Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are warned that all these images contain images of people now deceased.
A few facts. First, Australians generally know nothing of the indigenous race. Absolutely nothing. They know nothing of the laws, clothing, shelters, customs, languages, culture, songs, or stories that this amazing race of people produced. Their only experience of Aboriginals, if there is any experience at all, is of the dis-empowered, dis-cultured fringe dwellers in city slums or town margins, or of the kitsch cliches of boomerang, corroboree and religious affinity with land.
Second, through hatred of the unknown, or through compassion towards a 'dying' race, or through greed, or through sheer savagery (the alternatives are not mutually incompatible) generations of people who have arrived within the last 240 years have done their best to exorcise - both physically and spiritually - anything to do with a race of people who by some accounts have successfully survived in one of the world's harshest environments for 60,000 years. Many modern Aboriginals are without culture and therefore without purpose or identity - because of these factors. Because their very identity has been stolen, some give up all hope, and resort to the stereotypes that have been hammered down on them. There is nothing quite so tense as lying in bed at 2am in the morning in Walgett or Bourke - both blighted towns where every glass surface is caged with steel mesh, and listening to young children, many not heving even reached their tenth birthday, rampaging through the town screaming, breaking anything that they can. These are the screams of children who have absolutely no future, no education, no hope. And know it. They know the best intentioned employment schemes (there is no real employment in such towns) are futile, they know they are dispossessed, they know what the rest of Australia thinks of them, but in an age of superficial political correctness, rarely utters out loud.
Third, Australians who have arrived here in the last 240 years know they have created a nightmare. They know - but rarely acknowledge - the massacres of innocents at such places as Myall Creek, or Point Lookout. They know that being black in a town like Kempsey means you have absolutely no chance of employment unless it is with an Aboriginal agency itself. (and to be fair, there is precious little employment in such towns for non-Aboriginal people.) Ineffectually, they have tried to do something about it. Girded by the thought that Aboriginals would die out, or did not value education, they stole entire generations. Those involved actually thought, for the main part, they were doing a civil service. Slowly, very slowly Aboriginals were given many of the entitlement of non-Aboriginal people. The word sorry was said in the Federal Parliament. Do these actions, both good and bad, but all possibly well intentioned, do anything for the young man at Bowraville's 'mission' whose only dream is to live on welfare, as all other dreams have been stolen?
I am not one of Howard's black arm band wearers. Nor am I an apologist - as some Australian historians are - for the wrongs that have been committed against these people. I like to think I am open to new ideas, new ways of seeing the world, and therefore not intentionally racist. But I live in a society that does not even acknowledge its racism, and has profound fears of the 'other'. The reason why I have collected these images from many sources is because they show, in the main, a race of people, who despite all that we have been led to believe, are clearly proud, resourceful, intelligent, and culturally rich. Like everyone else, they are human too.