Vol 13 Issue 2
By Tyson Holloway-Clarke
I landed in Australia at 9:30am on the 26th of January this year with a broken phone, a few hours of sleep and a long, hot day ahead of me. I had heard somewhere that the best response to jet lag is getting outside, getting sun, and getting active. So in typical masochistic fashion, I dedicated myself to rallying in the city. I got the Star Bus into University, not home in Fitzroy. I went to my second home, Murrup Barak, where I knew I could shower, brush my teeth, grab some food, leave my stuff safely, and head into the city. I wore my flag shirt, a pair of shorts my mum had gotten me for Christmas, and a pair of steel capped, water tight, all-terrain hiking boots. As much as I knew this rally was organised on the principles of nonviolence, I had the uncomfortable feeling that it would be my luck to be caught in the middle of something. Strapped with my backpack, I made my way south.
I don’t remember exactly where I got off the tram but I could see the swelling crowd, onlookers, and hear the noises of a rally. I made my way down into the thick of things among spectators, drew the usual reactions varying from scowls to staring to avoidance, and saw the procession for the first time that year. It was the wrong march and I was standing among the people that opted for the ‘official’ - albeit much smaller - march. Whoops.
I spotted a friend and we made our way into the correct rally posthaste. At least I wasn’t alone in my mistake. I then found my friends, and spotted more friends, and more friends. I couldn’t look in a direction without spotting someone I knew. The surprise was it wasn’t just blackfellas. There were white people that I knew, but had no idea would be coming down. Don’t get it twisted, there were more blackfellas there than I had ever seen before, but for every Indigenous person it felt as though there were just as many, if not more, non-Indigenous people. I wasn’t sure if I was in a exhaustion-induced hallucination or if I was still on the plane coming back from America. It didn’t feel real.
I have spent the better part of my life trying to communicate with people about Indigenous Australia. Shedding light on problems, but also promoting our successes. Even in primary school I was talking (well, really parroting my family) about how bullshit terra nullius is. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, I have won accolades and I have also been literally pissed on for my efforts.
So the 26th was a wake up call for me. I didn’t see it so much as a real catalysing moment for change but rather a representation of something much more slow-moving. To me it was a roll call of solidarity: whom among us was going to make the march, and be accounted for. It was a time for people united in a reconciled future to come together, remind each other of our shared mission, and draw energy and inspiration from one another.
I don’t know what our collective future holds, but I hope it involves a successful treaty. The reality is that we can’t do that on our own. As evidenced by the referendum in 1967, we are bound to the democratic laws of this land. We cannot go anywhere together without each other. It is like we are running a three-legged race, but we only control 3% of the legs. As morbid the history of Australia might be, and no matter how close to the surface the 26th brought those pains of the past, I still went to sleep that night (at 7:30pm) thoroughly inspired and optimistic thanks to the support, togetherness, and ultimate solidarity of the day. On the 27th we all, Indigenous and not, awoke in our own little corners of Australia ready to resume the quiet mission of reconciliation and justice.
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