Black Boy White.White Boy Black

My name is Dakota Mohan Preece Baker.

I’m a strong, proud Aboriginal man from the Nyoongar nation.  

I stand here in front of you feeling powerful.

Because I’m a descendent of the longest living culture in the world.

I don’t have a lot of money but I’m well off.

I have a good network of friends that support me when I need help.

And my family is, put simply, the best.

I live in a great city with the beach and outback moments away

However it’s not that great, I live in a racist place.

But it’s not seen.

Australia it’s great, it's grand, it’s the best, but this Great Southern land will put you to the test.

Behind the curtain of mateship and having a good laugh, stereotypes prevail. 

They are the main cause of these grand assumptions which allow racism and discrimination to be our daily consumption.   

Why is it that even though I’m a proud Nyoongar man, I get funnelled into this stereotype that I’m not a real Aboriginal because of my fair skin.

Just because I can afford to pay for my bus fare and people darker than me cannot, doesn’t make me any less or them any more Aboriginal.

Why is it that because I’m not smoking weed from a bong and I’m not into crime, that everything is wrong and I’m deemed fine.

You’re not a ‘real Aboriginal’. That’s the phrase of today.

I have a good job and decent pay.

But hey, I can’t possibly be Indigenous because I can pay my own way.

I’m the No Man’s land in between two fronts.

I’m forced into this area where I supposedly don’t belong to either side.

Too much White to be a Black Dog or to Black to be a White Dog. 

I practise my culture every minute of every hour, but I can’t possibly be black if I look like flour.

I can’t possibly be white if I play the didgeridoo. 

I stand here feeling my ancestors power.

I stand here feeling like I am less.

Why can’t I help my people overcome hundreds of years of oppression.

Why can’t I help myself?

Constantly faced with depression.

The obsession of wanting to be more.

I am not blessed with a position of power or greatness.

But I try.

I told the audience that I felt powerful.

Is that why I feel so powerless?

 

Dakota Baker is facilitator of ICEA's Yarn Program. This piece deals with Dakota's struggle with racism as a light-skinned Aboriginal man. As as a Yarn facilitator, Dakota empowers young people with an understanding of how we each have a part to play in reconciliation and contemporary Aboriginal culture. The title, Black Boy White.White Boy Black represents the pressure placed on Indigenous people to forget their culture and learn another, a history many non-Indigenous do not understand.

Beyond the High Walls

Artwork by Tessa McOnie.

Artwork by Tessa McOnie.

Three things cannot be long hidden: 
The sun, the moon and the truth
— Buddha

When I saw the landscape in your face
I saw you and I wondered
of the country printed on this parchment skin
A place I didn’t recognise
I was not so effortless in this third space

Your valleys and contours, footprints
mirrored from the land now beneath my feet
Beneath the feet of trees deep and full
splintered on the horizon, resting beneath the moon
so far beyond the high walls, the us          

Your never-ending story lies here,
You are cool waters shaded, red cliff hanging
deep earth and coals burnt out
eyes of long nights by the fire
dignity and disappointment

And me, this canvas skin not so blank
Seen in a mirror, too long in a drawer face-down
Feint tracks of a see-through story
Tin rooftops, sheets billow on a line
Washed-out, stalwart beneath the distant sun

And so, more us and high walls
Wisdom buried beneath
intentions and not knowing
A bleaching foreign even to the foreign
life and lives painted over, abandoned mission

Might have stepped a little lighter
Might have listened a little deeper
had I known they would be mapped across my face
These high walls, characters I long to forget
This scarring unspoken, silent story that hangs untold

 

Anna Balston is a yogi, fledgling poet and an ICEA Program Manager. With a background in education and behavioural science, Anna seeks to drive reconciliation and respect in our community by exploring the intersections of diverse ways of being, doing and knowing.

Purple Hibiscus

A night old and still
Let the moonlight kiss his caramel skin
Let the stars bless his soul
As the air fills his newborn lungs

A mothers love so strong
Unable to release her grip
That wrapped his young heart
A mothers love, so strong

His name, she cries
Echoing in all the havoc
But she is silenced by policy
And defeated by force

In the distance,
She stands withered and broken
Her eyes on the horizon
As he disappears,
To a dusty road, filled with the unknown

Lost to a system,
Where the only one who wins is you,
A.O. 
Take him because of his skin,
But you can not take what is within.
Oh-eight, 'Sorry', 
She hears you,
But that will never undo,
All the lost time you can not deny.

I see her, we cry.
I am wrapped once more, a mothers love
The light that kisses,
The stars that bless,
The air that fills,
I am reborn,
Together we are strong.

