We must face Australia’s history to resolve injustice

Jacinta CantatoreHarvey-Waroona Reporter
My family.
Camera IconMy family. Credit: Jacinta Cantatore.

I’ve written this article about NAIDOC Week twice now.

In my first draft I talked about things like terra nullius, 1770, Captain Cook and the Mabo decision.

I talked about intergenerational trauma, disproportionate incarceration rates, institutional racism, and the “Perth Prohibited Area”.

My first draft was personal, upset and angry.

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So I deleted it.

Not because I back away from my views, but because anger will not change anyone’s mind.

In any case the theme of NAIDOC Week this year is Heal Country, not get angry at it.

NAIDOC Week organisers said “Healing Country means finally resolving many of the outstanding injustices which impact on the lives of our people”.

“Healing Country is more than changing a word in our national anthem — it is about the historical, political, and administrative landscapes adapting to successfully empower and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, nations, and heritage,” they said.

This week is an opportunity for all Australians to come together to celebrate the rich history, diverse cultures and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the oldest continuing cultures on the planet.

It’s about healing our nation. And you cannot heal a wound by getting angry at it.

Truly despicable things were done to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by European colonisers.

The legacy of those actions still lives on today.

It would be great if we could simply delete that first draft of Australian history, the way I deleted my first draft of this article.

We could rewrite history without the massacres, slavery, or horrific trauma of the Stolen Generations.

We would write it much better the second time around, maybe add in a treaty, edit in some constitutional recognition, and put in place strong systems that celebrated our diverse cultures.

But if we can’t get angry at a wound, we can’t hide from it either.

And we cannot hide from our history any more than we can rewrite it.

All we can do is help create change and make a conscious effort to do things better from now on.

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