Grounded in truth, walk together with courage

A National Reconciliation Week Reflection from Phoebe Whittington

The theme of this year’s reconciliation week is ‘ground ourselves in truth, to walk together in courage.’ Grounding ourselves in truth requires my non-Indigenous peers and I to explore and accept some dark parts of our history. Parts that we would much rather stay hidden. For me, beginning to meaningfully engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, history, and cultures uncovered some painful truths about who I am.

I am a direct descendant of British colonisers who believed in white superiority and black inferiority. This underlying belief was motivation to dispossess, dehumanise, massacre, deny culture, remove children, exclude, and discriminate against Indigenous peoples across the continent. Early settlers went on to build a society off the back of these acts which has had profound impact on my lived experience in contemporary Australia.

The overt racist beliefs and actions of early settler peoples are yet to fully unstick from our collective institutions and identity, and therefore, our engagement with those ideas is inevitable. Simply by participating in our education, political, faith-based, and other social institutions, I have engaged with, and been shaped by, racist attitudes. As a result, I’ve made assumptions about Indigenous peoples based off racial stereotypes, I’ve made and laughed at racist jokes, I have been ignorant and apathetic to the way Indigenous voices aren’t heard, I’ve held a passive unconcern for issues like deaths in custody, I’ve sat back and done nothing in moments of injustice, I’m blind to daily instances of racism and exclusion because they seem normal to me, and I’ve not done enough to embody and live out the collective apology that we as non-Indigenous peoples gave in 2008.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that in truth, parts of who I am are deeply racist. In courage, I’m admitting this so that together we can begin to dismantle the norms and attitudes embedded in our society that have made me so.