• Algerians hold a Berber flag during a demonstration on the Old Port of Marseille to demand the independence of the mountainous Kabylie, April 2018 (AAP)Source: AAP
The status of Aboriginal Australians doesn’t differ from that of the Berbers who have been given no such Acknowledgement, writes Berber woman Massilia Aili.
Massilia Aili

14 Sep 2018 - 10:01 AM  UPDATED 14 Sep 2018 - 4:14 PM

An apartheid of identity is a system of institutionalised racial segregation and discrimination targeted at the individual characteristics and beliefs of a particular group of people.

Or, to put it simply, it’s the belief that because a group of people, whose traditions, customs or personal beliefs may differ from your own, you are somehow instinctively superior.

It is when Aboriginal people were subjected to martial law, when they were massacred for defending their land and protesting their rights. It is when the French tortured and jailed the Berbers for speaking out in defence of the Kabyle culture and the Amazigh language.

It is when they introduced the Aboriginal Protections Acts to control lives and took the children away. It is when they Arabised Algeria and illegalised the Berber culture.

It’s when you had to renounce your Indigeneity and when we feared to publicly embrace ours.

The Aboriginal people of Australia. The Berbers of Algeria.

“We acknowledge the Kurringai people, the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet today. We pay our respects to elders both past and present and extend that respect to any Aboriginal peoples here today.”

A rather familiar phrase. One that I personally have heard at least once every week throughout my thirteen years of schooling and several other times at sporting, charitable and community events and ceremonies. Accumulating to well over 1000 times in my lifetime.

The thousands of times I’ve heard it, it has engraved into my mind and continues to resonate with me.

You date back to 50 000 years and we date back to 2000 BCE. You were the fishers and flame lighters from Down Under, we were the farmers and herders of North Africa. You tamed the tropics and the droughts and we tackled the mountains and the sand.

Separated by over 15 000 kilometres, but yet we maintained the same fervent connection to our ancestors, to our land, our people and ironically, to our colonisers.

Together, we conquered the Great Wars, hand in hand as Allies we marched through the west, carried wounded bodies on our backs as we lost our own. Scrubbed the blood off their bodies as we were drenched in our own. Fighting for others’ land as we awaited the return of our own.

But, our own is exactly what we didn’t get.

Instead, Native Title was introduced to recognise your connection to your land. We were allowed to publicly claim the mountain regions on which we had been living.

You were granted a National Apology and our language was recognised as the third national language.

Your Acknowledgement of Country was introduced into all official meetings and gatherings and our politician was accepted as the first Berber in the Federal Parliament.

“We acknowledge the Kurringai people, the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet today.”

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Today, and after all of this, politicians are claiming “no definition to an Aboriginal”, are questioning the need to acknowledge you as the traditional custodians of the land and are claiming custodianship of your land.

We are still protesting for government funding to preserve our language and culture.

Our capitals are guarded by either the Union Jack or the vert, blanc rouge. Our languages are fogged out by the Marseillaise and God save the Queen and our history has been remoulded so that it accompanies their own.

But yet, we still “acknowledge the Kurringai people, the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet today.”


And again.

And again.

So much so, that Indigeneity has become a rather important topic of discussion. One that has warranted debates and popular public opinions and research and books.

We haven’t failed to address the ever-present inequalities towards Indigenous peoples, in Australia, Algeria and globally. But ironically, that’s where it stops.


The ratio of speech to action is far from balanced.

If we truly have reached that euphoric point of coexistence, why then are we still justifying the importance of black lives and why do rallies and campaigns continue to be suppressed.

The very essence and spiritual meaning of hearing an Acknowledgement of Country becomes completely futile when imprisonment and homelessness rates are still significantly higher amongst Indigenous communities and when Indigenous affairs has been branded a ‘controversial topic’.

Despite public apologies and measures such as the Acknowledgement of Country, the status of Aboriginal peoples in Australia doesn’t differ from that of the Berbers who have been given no such acknowledgement. Or from many other Indigenous groups around the world.

It seems as though we have become so accustomed to hearing speeches and Acknowledgements of Country it has almost become a façade for many Australians to claim acceptance and coexistence with its First Nations’ people. It has become more important to show acknowledgement than to actually act on it.

But how can we truly acknowledge when so many of us don’t know the actual spiritual and cultural significance of an Acknowledgement of Country?

How can we coexist with our colonisers when both our peoples are what makes up the lowest social, political and economic populations of society?

How can we act when mere discussions on the topic have been shunned? 

So, the next time we “acknowledge the Kurringai people, the traditional custodians of the land”,

Let us take one step further and show it.  


Massilia Aili is a Journalism and Law student at University of Technology Sydney, working towards a prospective career in foreign correspondence and investigative journalism. As a Indigenous Berber of the Kabyle people of Algeria, her interests lie in the plight of the global Indigenous community, sovereignty and empowerment. Follow Massilia @MassiliaAili