Indigenous Australia

Australia is racist: Reaction to Adam Goodes' dance is just more proof

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Australia has always been racist and if the reaction to Indigenous AFP star Adam Goodes' celebration dance after scoring a goal is any indication, it's not getting any better, writes traditional owner Natalie Cromb.


Let me repeat myself. Australia is racist.

This country has always been racist and, if the last 72 hours is any indication, it always will be.

You see, this incredibly talented athlete celebrated on-field success with a celebratory dance. The dance was an Aboriginal dance and the game was during the Indigenous round so, you know, the time for showcasing your culture would be then, right?


What was an appropriate cultural celebration of success on the field for a proud Indigenous man became offensive for those who like people to express their culture in a manner deemed appropriate by the dominant white discourse (read: never).

But this is one moment of many experienced by a man who is both proud and free-thinking; who is strong and responsible; who continues to speak the truth despite the numerous barbs he receives week in and week out.

The fact is, when black people come out of the box that white people so love to place them in, it creates cultural dissonance.


Australia is racist.

In truth, it goes beyond racism and is, more accurately, white hegemony. Think about it.

Australia is a democratic society that makes laws on behalf of its people.

The dominant people are white and thus the decisions made by the executive and laws made by the legislature are made to benefit the dominant presence in society (read: white). Indigenous people make up 3 per cent of the population and, accordingly, are subject to laws made for and on behalf of them, but they are not afforded the benefit of consultation or any representative positions in which to represent their minority presence in Australian society.

The judiciary? Where to start…..

The judicial system in Australia targets Indigenous people more than any other group. Indigenous people are racially profiled, are killed in custody and are more likely to receive custodial sentences than their non-Indigenous counterparts. In fact, Indigenous people in Australia have higher incarceration rates than during apartheid South Africa.

We continue to gaol Indigenous people for non-payment of parking fines as a result of mandatory sentencing that was instituted to target this very group of people within society.

But Indigenous people are urged by the media, by government, by all who are outraged by our displays of culture to shut up, sit down and stay in our boxes. I am not immune to this, I have received many communications to that effect.

I am not here to be an apologist or to worry about how the message is being received. I am responsible for what I say and you are responsible for how you receive it.

Australia is racist.

This is evident in the founding document of this nation, where the Indigenous people were seen as sub-human and classified as flora and fauna; in the actions of "settlers" (read: invaders); in the genocidal policies of the early governments; and in all social and economic policies implemented since then.

When it became difficult to kill the Indigenous inhabitants, the strategy changed to that of breeding out and stealing the children to assimilate into the dominant discourse of “white is right”.

Fast forward to 2015, where information is instantaneous and the same racist diatribes are peddled around so that if you are Indigenous in this country and stick your neck out to contribute to the cause of change, you will receive the expected attacks from the racists and those indignant at the finger being pointed at them for being part of the problem.

As I mentioned, I have personally received many emails, tweets and messages that tell me how wrong I am; how I can pass as white and so I should; all the way to telling me I am a [something that rhymes with "slack pitch"].

These people don’t matter. It is the people who drift through life that I want to reach; the people that don’t go out of their way to be racist or mean, but are complicit when they don’t call it out.

Guys, it is uncomfortable causing a scene, of course it is. As humans, we, by nature, tend to shy away from having the spotlight on us in a display of hostility, but imagine the discomfort of the person being targeted and going home knowing there was not one person willing to stand by them in their time of need.

We need a reality check. We need to acknowledge the truth.

White Australians are privileged; privileged above all others in this nation. I mean, who controls the government? Who controls the judiciary? Who controls the police force? Who dominates corporate Australia? Who controls the media, and in turn, the information provided to the population of Australia?

Indigenous activist Gary Foley, 21, in 1971

While we have some small-minded radicalised groups that try to fight for their right to remain dominant, the far greater danger to the Indigenous populace are the middle class masses that are conditioned through education and the media to be apathetic to the struggle of the Indigenous people of Australia.

This makes many people uncomfortable – of course – but I am not here to administer pacifiers and blankets to the members of white Australia who think me audacious for pointing out their privilege.

Here are the facts:

  • Australia was stolen from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;
  • the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been irreparably harms by generations of massacres, murders, genocidal policies including child removal and incongruity of welfare policy, denial of justice, denial of compensation and denial of true freedom to practice culture without media denigration and misappropriation;
  • the current generations of white Australia are profiting from the theft of the land and near total destruction of a race of people who remain the lawful owners of this land; and
  • the denial or ignorance of the racism and acts perpetrated against Indigenous people by the government, media and society in general makes the current generations complicit and just as culpable as those of their forefathers.


Because the current generation have access to the historical truth and the benefit of hindsight.

We know that child removal causes trans-generational trauma, and loss of identity and culture for victims. The extent of this damage cannot be understood with any degree of clarity without reading the Bringing them Home report. But we continue to allow our government to make laws and carry them out without regard to the fact that we know what the impact will be.

We know that incongruous policy causes generations of disenfranchised Indigenous people, that it causes the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians to widen and that this also contributes to the highest suicide rates in the world.

We have the benefit of perspective and hindsight. We have the community of Indigenous people speaking (loudly), but they are not heard because we do not demand it of our governments or the media.

We have allowed our governments to make laws to subvert Indigenous people and not utilising democracy for what it was intended. We have nodded along with current affairs programs that highlight alcohol problems, welfare dependency but allowed this superficial analysis to seep into our consciousness, while uttering the words:

“I’m not racist but…”

Australia is racist — and it’s about time we demanded it wasn’t.

Natalie Cromb is a member of the Kammileroi nation from Burra Bee Dee in NSW. You can follow Natalie on Twitter @NatalieCromb.

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