• Australian artist Marcus Corowa wants to know who Is Closing the Gap? (NITV News)
Aboriginal and South Sea Islander artist, Marcus Corowa discusses Closing the Gap, Harmony Day and the proposed changes to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
By
Marcus Corowa

28 Mar 2017 - 11:51 AM  UPDATED 28 Mar 2017 - 11:51 AM

"As an Aboriginal and South Sea Islander person in Australia I represent a unique minority that makes up this country. Seemingly, we exist on the fringes of society. People know of us but unfortunately most still don’t know about us.

Over the last month I have been performing as an actor in The Secret River as apart of the Adelaide Festival. It was very challenging, as it is a story about colonisation and the massacre of Aboriginal people. For all of us that were involved, it was such a heavy play to be apart of, and there were many tears that were shed by the cast and audience members throughout the season. The play served to bring about an understanding of our nations history and in turn helped close the gap between non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians.

Two days after we finished the final show was Harmony Day. It is a day that as Australians we acknowledge and promote inclusivity, tolerance in a culturally diverse society. However, on this day I was abhorred to learn about Malcom Turnbull’s proposal on making changes to The Racial Discrimination Act section 18C. It was such a contradiction to the day as the changes that were being proposed threatened to negatively affect all our lives.

I have experienced racism from time to time and in the past it has affected me. I developed a complex from it and as a result, I knew how to make myself small just to fit in and not draw attention to myself, to avoid being looked at, which is ironic because I am a performer.

"Replacing the words will change this country for the worse, especially if you are the minority.

It will widen the gap and cause a greater divide because of an amended law that will regulate our Freedom Of Speech."

As a performer I am constantly in the spotlight and exposed to critical judgement. I’ve had the odd online troll jump out of nowhere to earnestly let me know their thoughts, which have been quite hurtful and has left me bewildered.

The Racial Discrimination Act section 18C protects everyone, especially minority groups from being offended, insulted, humiliated and intimidated on the basis of your race, colour, national or ethnic origin. At the moment there is a clear line here that is enforced to protect all of us. Even though these things happen, it is still being monitored under the Racial Discrimination Act section 18C.

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If 18C gets amended it will be within our laws to offend, insult, humiliate a person based on their race, colour, national or ethnic origin – but it will be unlawful to harass or intimidate them. To offend, insult or humiliate a person leads to intimidation and harassment, and only encourages such behaviour.

Replacing the words will change this country for the worse, especially if you are the minority. It will widen the gap and cause a greater divide because of an amended law that will regulate our Freedom Of Speech.

Professor Mick Dodson says “from an Indigenous Affairs perspective, the Prime Minister just recently gave the Closing the Gap report, things are going backwards, what are you worrying about 18C for when our kids are dying?”

As I am apart of the significant minority in this country and especially within my chosen field of the Entertainment Industry, it is sad and disheartening to see our country yet again taking another step backwards.

I know that there are a lot of great people in this country who are doing fantastic work to close the gap. My recent experiences as an actor in The Secret River has affirmed to me, that our shared hope for a better tomorrow is alive and well. It was deeply felt by the cast, crew and audience members throughout the season. But having said that, and in light of the recent proposal to 18C, we still have a very long way to go in this country and it is my wish that as individuals and as a collective, we would all share in the hope and move towards a better tomorrow for our nation."

#closethegap

#freedomofspeech

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