Growing up in Australia is great. The freedom, the beaches, the cute, fuzzy animals; but as a young Indigenous Australian growing up in a regional town, things weren't always ideal. I was born in 1997 to a white Australian mother and Indigenous Australian father, in the nation's capital city, Canberra. We lived in lots of different places, and I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by my Aboriginal culture due to my parents' work. As a kid, I didn't see too much of a difference between my mum's family and my dad's. They were all my relatives, even if we didn't all look the same. That's how I thought all people processed race, but by the time I hit primary school, I got a huge wake up call.
Image: Redfern, Sydney.
When I was about seven years old, my dad's job had him move from our small little alpine town in the Snowy Mountains region, to the much larger, much hotter town of Dubbo. The town has a fairly multicultural population, although where I lived and went to school, the majority of the populace was Aboriginal Australian. In the time I attended primary school and high school in the west of Dubbo, there were riots, drug raids, mass shutdowns of Aboriginal housing and, in one instance, a 200 strong all out brawl at my high school started over racial tensions.
Dubbo seemed to be full of racial tensions and extreme class differences. I remember going to my friend's house in what was labelled by most adults as the "bad part" of town, although I didn't see the issue. Then when I made friends when I was older and I visited their nice, clean houses in 'fancy' neighbourhoods, the difference dawned on me.
"They were all my relatives, even if we didn't all look the same. That's how I thought all people processed race, but by the time I hit primary school, I got a huge wake up call."
It didn't take long to realise that the town I lived in was not the same as the one I came from. From when I was in year four, I started picking up on not only other kids racially vilifying each other, but teachers too. To this day I can still remember the faces of the old, white women whispering to each other about the "black kids" and their families when they didn't think anyone was listening. I was listening.
This accidental witnessing of racial vilification and hatred became a theme in my life from age ten, to now. Unlike some of my other family members, people I went to school with, and the very scarce amount of Aboriginal actors in the public eye, my skin is fair. Sometimes, I look sheet white in the middle of summer. My melanin levels just aren't up there, but that has never in my mind made me think I was less of an Indigenous Australian.
Other people however, had different views. From a slew of my peers who would spurt racist bile in front of me about other students, only to be reminded that I am in fact also black, to teachers, authority figures, employers and my peers using rhetoric like "half caste" and "not full." I've heard it all. That is why I, as a fed up and tired Aboriginal woman, I am writing this.
My whole life I've heard these things, had these conversations. With strangers, acquaintances, class mates, total idiots and some of my close friends.
"You're not really black?"
"But you're so pale."
"So obviously you're like a half caste."
"Sorry, part Aboriginal."
"You don't sound like them."
"But you live in a nice area?"
"Yeah but you're not like 'fully black'."
"You do know she's black right?"
"Sit down white girl, you ain't black."
"Sorry I didn't know. Obviously I don't mean you."
"But you're so smart."
"Sometimes, I look sheet white in the middle of summer. My melanin levels just aren't up there, but that has never in my mind made me think I was less of an Indigenous Australian."
I didn't deal with half the shit I saw happen in the playground because I'm pale. I still have people unknowingly say racist things about my brothers and sisters because they don't know I'm black. I used to relish in the fact nobody picked on me for my race. I was already a leper because of my sexuality and general existence, so I was glad that nobody saw my skin and pegged me as one of "them". But that meant I didn't belong anywhere anymore. Not white, not black.
Ever since I was a baby I've been around elders, family and other members of my culture that have taught me who I am. I am an Aboriginal Australian. My skin colour or my mums heritage do not define my Aboriginality. So to anyone reading this, be ye friend or foe, I am Aboriginal. I am not one 16th or a half or a full blood. I am not part Aboriginal and I am not part white. I am Aboriginal and I will continue to fight for my culture and my heritage and will be rightfully enraged at discrimination and racism in this country, because my culture is mine as much as it's any one else's, no matter how pale my skin is.
With all this said, I feel I'm in a unique position to comment of the entire debate around "Changing the Date". Amongst all the Jancinta Prices and Mark Lathams in this country, there is an obvious shift. Statistics and polls have shown that as long as we have a day off work and get to get drunk, nobody really cares when "Australia Day" is. So why for the love of Steve Irwin are we still insisting on celebrating the day that my ancestors had their lives invaded, the starting point of the most miserable part of this country's history?
Yes, I understand that nobody from our current generations were directly involved in throwing Aboriginal men off cliffs and raping their wives and daughters. But what you need to understand that it's about respect. It's about the fact that we have never had a day of mourning for our lost. It's the fact that there's no need to celebrate some old English bastard landing his ship on the salty shores of Botany Bay and probably immediately vomiting from being sea sick.
I just don't see the appeal and I don't see the need. Why not celebrate the positives of our country now? While I honestly think there's still a lot to fix when it comes to my culture in this country, there's also so much to celebrate. Don't make it only about an exclusive to a bunch of European prisoners and Captain Cook followers, include every other beautiful and wonderful culture that has come to this land since then. It's time we start properly celebrating what this country is now.
Kirra is a young, loud woman with a passion for equality, wine from a cask and drag queens. She is often spotted staring into space thinking about Game of Thrones and pizza.