Current Affairs

Five things you should do as a non-Indigenous Australian this Australia Day

Photo Credit: AlicePopkorn
You should visit Uluru. Photo Credit: AlicePopkorn

My grandparents were missionaries who spent a few decades of their lives trying to convert aboriginal people to Christianity. They went into remote communities and preached the gospel in the way Jesus commanded his disciples to a couple of thousand years ago. They didn’t have a wage and relied on donations from churches to get by. I grew up hearing stories about how they had to eat choko for dinner most nights because they were so poor. You could grill it with cheese and it became a main course, or if you boiled it with honey, it was a dessert. As a 10-year-old and I found this horrifying. As would anyone who has ever eaten choko. It’s unflavoursome.

As an educated, 33-year-old, agnostic-leaning human living in 2014, I now find the notion of trying to Westernise a 40,000-year-old culture unflavoursome. But that’s what they did back then. Before the First Fleet arrived there were probably more than 500,000 Indigenous people living in Australia and in the Torres Strait. 226 years later, the number is about the same. There are, very roughly, the same number of people of Greek descent living in Australia as there are people of Indigenous descent. Something went wrong there. Nobody can deny.

We can’t turn back time. And, as much as The Great Gatsby wished, we can’t repeat the past. We live in a delicious stew. Australia is an awesome place. What’s happened has happened. Nobody alive had anything to do with injustices of the past. Nobody alive is to blame. My grandparents aren’t to blame. Captain Cook isn’t to blame. Shit happened.

Should we just get over it? Not quite. I ¬†gravitate to a¬†black armband view of this nation’s history. But there’s also no use beating anyone up over anything that happened between 1778 and 2013. So, as the question inevitably raises itself every Australia Day, if you, like me, are one of the 97.5% of Australians who don’t identify as Indigenous, do we take in Instagram selfie with the elephant in the room, or do we just pretend it’s not there? I, for one, advocate the selfie.

On Australia Day 2011 I wrote an article for The Drum about the disparity between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. There’s a pile of facts in there which you can pay attention to if you like, but the bottom line is, if you’re Aboriginal, or a Torres Straight Islander, you’re more likely to have a shorter, less healthy life than everyone else. That’s pretty shit. Can you, I, or the 97.5% of others do much about it? Maybe. We can at least try. Here are five ways to try.

The five things you should do as a non-Indigenous Australian this Australia Day

1. Start hanging out with Indigenous people more often. Same goes for Greek people. And Italian people. And Inuit people from Canada. And people who collect stamps. And Jehovah’s Witnesses. Broaden your horizons and friendship circle. Make new friends and ask their opinions on things. You can’t gain perspective if you keep looking at life through the same lenses all the time.

2. Make plans to visit Uluru and/or Kakadu. At the very least. If you’ve been to London or Bali, but have never been to Uluru, you should be ashamed to call yourself an Australian. The most amazing natural beauty in the world is right here in your own backyard, and I dare you to walk around Uluru, or visit an Aboriginal rock art site in the top end without discovering a piece of your soul you never even knew existed. You’ll start to get a hint of what Indigenous people mean when they talk about a connection with the land.

3. Do some research. How much do you know about Indigenous history? If it’s less than you know about the American Civil War, or if you can name more Simpsons characters than Indigenous people, you’re in trouble. Fill some knowledge gaps and you’ll have a whole lot more context on where this country has come from, and where it’s going.

4. Discovery the Indigenous history of your local area. You don’t have to go all the way to Uluru to find a special place. There will be a midden, or a rock art site, or at the very least, some stone axe grooves in a creek bed somewhere near you. Go there, be respectful, and reflect on those who came before you.

5. Invest in the Aboriginal economy. You don’t have to be Andrew Forrest, but you can do more than you’re doing now. Travel to places that support Indigenous employment. Buy some Indigenous art. Donate to a worthy cause. It’s not hard. Even if you do it once a year, you’ll still be making a difference. If not on Australia Day, then when?