Together we stand
Together we heal
Together we are the future

 

Allirra Winmar is a Noongar Balladong yorga from Quarading, WA. Allirra believes that with knowledge comes confidence, and is driven by her desire to learn more about her family's history and connections. Working as the Indigenous Engagement Officer at the ICEA Foundation, Allirra wants to empower young people to talk together about how the past impacts the present and inspire conversations that will develop mutual understanding and respect.

Silence speaks louder than words.

Artwork via Lee Anthony Hampton from Koori Kicks Art.

Artwork via Lee Anthony Hampton from Koori Kicks Art.

When people gather to commemorate the lives of Australians lost in service there is a palpable sense of the mateship and gratitude that the ‘lucky country’ is so well known for. 40,000 of us stood huddled together at Kings Park on Tuesday morning, watching the sunrise over the Perth city skyline as wreaths were laid to the sombre drone of a lone piper. Amid the reverence, bowed heads and respectfully hushed tones, I couldn’t help but notice an absence. A silence that was deeper and more complex than the pause between the Last Post and the Reveille could ever capture. In one of Perth’s most significant Noongar areas, on a day of remembrance, there was no acknowledgment of the Noongar people whose land we stood on. How could this be? This lack of Indigenous voice became even more puzzling when the New Zealand national anthem commenced, in Maori, and the service was followed by a performance of the traditional Maori dance the Haka.

How in the preparation of such a significant commemorative ceremony could every single person involved not see that a Welcome to Country by a Noongar person would not only be a respectful inclusion, but actually a significant and meaningful addition? The usual anti-acknowledgment arguments that “it’s just tokenistic”, “we need to move on”, “what difference does it actually make” just don’t hold up on ANZAC Day. ANZAC services are all those things: symbolic gestures that commemorate the past. They make no real tangible differences to the lives lost but to those who remain they are incredibly meaningful. They give voice to the voiceless, shining a light on aspects of life that we often neglect.

When I asked the people around me about the lack of Aboriginal presence in the service I was, in most cases, met with a rolling out of the same tired old rhetoric that is so often used to justify these situations. In the pause after my question I could feel the air become tense as though people wished I would just shut up so the issue could become invisible once more. As if we had more important things to be remembering that day. Then, dismissive comments: the relatively small size of the Aboriginal population in Australia, the magnitude of the conflict in WA due to Aboriginal people being “so much more difficult to assimilate than the Maoris were”, “too disorganised to do performances like that”, “they don’t all speak the same language”, “there is Aboriginal stuff happening at other services”. These comments are at best misguided and at worst totally ethnocentric or downright racist.

As a nation, ANZAC Day says that we can learn much from conflict and that we see respect and remembrance as an important part of moving forward. Why can’t we treat our Aboriginal roots with the same reverence we do our ANZAC stories? Owning our shared history warts and all. Offering acknowledgment of Aboriginal strength, pride and connection to country not as a tokenistic or guilt-laden gesture to shut up the whingers, but from a place of genuine humility, understanding and gratitude.

Maya Angelou said “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better”. Are we really doing the best we can? Many Aboriginal lives were lost and broken. Reverence and acknowledgment are owed. We know from ANZAC Day that in being with the suffering and loss of others, we bring to light what is truly meaningful and we are united and uplifted. This solidarity is a crucial step in our journey to reconciliation in Australia. I know that we know better and I know that we can do better. Lest we forget.

Anna Balston is a yogi, fledgling poet and ICEA's Yarn Program Manager. With a background in education and behavioural science, Anna seeks to drive reconciliation and respect in our community by exploring the intersections of diverse ways of being, doing and knowing.

What is 'Community Development'? A personal reflection

I’m wondering if you’ve ever thought what reconciliation might look like? What would be different? What would be better?

When I was a kid, I found going in to school everyday exciting. Some of my earliest memories are of learning Noongar slang - shouting ‘Balay!’  to put people off as they kicked the footy-  telling scary stories about the mamari (a kind of bad spirit) and learning how to do a corroboree. Oh, if you’re wondering, Balay is a slang word meaning 'look out'.

As an adult visiting my hometown, it doesn’t ring of the same innocence and joy as it did when I was younger, or at least as it does in my memory. There is a shift happening in many communities - not just rural or remote ones. It’s something that is happening on even the smallest of scales. Our school communities, friendship groups even - they are different places as adults. They are filled with complexity and things to navigate, politics and emotions. For many people, both Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal, this becomes our reality.

