The Adani Group’s Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin in Central Queensland has been in the news largely for the wrong reasons.
As the largest proposed Australian coal mine, as well as one of the world’s largest, the Carmichael mine first made major headlines in July 2014 when the Abbott-led federal government approved the mine with “strict environmental conditions”.
As a collective of writers, artists, and academics of South Asian heritage, we acknowledge Aboriginal People and Torres Strait Islanders who are the world’s oldest continuing civilisation, and the First Peoples of this country, Australia. We remember the dispossession, the massacres, the stolen children, the colonisation, the suffering and pain this has caused and continues to cause them. As immigrants to this great southern land, we acknowledge our debt to them, and celebrate their survival. On January 26, 2016, we stand in solidarity with them.
Below we repost parts of a post previously published on this site, Are We Legit, by Roanna Gonsalves
“We are not the perpetrators, the ones who wielded the guns in the forgotten wars between invading white settlers and Indigenous Peoples. We are not the victims. However, as mainly economic migrants from South Asia (we acknowledge the many South Asian refugees from the conflict zones of Afghanistan and Sri Lanka), we are not absolved of complicity.”
“We are beneficiaries of the genocide of Aboriginal people, the dispossession of their land, the loss of their homes, their families, their cultural values, their tongues, their songs. It is such soil that we step on when we first step into Australia, soaked not just with the promise of a ‘first world lifestyle’, but squelchy with the memory of massacre.”
“Today we are living in cities and towns, building our homes, our offices, our restaurants, our shelters, our futures, putting down roots into what once were and continue to be the hunting grounds, the camping places, the sacred sites, the repositories of knowledge of the Indigenous people of Australia. We are the beneficiaries of their dispossession, and we acknowledge their loss. As immigrants from South Asia, we understand about the loss of home, family and cultural values, and we would like to express our deep sorrow to all Indigenous Australians for their suffering and offer our support for genuine reconciliation, for self-determination.”
If you are anything like me, your social media feed for the past couple of weeks has probably been a Justin Trudeau fest. The video of his recent swearing-in ceremony, with the most diverse cabinet in Canadian history, has been re-posted so many times that I am beginning to wonder if any of my Facebook friends really voted for Tony Abbott (or Stephen Harper, or Narendra Modi). Then there is that charming YouTube video of Trudeau performing Bhangra at what appears to be an Indian community event in Montreal, which already has over a million views.
One of our friends told us this joke a decade or so ago: ‘Two Indian friends went to a restaurant and ordered steak. One friend asked the other, “So you are eating your mother today?” The friend promptly responded, “No, I am not. I am eating your mother”.’ It was one of those jokes that generated uneasy laughter and led to the suppression of unfunny questions. Were both of them Hindus? Which restaurant was this? The joke links two taboo topics into one: the embargo against eating beef; and cannibalism. Not to mention that eating anyone’s mother in any culture or country would be very bad manners.
The other day I happened to be having a conversation with a colleague of mine. Much to my surprise, and a pleasant surprise at that, she said she no longer uses the term “Left Wing”, and has switched to “Progressive”. Now this is someone I look up to, someone who has a fairly strong sense of ethics and values that I ascribe to. Here I was, totally blown away that she was also contemplating abandoning the “Left”, at least semantically. I thought, when those of us who are clever with words, start abandoning certain words, it’s usually like the canary in the coal mine. A sign of changes to come.
When American genealogist Michael Derrick Hudson decided that he would publish his poetry under a pseudonym, on the surface, it wasn’t such a big deal. After all, writers have been using pseudonyms for centuries. Think the Bronte sisters, Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll and most recently, J.K Rowling’s reincarnation as Robert Galbraith. No, choosing a pseudonym in itself appears to be a personal, innocuous choice. What made Hudson’s choice interesting was that he chose Yi Fen Chou’s name, a woman who used to be his classmate in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Even more offensive to Asian writers was Hudson’s confession that he found it easier to publish his poetry under an assumed Asian name, because of editorial bias towards ‘ethnic-sounding’ names. Hudson claimed he submitted poetry under his own name and had it rejected, but his rate of acceptance escalated rapidly when using the Chinese pseudonym.
While rearranging book shelves at home, I came across old notebooks with Hindi and Tamil alphabets in my children’s handwriting. Each carefully formed letter triggered memories. I remember the smug satisfaction that my husband and I felt as we helped our girls connect with their heritage languages. The girls, on the other hand, barely suppressed their annoyance at not being able to join their friends leaping around with water guns in their hands and screaming with delight just outside our door. Many years later, reading Sticks and stones and such like, Sunil Badami’s phrase ‘the awkwardly knotted hyphen’ that inscribes the uneasy yoking of two distinct national cultures: ‘Indian-Australian, Australian-Indian depending on the day’ intrigued me. I have wondered, how awkwardly knotted can a hyphen be before it stops being a hyphen? Continue reading
Growing up brown in the Western Suburbs of Sydney in the 90s was PTSD level trauma at worst, and character building at best. For those who were lucky enough to share this wonderful experience with me, you’ll know that the West was not what it is now. Parramatta the heartland of Western Sydney for example never had an Eat Street back then. If it did, I never found it with my own eyes as I looked past the flashing neon lights of the franchisee run take away joints. There was the old Westfields, there were odd shops along the station, and there were the video game stores that were my little safe haven amongst the chaos, aggression and the downtrodden folks in the capital of the West. Blacktown, Cabramatta and many of the buzzing hubs of the West today were on the South Asian version of the “do not travel” advisory guide.