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Indigenous Australia

Justifying Aboriginality for equal rights

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Nine-year-Quentin Bayles, who was being bullied for his dwarfism, led out the Indigenous All Stars (Screenshot via YouTube)

Paul Dutton discusses the irony that is Australia's First Peoples having to prove their Aboriginality to satisfy white Australians. 

Aboriginality seems to be the constant mechanism for use by far-right trolls in order to attack anyone who identifies as Aboriginal who doesn't fit their version of what Aboriginal "looks" like.

Commentator Andrew Bolt is notorious for using this slur against Aboriginality — a racist habit over which he has been found guilty.  However, his significant national presence encourages additional dissent against the acceptance of cultural voices. This hampers the ability of First Peoples to present their lives and existence to a wider audience because, as we see, social media will quickly shut down powerful voices with which ignorant people disagree.

Attacking Quaden Bayles

Quaden Bayles' simple nine-year-old existence is the latest unnecessary attack against a person of colour and culture. The fact that he has been given an opportunity by his family to engage in activities to which any other child has the right – acting and having a voice – has attracted attacks against him, falsely claiming that he’s not a child.

How many other Australians have had children in acting classes and posted photos on the internet? Why shouldn’t Quaden be allowed to feel like every other child in Australia should feel, connected and a member of his culture and the society to which he lives?

But he’s been attacked. His mother has been attacked for daring to display photos of her son. The adults who have attacked him should think of their own children, nieces and nephews, cousins or siblings and consider how would they feel if they were subjected to some of the hate – and frankly, stupidity – that such individuals have exhibited in their posts, against a child. Surely this amounts to child abuse? Why haven't authorities examined media data of these abusers for protection of all Australian citizens?

But it is not only ordinary citizens that have attacked Quaden’s integrity but journalists. These journalists shouldn’t be questioning a family's story publicly without verifying the facts. Unfortunately, Miranda Devine decided to query whether it was a scam rather than actually confirming the veracity of Quaden’s life.

Australia seems content with Aboriginal people living their lives without complaining about failing "closing the gap" targets, increasing deaths in custody and more children and young persons being removed than those detailed in the Stolen Generations Royal Commission. If Aboriginal people demand equality and justice, then there seem to be growing numbers of Australians who incessantly question our right to stand up for our freedoms and opportunities — the same rights afforded everyone else as standard practice.

Deporting Indigenous citizens

The behaviour of Australians towards Aboriginal people is a clear reflection of the leaders of this nation. People see the poor relationship Aboriginal people have with the Government and leaders from the Prime Minister down. The ridiculous move by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton of taking two Aboriginal people to the High Court demanding they be deported illustrates this.

Every day has been and continues to be a fight for Aboriginal people to simply receive equality. Their right to do so is constantly being queried and any hardship is derisively attacked as "living in the past". 

The abuse is unrelenting and overwhelming for far too many, which is exactly why Quaden’s name was in the spotlight. A nine-year-old Aboriginal child with dwarfism, Quaden, was being targeted and bullied at school. His mother, Yarraka Bayles, a long time advocate for Indigenous Rights and equal rights of her son, placed a video on Facebook showing a distraught Quaden wanting a rope, threatening to suicide.

Surely this should have been a moment for the nation to come together and feel embarrassed that bullying is a continuing scourge on Australian schools. Yet it was the trigger for individuals to look for excuses to deliver ridiculous and gutless questions about Quaden’s condition and age. Those individuals should be embarrassed that they even articulated such a view, yet the pile-on has continued beyond the Indigenous v Maori All Stars match, where it was quite clear for all to see who Quaden is and what has happened to him when he led out the Indigenous All Stars.

Where to from here?

What will Australia do to protect the oldest living culture on the planet? When will this small minority of Australians – including far too many within the Government – start to respect Aboriginal people for who we are? When will they appreciate the richness of our culture, language, lore, spirit and connection to Country, for what unique features that are storied of the land we all walk?

Aboriginal artefacts on Country should be national treasures, protected and promoted by governments for their tourism opportunities. Australia has an opportunity to engage with Aboriginal culture and community to become an economic powerhouse. Is this the opportunity for a prime minister and Aboriginal affairs minister to sit down with the community?

It's time to permanently change the language of a nation and engage in a unified spirit towards a respectful nation, accepting the unique collection of cultures within its makeup, including the cultural integrity of the oldest culture this planet has.

Paul Dutton is a Barkindji man from far-western NSW and part of the Stolen Generation. He works as an Indigenous engagement consultant. You can follow Paul on Twitter @pauldutton1968.

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