Top positive review
Being proud of one's heritage
Reviewed in Australia on 16 January 2019
Growing Up Aboriginal In Australia is an entertaining informative look into the early lives of 51 Aboriginal Australians. Each story is different but all have some common threads. Some had very enjoyable childhoods unaware at least initially of their status in Australia. Others found from a very early age that they were a subject of racial slurs and discrimination. Sadly these slurs continue to the present day. Overall the stories were positive and written by successful people (although one writer later took her own life).
Some of the insights were new to me. Noelene Brinkworth’s story about how she got into trouble at school by a misunderstanding of the word “homework” and not looking the teacher in the eye was new. The teacher criticised her for not looking her in the eye and her mother at home for doing so. Homework to her was helping with the family. Several writers suggested that to quote Ian Dudley “ after 230 years of trying to make the black people more white I think it is dawning on us that, just maybe, if we made the white people a little blacker instead the place would be in better shape” I have long adopted the aboriginal view of the land I occupy. John Hartley and others described convincingly how the anger comes and grows inside aboriginal people.
I was disappointed to find that a number of the writers considered themselves aboriginal but were doubtful about considering themselves Australian. This is not surprising when non-indigenous Australia, unlike US, Canada, NZ and other countries celebrates its national day on a day when their world was destroyed.
There are a number of very positive stories that give hope for the future. In particular Todd Phillip’s story of Camp Bundajulong where young aboriginal children are given guidance by elders not only on traditional aboriginal ways but also on how to survive in a white society.
Overall the stories support the idea that having an identity, a recognised place in the world and being proud of your heritage is very important. All the writers became successful when they obtained this self-respect. Without this programs like “bridging the gap” seem doomed to failure.
Anita Heiss has done a service to Australia by bringing all these stories to light. A lot of racial stereotypes are debunked. The mistakes made in the past by governments are highlighted. These are issues for today and not just something from the past.