My oldest daughter wanted to know what constitutes ‘Aboriginal background’ as in: does she get to tick the box on the form so that she can get invited to the events only for people with aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds?
My initial reaction was no – one of your ancestors has to have been A/TSI. But, she says, she has been adopted by a Yolngu elder, can speak some words in Yolngu Matha, knows a little about the culture, would move back there in a flash if she could and feels like she has aboriginal background.
Her school principal thought about this long and hard and decided the best thing to do in this situation was to celebrate my daughter’s passion, and invite her along to the activities.
On one hand this is a scary decision, what if it opens the flood gates and EVERYONE wants to go along to the ATSI days?
On the other hand… wouldn’t that be the greatest thing ever? Imagine If all our kids celebrated their local aboriginal cultures and learned together about them and created value together, and brought back into the mainstream this sense of interest and worth.
When the mainstream values what aboriginal cultures offer, and they offer what the mainstream values the space between shifts to one of equals. There are examples of this happening with the occasional indigenous sportsperson, spokesperson or artist shining so bright they move the whole narrative to a new place but for the most part the mainstream sits comfortably certain that we are and we have and we know all we need, which keeps us closed to new potentials.
Having worked through my initial discomfort at the idea that my daughter could be doing something wrong I think maybe she could be doing something very right. Mainstream ambassadors need to take on the challenge of finding and celebrating value, and shifting the negotiated space between our cultures too. Not as anthropologists or helpers but as partners.
One of our team sent me this today about Aboriginal Australia Information Deficit Disorder – the timing! It has a super quick quiz on there to help you find out if you suffer from AAIDD and some simple tips on how to remedy that.