My interest in community development sprung from my early experience and has been piqued over time by different events and experiences. I’m tormented by how we define ourselves as Australians. I often find it too difficult to see the ‘fair go’, the common sense, the grounded nature that I once did and that I know is there somewhere. It dismays me to know that in many cases, the relationships I enjoyed so much with my Aboriginal counterparts as a kid would now be riddled with an inability to communicate across barriers that, over time, have been inflicted upon us, often without our permission, realisation or acknowledgement. My Aboriginal primary school sweetheart, for example, who kissed me on the cheek behind the tennis courts in Year 7, and whose last name I was too ashamed to share with my high school friends upon getting to Perth. I’ve reencountered him in adult life and since working in the reconciliation space, and don’t know how I could ever have allowed myself to be convinced that our friendship was something to be ashamed of.

This is really the crux of what I want for you to understand if you are a Non-Aboriginal person reading - it isn’t about feeling guilty for the way that society has been shaped up until now. It is about taking responsibility for reshaping it into the future. We all have the power just as we are to assume this role - to become an ally in reconciliation for the future and to begin a learning journey that will not only benefit our collective future but can positively transform our own world view.

As a young person, how we come to identify as Australians in the future is incredibly important to me. I do what I do because I believe that all Australians are deeply and negatively impacted by the fractured relationship between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Australians, and that our freedom, happiness and success is bound up in that, unable to be fully realised.

Today I work alongside people from all walks of life and in many capacities, and every day I am reminded of the value we bring to each other’s lives. My vision is that every Australian comes to see this truth, so that our Australian identity may be healed and may truly flourish.

Why January 26 doesn't make sense to me

I grew up in a small town about three hours away from Perth, inland. It’s on Nyaki-Nyaki Noongar country, but I didn’t know that back when I was a kid.

I came to Perth for boarding school when I was 12 years old, and was so excited to have a bunch of new mates that I forgot to notice how lacking in diversity my school community was, or how little we talked or were educated about Australian history (the real history) or Australian identity.

As I’m writing this, I can’t even remember when I attended my first Australia Day celebration or party. It’s possible I stumbled across some fireworks at some point without realising what it was, but the first Australia Day I remember ‘celebrating’ was in 2012. I was 19. It was pretty low-key, a few drinks at a friend’s house by the pool, the sun scorching my skin, a brief grapple with the rules of a new drinking game, and pretending to know the song that hit Number 1 on the Triple J countdown. I had never realised before that this type of celebration was, for some people, what they perceived to be a tradition.

Of course, being 19, I wanted to be cool, have a good time and look cute in my bikinis at pool parties. So I went along to the Aussie Day party the following year. And the year after that, and the year after that. But it wasn’t until recently when I realised what a horrible date January 26 is for Indigenous peoples that I stopped and questioned what it is I’m really celebrating. What is Australian identity?

I run in what most people would probably consider to be a pretty diverse network of friends and acquaintances, and yet, I’d never seen many people (if any) of diverse cultural backgrounds at one of our Australia Day parties. Maybe if I went to particular events that targeted a more multicultural crowd I would have, but if this is the ‘tradition’, and this is what we do, then why isn’t everyone here with us? Why are there separate spaces for white Aussies and CALD Aussies when it comes to celebrating our nation? And why do banners that show Australian Muslims advocating for Australia Day create so much backlash that they require taking down? If Australia Day is really meant to be a ‘day for all of us’ like it’s avid defenders always assure me it is, then why aren’t we celebrating with everyone, together?

From what I’d seen, all people really do on Australia Day is get drunk. Sometimes they even get too drunk, and get violent (physically, verbally). How is this celebrating Australia any more than a Friday night in Northbridge is? And if this really is all that Aussie culture comes down to, then shouldn’t we want to change that, not celebrate it?

And if that’s not you - if you are just one of the parents who likes taking your kids down to have a picnic, watch the fireworks, and be grateful for how lucky we are to live in this beautiful country - I still find it hard to ignore the ease with which this could also be done on a date other than January 26. 

Since I didn’t grow up sitting at the foreshore with my parents, huddling behind them when the fireworks got too loud, I was literally introduced to the Australia Day tradition as a young adult, so I’ve had to figure out what the hell it’s all about. I don’t think this would be too much of a unique story; I think there’s a lot of people out there for whom the date itself holds no real long standing significance. I can’t imagine the date holding some particular, patriotic significance for anyone alive today, really. 

In fact, what I think Australian’s are really starving for, is a way to know and to celebrate who we really are. Maybe that’s why people are so defensive about any change to Australia Day; they don’t want to lose grasp of one piece of few that comprise their Australian identity pie. That I can relate to, because I too dislike how little we sometimes perceive there is to base our culture on.

