• On Warlpiri country, this is where I grew up (Photo: Rachael Hocking)
I have never been accused straight up of benefitting because of my Aboriginality, except by myself. But somehow that has been far worse, writes Rachael Hocking.
By
Rachael Hocking

14 Apr 2015 - 10:29 AM  UPDATED 14 Apr 2015 - 11:38 AM

I was invited to a ceremony for scholarship recipients, among the glitzy crowd a science innovator, a refugee turned entrepreneur, young Spielbergs and Warhols. Not exactly the shotgun 'congrats' I'd pictured.

I wanted my framed piece of paper and a get out of jail free card, instead what I got was my first and only encounter with the Vice Chancellor in all my three years of undergrad: a brief, sweaty handshake while I regretted wearing the only pair of jeans I owned with a huge bleach stain. But my embarrassment was not just a case of unpreparedness. My internal monologue was in overdrive while I comprehended how my scholarship got me standing amongst RMIT's elite. All I did was write a couple of paragraphs.

Now if I was perfectly honest with myself, it was because I was Aboriginal and somewhat disadvantaged. But that fact didn't matter when I was sitting next to Galileo's apprentice.

That feeling set the tone for the next few years of perceived 'privilege.' And while to some it might seem utterly absurd, I have a feeling the idea of 'black guilt' is probably not some invention of my overly active imagination. Those feelings coincided with the Andrew Bolt court case, when, in a series of articles in the Herald Sun, he accused prominent fair-skinned Indigenous people of choosing to identify as Aboriginal to gain from the system. Those articles were found by a court to be "gratuitous, insulting and misleading." But Bolt won something that day.

I have never been accused straight up of benefitting because of my Aboriginality, except by myself. But somehow that has been far worse.

(Faine) introduced me as "774's Indigenous intern," - something I had not been aware of, and it stung. Why wasn’t I just 'the intern'?

When I was in my final year of journalism I undertook an internship at ABC 774 Melbourne radio with Jon Faine and was later offered a casual position. In NAIDOC Week I went on-air live with Faine to talk about constitutional recognition. He introduced me as "774's Indigenous intern," - something I had not been aware of, and it stung. Why wasn’t I just 'the intern'?

"This is someone else's spot," I thought. Ignoring the fact I was reaching a large audience with an issue not properly covered by the mainstream media.

Is black guilt the untold consequence of Bolt's now infamous articles?

This year I took on the position of 'Indigenous Cadet' with SBS and NITV, but I do not report on solely Indigenous issues, nor am I expected to. Still, the title informs a difference. I didn't come through the same route as my cadet peers. I am the only indigenous cadet, hired against a smaller pool of Indigenous-only applicants. It is a position filled every year.

Is black guilt the untold consequence of Bolt's now infamous articles?

I won't delve into the ins and outs of reconciliation plans in organisations. They are vast. The fact is, I have always known the need for a form of positive discrimination for Indigenous people - the push for allocated seats in parliament, scholarships specifically for persons of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander background. I've long understood the system is unfairly built against us and that small concessions along the way are part of enabling Indigenous people to lead in and shape the institutions that for so long have oppressed us.

And I know it's not a handout to be given a graduate position after studying my arse off at university for three years. But the black guilt sticks, and sometimes I convince myself I don't belong here.

Perhaps that means us young Indigenous people have more to prove. That sometimes we have to go a little bit further in order to say, "I could've got this against white fellas, too." And there are those of us who don’t take the Indigenous path, but does that mean they got there on more merit than those us who did? I have never thought so.

When I go back home to Warlpiri country and I speak to my cousins, who have brilliant ideas about changing our community, but don't do well in school because it's not taught in their first language, I remember, some of us are more equal in this system than others.

Most days the black guilt doesn't get me down, but it scares me that young Indigenous people might have the same mentality I sometimes do.

We deserve to be here, often more than we realise.

Rachael Hocking currently works as a cadet at SBS and NITV. From 12.30PM on Tuesday, April 14, she will 'take over' NITV's Social Media as part of National Youth Week 2015. 

Find out more: https://www.facebook.com/NITVAustralia