Featured Pets

How to cure a limping chicken. Axe not included.

Their chicken had been limping for some time, but never this bad. She’d already had one trip to the vet. The vet had given them some anti-inflammatory medication, which was administered orally via syringe. The used syringes had lain discarded around the house in various cupboards, much to the consternation of enquiring mothers and fathers in law.

Enquiring mother or father in law: “What is this for?”

Son or Daughter in Law: “It’s for the chicken. She has a bad leg.”

For a number of months things seemed better. The leg didn’t heal completely, but their chicken had survived the great Queensland heat wave of 2014 without dropping so much as a feather, and they presumed she would hobble, nay, amble along merrily for the rest of her clucky days – a lame, lone comic foul. They’d even put her limp down to her sleeping habits.

Matt or Bec to house guest: “She sleeps on her leg funny. We go in there at night and it’ll be tucked way under. You know how you get a dead leg if you sit on it funny? We think that might be it.” It was pure veterinary science.

But on Saturday morning things looked bad.

Bec: We should take her to the vet.

Matt: I don’t know. She’s not even laying eggs at the moment. Maybe her time is up. Chickens aren’t like wild eagles or anything, they’ve been bred over thousands of years to lay eggs and be McNuggets. They’re not athletes.

Bec: I think we should at the very least give her some aspirin. The vet said we could give her baby aspirin. Can you look up baby aspirin on your phone and see what the dose is?

Matt: No. Let’s just put her on the chopping block.

Bec: I’m Googling ‘baby aspirin chickens’.

Matt: OK. I’ll help.

Bec: Good.

Matt: *Googles*

Bec: What have you found?

Matt: It says here you can cut a hole in the corner of a pillow case and stick their head through that, so you can hold them steady without them flapping, and when you’re finished, you can just hold the pillow case upside down and the blood will drain out. I promise I won’t use your Laura Ashley pillowcases again. So, can we do it?

Bec: Did you Google ‘baby aspirin chicken’ or ‘best way to chop chicken’s head off’?

Matt: ‘Baby aspirin chicken’.

Bec: I don’t believe you. Show me your phone.

Matt: No.


The secrets of the GPS Watch (and why Matt turns and runs the opposite way at a particular point near their house)

Green indicates downhill section

Bec got Matt a GPS watch for Christmas so he could see how far and how fast he was going on his regular semi-regular afternoon jog. It was linked up to a fancy Nike computer program which used Google Maps to show you where you’d gone. Matt thought it was pretty neat and was excitedly showing Bec his favourite routes around the neighbourhood

Matt: See how it puts a marker every thousand metres? You can see on the map exactly where all the waypoints are, because of the GPS.

Bec: Very interesting.

Matt: And look, see here, I ran REALLY fast here. That’s, like, Commonwealth Games pace.

Bec: That’s where the long downhill bit is, isn’t it?

Matt: Yes, well. Sort of.

Bec: Very impressive.

Matt: It’s harder than it looks. It’s quite steep on that bit.

Bec: Why do you always turn around at this point on the map? It’s not any neat kind of waypoint, it’s, like 1.35km from the house. That seems like a strange point to turn around. You only ever run to there and then you turn around and run back in the opposite direction. Quite quickly from the look of things.

Matt: No reason.

Bec: You never do anything for no reason.

Matt: If I turn around there I can run back past the house in the other direction and do a 5km or 6km loop thing.

Bec: It’s where the big dogs are, isn’t it.

Matt: What dogs?

Bec: The two Ridgebacks you always comment on when we drive past. You turn around and run quickly in the opposite direction at that point because you’re scared of the dogs.

Matt: Nope.

Bec: Yes.

Matt: They’re scary.

Bec: They’re just dogs.

Matt: They look vicious.

Bec: Why don’t you just stop in and meet them on the way home from work one day. You’ll see there’s nothing to be scared of.

Matt: OK. Maybe.

