I am a first and second generation Australian with 4 Italian immigrant grandparents. I have friends of different races and religions, skin of every different shade. I never felt like I ever judged anyone on anything other than how they treated me.
In 2009 we were in Egypt. Our tour guide, Gemmy, asked me how I felt about our tour. I told him that I had the most incredible time of my life. I loved the pyramids and museums and the history. I said to him ‘you know, we don’t have much history in Australia because we’re such a young country’ and he looked at me straight in the eyes and said, ‘what are you talking about? Australia isn’t a young country’
In my one sentence, ingrained into the mind of my 24 year old white Australian self, I wiped out thousands of years of Australian history and people, by confusing Australian history, with white Australian history.
The realisation made me feel absolutely sick and embarrassed. Of course we touched on Aboriginal history as I went through school in the 90s, but how could I have dismissed it so flippantly? THAT is an example of systematic racism right here in Australia, and it’s not ok.
Aboriginal history IS our history.
I take responsibility for my role in that ignorance, and that’s why I’m sharing it here. Because even with a kind heart, the systems that shape our thinking are flawed so we have to do some of the work ourselves, long after we’ve left the classroom.
Tonight at the dinner table, I asked our kids if they know who the principal thanks when he starts assembly (or used to pre-covid) and they said – the kids that are sitting and listening (obviously not OUR kids 🤣🤣). Maybe our post won’t make a difference, maybe no one will read it, but we’ll start by having more conversations at home and asking more questions. And by not standing by and standing silent.
Thank you Gemmy, I’ll always remember Egypt for its history, celebrated, preserved and treasured. And this one small moment that showed me my place in this problem.