issues cast into the spotlight for all of Australia to see. I am no longer able to be silent. I speak up.
“Why are you still angry?”
“Can’t you just get over it already?”
These are questions others need to ask themselves before asking me. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for people asking questions about my culture and history. But at some point the wider community needs to be responsible for finding their own answers, particularly if the question is phrased as an attack on who I am.
So please, ask me about how I feel when I am together with my community, but do not ask me why you are uncomfortable with my identity.
By Kyle Dagley
with full support from the DYA family.