Uncle Johnny and Tyson Lovett-Murray are part of the Deadly & Proud campaign.
Uncle Johnny and Tyson Lovett-Murray are part of the Deadly & Proud campaign.

Racism test most Aussies would fail

An Aboriginal elder from Gunditjmara country in Victoria's southwest says most Australians would fail a simple test that proves they hold racist views.

Uncle Johnny, who is telling the heartbreaking and brutal story of his people's dark past for a new Victorian Government campaign, says Australians have a guilt complex about what white people did to Indigenous Australians.

He says that guilt gets in the way of truth-telling about what really happened. It's why Australian students were never taught about things like the Eumeralla Wars - bloody conflicts between the Gunditjmara people and settlers in the 1830s and 1840s that led to more than 10,000 Aboriginal deaths.

Uncle Johnny says there are two simple questions that Australians can ask themselves. The first is: "Do I know the truth about Australia's past?"

The second: "Would I be OK if an Aboriginal man or woman married into my family?"

"For people to say, no, I'm not a racist, there's a few tests that I think they would fail," Uncle Johnny told news.com.au.

"People might say, I'm not racist. But what happens if an Aboriginal man or woman wants to marry into their family. It's alright to be part of progress but it's not alright to be close to it."

The words are blunt. They make you sit up and take notice. But he says that nothing else works. Australians need to be confronted with hard truths before they can identify their own prejudices and confront the reality of Australia's history.

Uncle Johnny, who is one of a number of Aboriginal storytellers taking part in the Deadly & Proud campaign, says most Victorians know nothing about the Eumeralla Wars.

He feels that in order to progress as a society, the true history of conflict between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians must be shared to the wider public.

Uncle Johnny (left) and Tyson Lovett-Murray are part of the Victorian Government’s Deadly & Proud campaign.
Uncle Johnny (left) and Tyson Lovett-Murray are part of the Victorian Government’s Deadly & Proud campaign.

 

The wars tell a story of Aboriginal resistance against weapons they could not prevail over. They fought on land littered with ancient lava rocks that provided some protection but not enough.

"It was hard for them to ride horses in any pace, let alone full gallop," Uncle Johnny says. "Those on foot weren't familiar with that place either."

He said there were "huge casualties" - those who survived did so by employing guerilla tactics.

Uncle Johnny said First Nations people who were killed were referred to as being "dispersed". It wasn't always with outright violence but "the way in which they were dispersed is pretty horrific".

"There are people who mixed arsenic in flour and gave it to the Aboriginal people," he said.

"They made cakes out of them and ended up dying. Their bodies were stacked and burned or thrown in the river."

In other parts of the country, Aboriginal people were beheaded to send a message to others.

"That's what we're dealing with," Uncle Johnny says.

He says that Australia risks repeating mistakes from its past if history is ignored.

"The Stolen Generation became Aboriginal deaths in custody."

Uncle Johnny believes Australia's education system should wear much of the blame for failing to tell the truth.

"We have an education system that failed us since the beginning," he said. "The truths that should've been told were never told. They didn't think that we were intelligent enough to have a history. They forgot we survived for 60,000 years and you don't do that for knowing nothing."

Racism towards Indigenous Australians has been a hot topic of conversation in the last two months, as it always is around Australia Day.

The Collingwood Football Club continues to face pressure after a report found systemic racism at the club.

Former player Heritier Lumumba has pushed for change after experiencing racism himself during his playing days - incidents the club denied until recently.

The Deadly & Proud campaign includes a website with an interactive map of Victoria showing stories that are mapped to country.

Victoria is the first state or territory in Australia to commit to negotiating treaty with its First Peoples.

For more information, visit deadlyandproud.vic.gov.au

Originally published as Racism test most Aussies would fail



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