What an interesting time to be alive, as an Aboriginal Australian.
I’ve always found it quite interesting, in fact, when I introduce myself as having ties to Yamatji/Budimia country (Geraldton, Mt Magnet region) through my mother’s side – I’m now introducing myself as an Aboriginal person, and only an Aboriginal person.
I am all too familiar with the gear cogs turning in people’s minds.
I’m not dark, I don’t have traditional Aboriginal features and I don’t have the traditional Aboriginal accent – so how then am I Aboriginal?
People also seem to forget I never deny my non-Aboriginal Australian ties to Perth/Ballajura country, like somehow my Aboriginality trumps the latter.
Now I am just an Aboriginal person.
I never understood that – people with mixed backgrounds claiming that they are only black, or only Asian.
Ironically enough it’s the Aboriginal elders I’ve worked with that have told me the importance of acknowledging all of your country ties, because this is how traditional people would gain a broader understanding of who you are, and where you’re from, thus identifying where you may sit in their kinship system.
When I present an acknowledgement of country, usually people ask me to do it over non-Aboriginal people in the room, because I am Aboriginal.
They forget that my traditional Aboriginal country ties are not from Perth (Whadjuk Noongar Boodjar).
So in reality, my Aboriginality in this context is irrelevant.
An acknowledgement is just that – an acknowledgement.
I do acknowledgement of country not because I am Aboriginal, but because I understand the importance and relevance of acknowledging and welcoming people to the traditional grounds, and I am a good speaker!
Being an Aboriginal person, a Jewish person, a Taiwanese person or an African person is really only defined through different culture, and minor biological differences, because keep in mind, we are all just a collective of persons.
Most (if not all) Aboriginal elders will tell you the same thing, if you’re a part of the Aboriginal community, you are, by their definition, an Aboriginal person.
Blood ties don’t factor.
‘Black heart’ they call it.
“This one’s got black heart, they one of us”.
The spirit of Boodjar (country) holds the same analogy.
The Noongar elders say, that you’re welcome to this country – but only if you have a good heart, a black heart.
You’re Aboriginal, just not with the biological genetics, and you’re probably not aware of it.
I am Aboriginal, because I have traditional blood and community ties through my mother’s lineage.
I am Australian, because I have blood and community ties with my non-Aboriginal family extending back through Britain and Scotland on my father’s side.
I embody both, and all of my ties, which make me the person I am today.
Rhys Paddick is an Aboriginal educator, professional development and cultural awareness facilitator based in Peth, Western Australia.