Indigenous Australians gather to discuss Aboriginal identity

As part of NAIDOC Week 2014, Indigenous Australians from all walks of life have gathered near Sydney's Bennelong Point to debate what Aboriginal identity means in modern society.

Indigenous Australians gathered near Sydney's Bennelong Point to debate what Aboriginal identity means in modern society. (Image: NITV/SBS)

Indigenous Australians gathered near Sydney's Bennelong Point to debate what Aboriginal identity means in modern society. (Image: NITV/SBS) Source: SBS

Indigenous Australians from all walks of life have gathered near Sydney's Bennelong Point, the site where their forefathers first made contact with European settlers, to debate what Aboriginal identity means in modern society.

Hip Hop artists Jimblah, a member of the Larrakia, Yanyuwa, Bardi and Wardaman nations was among those taking part in the discussion at the Opera house.

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"There are people like myself who don't know much about culture or law or language but who are so proud of their story you know," Jimblah told SBS.

Jimblah says he's seen first-hand the impact of a modern disconnect between individuals and culture.

"You've got to be careful not to pick up too much from the rest of society and how they view you, especially our young mob who take on a lot of the negative stereotypes - so it's important that you know who you are."



The forum is part of , and aims to put contemporary issues of Indigenous identity on the national agenda.

Wiradjuri man Mark McMillan is one of 18 Indigenous Australians who brought a class action against News Corporation journalist Andrew Bolt for breaching the Racial Discrimination Act. 

Bolt had suggested light-skinned Aboriginal people identified as such for personal benefit.

Mr McMillan says the historic identity of Indigenous Australians has, for too long, been defined by others.

"The imposition of identity - quadroon, half-caste -- all those very negative labels. That classification was used historically for bad things -- removal. You know, deny your humanness," Mark McMillan told SBS.



Utopia Elder Rosalie Kunoth-Monks agrees, putting the blame squarely on government policy failure.

"The pain is still there, and the stigma, through the policies that have continued to happen on the first nation's people the stigma is also there," she said.

She says, like it or not, Aboriginal identity is non-negotiable.

"If you are a first nations person, a black person of this country, your identity has been defined many thousands of years ago. You can't go defining your own identity. You're identified anyway, from where you come from."

Awaken Host, Stan Grant, says the show recognises that Aboriginal culture and identity are often misunderstood.

"We are there to give everybody a voice. We are there to allow everybody to disagree with each other to challenge each other in ways I don't think Australian media has done before," Grant told SBS after filming.

A veteran international correspondent, Stan Grant says it's time for more debate from within the indigenous community.

"The important thing about Awaken for me is that, you know, I have covered stories all around the world and I come back to Australia and I find that we are still debating indigenous affairs as we were 20 or 30 years ago."  



Catch the full discussion tonight at 8.30PM on NITV.

 


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3 min read
Published 9 July 2014 at 5:20pm
By Gary Cox
Source: SBS