So how do we figure this out, this question of what it means to be Australian? I think it’s about focusing on what makes Australia so amazing rather than finding something to pit ourselves against as we have done in the past. It is amazing that our land hosts a 60 000 year old culture, the oldest surviving and thriving in the world. It is amazing that in such a short history, we have built cosmopolitan hubs that host some of the world’s best universities and hospitals. It is amazing that we have welcomed people from all over the world to make this place their home. It is amazing that the weather gods have blessed us with summers that would make quitting your job every December almost worthwhile. 

All of these things are worth celebrating, and there are so many other things we need to get to work on making better, too.

Imagine if we all decided, tomorrow, to change the date. Just in some ideal world, came to consensus that January 26th isn’t an important or positive date for all Australians and just simply moved our day of celebration. How incredibly powerful would that be, even for someone who might have originally been against change? To be part of a decision that we have all made together in this nation, in this current day, to celebrate Australia for the diverse place it is… now that would be truly something to celebrate.

This is the beginning

Kaya! You've just stumbled across the beginning of something new. Watch this space if you want to keep seeing pieces written by young people, about issues that we face, things we want to celebrate or things we want other people to know!

Some will be long, others short and concise. Some will have structure, others will meander and follow a train of thought. Some might resonate with you, others may not. All of them will shed a new perspective that will hopefully lead to some deeper conversation.

 

Get reading!

ICEA's First Newsletter (12/14/15)

It's ICEA's First Newsletter!
(Let's hope it's good)

Kaya and hello,

Fresh into the role I thought I'd take some time to reflect back and have a crack at a newsletter. I'll give a brief overview of what has been happening in ICEA land and then have a look around and see what else is going down around town. 

It's been a great few months for ICEA and we are semi surprised we actually made it through everything. We have pulled off the ICEA Classic, a handful of Marja Series, continued developing our new Yarn Program and have had a complete staff changeover (yew).

I'd also like to take the time to say how excited I am to take on this role and what an honour it is to continue the work before me. Being involved with ICEA for some time now I have seen it evolve to where it is now and also have a clear vision of where we want to get to. ICEA will continue to drive reconciliation and push for an Australia we can all be proud of by facilitating genuine experiences with Aboriginal culture via the Marja Series while also building the foundation of knowledge that we need to move forward in the Yarn Program.

ICEA has an open team structure and love adopting new people into our squad so take 3 minutes to hit us up and let us know you are keen. I've even included the volunteer interest form here to make your busy life that much easier.

Even more exciting times are coming in the new year and you may even need to update your ICEA bumper sticker come 2016 (whaaaaat?). Stay tuned til after the break to find out more...
 
Cheers,

Tom Joyner and the ICEA crew.

ICEA Yarn

ICEA's freshest program, the Yarn Program, is all about creating conversations. It sees an Indigenous and non-Indigenous facilitator go into schools and have a chat with the students about Australia's shared history, Indigenous identity and reconciliation. It's about exploring where prejudices come from and why they still exist in Australia.


We believe that only once all Australians have a strong understanding of what has, and is happening in our own backyards will we be able to achieve reconciliation.

If you are interested in finding out more about this program or would like to have a chat about it please email yarn@iceafoundation.com.au for more information.

Remote Communities

On the most recent trip to the Dampier Peninsular we worked closely with the Bardi Jawi and Nyul Nyul Rangers and the local schools to encourage school attendance. We are lucky enough to receive support from Shell in making this program happen - they also support our Yarn Program so huge ups to them.

We were lucky enough to be there for the One Arm Point Remote Community School years 1 - 4 camp held at Kooljaman. The kids were kind enough to wake us up at 4:45am so we didn't miss out on any games and kept us entertained well into the night.

Working closely with the Bardi Jawi and Nyul Nyul Rangers we went into each of the schools and encouraged attendance through handing out incentives. We also managed to find time to go fishing, have waterfights, hunting and even eating a bit of KFG (Kimberley Fried Goolil.)

Smash the play button on this video and treat yourself to 2:30 of pure bliss.


Have a watch of this to gain an insight into what happens on these trips.

ICEA Classic

Well you all know the expression "6th time the best" and the 6th ICEA Classic was no exception to that rule. Despite having to push the bad boy back a day, the team still pulled off the best Classic yet. Kicking off with a Welcome to Country from Len Collard to all those that were excited enough to get themselves out of bed by 6am, things didn't slow down until the winners were awarded their prizes at sunset.

