On Monday night I had the privilege of hearing Arrernte Alyawarre elder Rosalie Kunoth-Monks speak about racism and assimilation and her culture on Q&A. I don’t have much to say about this powerful speech she gave (in response to former Liberal politician Peter Coleman’s argument that we should seemingly return to a policy of Aboriginal assimilation), because I don’t want to speak over her words. But they moved me, and I think they highlight why we should be doing more listening and less talking over the Indigenous people of Australia.
You know, I have a culture. I am a cultured person. (Speaking Arrernte) I’m talking another language. And my language is alive. I am not something that fell out of the sky for the pleasure of somebody putting another culture into this cultured being. John shows what is an ongoing denial of me. I am not an Aboriginal or, indeed, Indigenous. I am Arrernte, Alyawarre, First Nations person, a sovereign person from this country. (Speaking Arrernte) This is the country I came out from. I didn’t come from overseas. I came from here. My language, in spite of whiteness trying to penetrate into my brain by assimilationists – I am alive, I am here and now – and I speak my language. I practise my cultural essence of me. Don’t try and suppress me and don’t call me a problem. I am not the problem. I have never left my country nor have I ceded any part of it. Nobody has entered into a treaty or talked to me about who I am. I am Arrernte Alyawarre female elder from this country. Please remember that. I am not the problem.