Two weeks later, Matt and Bec are in the car driving home from work…

Bec: Nearly home.

Matt: Nearly home.

Bec: Hey look, that place with the dogs you’re scared of, the owners are in the driveway unloading some horses, why don’t we pull over and talk to them. Feign it as if you want to be sure that when you run past, you won’t upset the dogs or start them barking and annoy the neighbourhood. Then you won’t look like such a wuss.

Matt: OK.

*They pull up in the driveway*

Matt: Hi, how are you? We just live down the road and thought we’d say hello.

Neighbour: Hello.

Matt: Nice horses. We love your horses. We always drive past and say to ourselves ‘what lovely horses’.

Neighbour: *Seven minute lecture on the breed of horses, the current issues he is having with the horse association breeders network thing, the attitude of the government to horses, a list of pros and cons of his two particular types of horse floats, advice on riding his particular breed of horses in both competition and non-competition settings and a summary of the benefits of feeding Hi-Mix 1100 or Hi-Mix 900, depending on whether you’re looking for tick-resistance or coat lustre*

Matt: OK, well, that’s lovely. So, your dogs, are they friendly?

Neighbour: Oh yes, very friendly.

Matt: So if we’re running past or anything, we won’t upset them.

Neighbour: Ooh, I wouldn’t do that.

Matt: Oh, no, I wouldn’t upset them on purpose.

Neighbour: No, I wouldn’t run past.

Matt: Oh.

Neighbour: Well, if you do, and they come out barking, just keep running.

Matt: OK.

Neighbour: They usually only give chase to the top of the hill there though.

Matt: That’s about a kilometre away.

Neighbour: Yes, I suppose, about that. They’re not likely to bite you though.

Matt: Not likely?

Neighbour: Not unless you look like you’re trying to run away.

Matt: So what about walking past?

Neighbour: Oh, you’ll be fine if you’re walking. Just don’t walk too slow. They don’t like people walking too past too slowly, we had them trained as guard dogs so they get a bit touchy about people walking past and checking the place out. We had some issues with a real estate agent once.

Matt: So a brisk walk then?

Neighbour: I’d probably jog, but not too slowly.

Matt: What about bike-riding past?

Neighbour: Ooh, I wouldn’t.

Matt: I see.

Neighbour: Yes, postman had a run-in with them last year. They don’t like bikes. Punctured one of the motorcycle tyres.

Matt: The postman did?

Neighbour: No, Ruby did, got her teeth right in there.

Matt: I see.

Back at home five minutes later…

Bec: So are you going for a run tonight?

Matt: Did you keep the receipt for the watch?

Eggs Mexican

Mexican Frittata

Mexican Frittata
Mexican Frittata

We know the chickens (Marcia Hines, Kamahl and The Very Leggy Rhonda Burchmore) live happy lives because: a) they are so unafraid of anything they harass the dog if we’re not careful; and b) they lay three eggs a day, like clockwork. If you have equally happy chickens, or access to an egg shop, here is a solution.

  1. Roughly chop up five large cloves of garlic
  2. Caramelise those off in a large pan with a roughly diced leek in far too much olive oil, probably 1/4 cup of it
  3. Add diced chorizo and a diced capsicum, fry that some more
  4. Season with salt, pepper and cumin
  5. Keep the heat on full, keep plenty of oil in the pan, add in a roughly diced avocado, in big chunks
  6. Beat up 8 eggs and 3 tablespoons of butter, pour those over the top of the mix in the pan
  7. Keep the heat on high and watch the eggs bubble a little – this aerates them
  8. Turn the heat off, sprinkle with grated cheese
  9. Put the pan in an oven pre-heated to 200 degrees
  10. Cook for 15 or so minutes until firm and until a nice oily, eggy, cheesy, chorizo, leek and garlic crust has formed on the outside, but don’t over-cook so it dries out
  11. Serve with a garnish and drizzle with black truffle oil
  12. Amazeballs