Highlights off the day included the Noongar adopt-a-word activity (mine was wandjoo = welcome), cultural walks by Len Collard, dudes and dudettes shredding it on the skatepark, shoe painting with TOMs, the Wavelength battle of the bands competition, the froyo eating competition which saw Len Collard retire home due to severe brainfreeze, groms getting barrels out at cove, spear throwing with the Bardi Jawi and Nyul Nyul Rangers, yoga with Tamara Yoga, more good food than you could poke a stick at and I'm going to stop there before I list everything else that went down. 

Although the absolute best thing was the overwhelming buckets of smiles being thrown around the place. 

ICEA board member and Noongar artist, Barbara Bynder, describes the Classic as 'unconscious reconciliation'. It's people coming together to celebrate everything that makes Australia special, the rich Indigenous culture, surfing, skating, live music, good food and the incredible coastline.

Have a squiz at some of the photos taken on the day here and here or watch thisvideo by Ari Gillespie from OK Media Group

Marja Series


If pictures speak a thousand words than videos must be somewhere in the millions. Here's a vid from the last event to save me typing out a million words

Gearing up for the next Marja Series, the Marja team have been expanding their horizons to engage with more youth and provide even more experiences with Aboriginal culture. It's a great oppurtinty to come down and see what ICEA's all about and hey, why don't you have some fun while you're at it.

There's always cultural activities, free feed and sweet tunes. Not a bad deal.

Want to volunteer?
Flick me a message at tom.joyner@iceafoundation.com.au

So what else is going on around town...


Reconcilation WA are looking for a new Project Officer

Kimberley Benjamin (who also happens to be the Yarn Coordinator - don't worry she's not leaving us), will be leaving Reconciliation WA at the end of January 2016, after 2 years as the inaugural RWA Program Officer. Applications for this position are now open and details can be found here 

Walyalup Aboriginal Cultural Centre

Walyalup Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Fremantle throw out some fantastic cultural experiences - have a look at the Birak Program to find out whats coming up.

Loved the newsletter and keen to get involved?

Join the ICEA Team

As always ICEA is looking for new faces to come aboard and make some great things happen. Whether your strengths are  graphic design, knitting, flipping snags, taking photos, sending emails, writing curriculums, climbing trees, telling jokes or just generally-good-time-provider we are keen to have you onboard. Treat yourself and head here to sign up for one-hell of a ride, and don't worry, unlike that rollercoaster at adventureworld we don't have height restrictions (you don't even need to keep your hands inside the moving vehicle (yolo))

2015 Marja Series Djeran

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Last Sunday, the 24th of May, the sun was out and the froth was high – the perfect conditions for the second Marja Series of the year!

Heaps of young frothers made their way down to the North Cottesloe Surf Life Saving Club to celebrate Indigenous culture and get amongst a number of ripper activities.

The day offered over nine deadly stations – so no matter what your taste, there was something for you!

It was great to have Western Force stars Luke Burton and Oli Hoskins come down to have some fun. Some serious agility was on display in a beach rugby game that had everyone buzzing.

Aussie rules was also represented, with the lads from the Claremont Football Club conducting an AFL workshop on the beach. This is the second Marja Series that the Claremont Football Club has come down to and they were, yet again, a massive hit.

Participants had the opportunity to get involved in a number of cultural activities, which included tool making, Nyoongar language games, an Indigenous dance workshop and didgeridoo. Big ups to Leonard for teaching us about Aboriginal tool making, Billy for leading the fellas in didgeridoo and Karla Hart for getting us all dancing.

MC Trooth came down to give the frothers a taste of Hip-Hop culture. Trooth showed us the origins of rap music and gave a crash course in how to construct a deadly verse.

Some of the other activities that had everyone excited included surf lessons from Ash Pluggy and flag races for those who weren’t too keen to get salty.

"Was an epic day out, in and around the water. So stoked to be involved and share the good vibes!” – Ash Pluggy

Some mint works of art were produced under the Surfrider tent, as participants decorated reusable bags.

After the activities had finished up for the day there was some spaghetti bolognese for everyone to dig into!

"In my eyes, the second Marja Series was a huge success! The weather was perfect, the activities were awesome and everyone was frothing out all day! Definitely a testament to all the hard work from all degrees of the Marja Series team and all the amazing volunteers. Cannot wait for the next bigger and better event!” – Allanah Robinson-Cooke, Marja Series Volunteer Coordinator.

Make sure you like our Facebook to keep updated, as we have two more Marja Series events to look forward to this year.