What 'Survival' Means To Me
Survival means standing where I am today as someone who has come from an Aboriginal family in New South Wales who has been through everything that other Aboriginal families in New South Wales have been through. That is dispossession, that is being herded up and put onto missions, having people taken away, being denied education, living at the whim of welfare agencies and police and government, people who could invade our privacy, people who could take our children, people who could tell us where we can live and who we can marry.
All of that is our experience and I've lived through that experience and my family has been forged out of that experience. But I stand here today as someone who has had an education, who has travelled the world. But I also remember that I am one step away from people in my family who are still living with the horror of dispossession, injustice and suffering. That is the constant reality of their life.
How I've Survived
I've survived by being tougher. I've survived by being smarter, working harder, being demanding of myself, demanding of others, not accepting second-best, not allowing people to put me in a box and tell me who I should be, how I should act or where I should work. I'm an Indigenous Australian in Beijing, New York, London, Paris or Bagdad or anywhere else where I've worked or lived. That's what survival is and that's what freedom is.
My survival comes from my family and the lessons they've taught me and my refusal to accept that I am not anyone else's equal.
Contributing to Survival
When it comes to contributing to the survival of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, I have not been at the coalface of that political movement. I chose to make my own way in the world. I chose to be a professional Indigenous person going out there as an example to say 'this is what we can do.' Not only is this what we can do, this is our right to have everything that you have.
We don't have to be defined by other people, we don't have to live with the tyranny of low expectations. We can make our way, we are as smart and talented and as dedicated and committed, and we can work as hard as anyone else. It's as simple as that for me.
How Far Have We Come?
We're fewer than three per cent of the population so there is an invisibility to us. I think its six out of 10 non-Indigenous people say they have never met an Indigenous person but they wouldn't know if they did because they don't even know what we look like. So we labour under those old perceptions of who we are and we are trapped in the imagination of white Australia who can only see us in a particular way. So it's hard to say how we have been represented in the mainstream.
There are trailblazers everywhere. We are starting to push through and make our presence felt.
But remember this; it’s taken more than 100 years of federation to put an Indigenous man on the front bench of either of our major parties, and its only just happened.
We don't have anyone on the bench of our High Court, we're not chief surgeons of our hospitals and we are not running our major companies. This is where we need to be. We need to be free to make these choices. It's not assimilation, it's about choice; our choice as Indigenous people to live where we want, do what we like and be recognised for who we are.
The Point with Stan Grant launches on NITV 29 February @ 9pm. Get ready for an inspiring and empowered, agenda-setting program that investigates and presents cultural, political and social events of importance to Australia's First Peoples.
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