We had the good fortune of being in Australia during NAIDOC week (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee). A history can be found here (click here).
Even though Australia was originally settled between 40,000 and 70,000 years ago, European colonists arrived and started making claims on it in the 1600s. Like most colonized countries, Australia imported colonial ideas about native populations as well as diseases. For a very long time the Aboriginal populations suffered exclusion from political systems, the indignities of racist ideologies, forced relocation, familial separation, forced servitude, denial of basic rights afforded to white people, and massacres.
The last colonial lesson imparted to Australia by the British was “self-rule”. In effect Australia (along with New Zealand), had to develop a constitution, petition, and prove they were capable of ruling themselves before the British withdrew. This was a process that started in the early 1800 and grew in strength until an independent Australia came into being in 1901. All of this happened without the the inclusion of the people who had already settled the land and had been living there for tens of thousands of years before people of European decent decree that systems were in place to be independent enough from the British empire.
Shortly after the the establishment of Australia and after shift in attitudes about about slavery (the 1800s saw many countries in Europe and the Americas ban slavery). However, the psychological, economic, and spiritual effects of centuries of slavery and mistreatment lasted. How does a nation address that?
NAIDOC week is one part of a multifaceted approach. The goal: celebrate aboriginal culture, people, and promote inclusion. The more people of one with one set of cultural and historical experiences mix with people of different sets of cultural and historical experiences, understanding starts. More importantly, people see others as people in and of themselves, not just as people that can be a means to end.
Aboriginal people are not specimens to observe, or the holders of some quaint culture that exists for the entertainment of others. They are people with the same inalienable rights as everyone else. Their beliefs, art, and way of existing are every bit as significant anything found in Europe, the Americas, or Asia.
“Voice, Treaty, Truth” was theme of this year’s NAIDOC week celebration, and we had the privilege of attending Kup Murri. It was a small town cook out, with nearly 100 people attending. Some people wore traditional colors, other were dressed up in their Sunday best, others came as they were. Kids ran about playing. People sang Karoke. Everyone eating together, just having a good time.
Kup Murri is a ground oven. Foods are wrapped in paperbark or palm leaves with a burring fire on top. Eventually the coals heat the rocks and food. Here is a nice write up (Click Here). Squash, yams, purple potatoes, pork, chicken, sweet-sour pork….they were delicious. As could be expected my favorite food was the bread. It was slightly smokey with hints of a rosemary like flavor. Sharleen liked the chicken and slightly singed skins of the yams and potatoes. Alyssa had a second helping of chicken and Kylie loved the sweet and sour pork. Food is a great way to bring people together.