This is my attempt to increase the momentum in support of the Uluru Statement From The Heart especially amongst us non-First Nations Australians.
This past year I have opened my eyes and heart more than ever to the need for progress towards true reconciliation. As the Uluru Statement From The Heart website says, First Nations people make up only 3% of our population and progress will remain slow and prone to setbacks unless greater numbers of non-First Nations people openly and actively accept the beautiful and generous invitation extended to us.
The Uluru Statement From The Heart talks about Makaratta, the coming together after a struggle, which encompasses truth telling. In this spirit I have written my own statement of regret, and as is my own way to attempt to show leadership, I have chosen to share it below.
I would like all to consider writing their own statement of regret for themselves – it does not need to be published because I don’t know what good it would do for each and every one of us to confess our failings publicly.
I offer mine as much as anything as a guide to help others to accept our truths and complicity in wrong-doings.
The most important act any of us can do is honestly open our hearts to our truths – only then can we publicly affirm our acceptance of the generous gift within the Uluru Statement From The Heart.
I have guilt for my wrong doings, but I refuse to be silent in my guilt. As Mohammed Ali famously said “the man who views the world at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life”.
I chose not to waste mine.
I ask all of my Australian friends and contacts to commit to the objectives in the Uluru Statement From The Heart and be guided by Makaratta to make peace and mend all our hearts and heal our nation.
Simply, and in the same way that much of the power in the statement Black Lives Matter is the absurdity in this day and age that it NEEDS to be stated – laid bare in statistics from life expectancy to incarceration rates including juvenile incarceration to deaths in custody – let’s all agree that there are no Australians amongst us MORE IMPORTANT than those who trace their ancestry here back 60,000+ years!
Write your own truth telling – share it if you wish – but the most important act is to do the work for and with yourself, and then publicly commit to supporting the Uluru Statement From The Heart by sharing this post or by writing your own declaration.
In unity with First Nations people and all people of good character,
I cannot let go of his words
“What happened to you?
When we first met [at 17]
You were more racist than me!”.
It is not him that I struggle to move beyond.
He is trivial and long forgotten.
It is me I struggle to forgive.
“I saw the world and it changed me”.
Never one to be outdone,
“I also saw the world.
It never changed me!”
My greatest shame is that I was no longer a child when he first knew me.
I was a lad.
A weak, confused fool.
A traumatised young man,
But still an adult.
I realised, however
That my guilt is no reason to stay silent.
Yes, I am an imposter.
I wish I wasn’t,
But I cannot deny it.
I was always an imposter.
As a lad my indigenous team mates never understood the prejudice I harboured.
If they did they never called me out.
Instead they showed me admiration I did not deserve from them.
And at uni a group of beautiful, vivacious young indigenous women took me under their wing.
They never called me out.
They showed me affection and acceptance that I did not deserve from them.
I never felt like a greater imposter than the night these beautiful, caring women honoured me by inviting to a kup murri
to feast on dugong and turtle
And other traditional foods
And share in their culture
I now understand just how special that was
And what an honour it was that they chose to share that with me.
I deeply regret that my immature heart was not properly open to that wonderful experience.
Racism is weird
Because the truth is that growing up
I did feel bonded with these people.
It was always more about what I perceived
Others would think of me.
That was my weak character.
These guys I always admired and felt connection with,
And they were often who I considered the coolest in the school yard
Or in the footie club
Chinny, Freddie, Jack and Johny Sav, Namok, and many more.
And at uni beautiful and funny Wilma,
Zelda smart and hard-working,
Nola’s wit could run rings around anyone.
All brave, funny and inspirational.
I don’t know why I allowed there to be barriers within me
Which hindered our connection.
I do know why I did –
Conditioning by my elders.
Racism is stupid because it continually calls for the disregarding of the observed obvious.
The continued judgement of a group
Of people irrespective of your own personal observation and experience.
The disregarding of your own feelings.
During my recent reading of bell hooks’ masterful
“The Will to Change: Men, masculinity, and love”
It was very clear to me that
Is an extension of the
The killing off of the emotional parts of ourselves,
The “first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males”,
In fact it is demanded of all of us.
Away from home for the first time,
I saw the shock in other young eyes
When I repeated the filth that my elders had said,
Unchallenged by others,
In front of me.
Truthfully I was just as shocked
Because the hurt was written on the faces
Of the Caucasian youth
Never before exposed
To such strong racist comments.
I was never a clever imposter.
I was gutless and afraid.
It was that cowardice which motivated my deception.
And if I got pulled up,
I would have shit myself.
I suspect it was the hearts of my indigenous friends
Which saw mine
And some innate wisdom in theirs told them to look past my failings
To see the potential that I possessed
To be a future ally.
An authentic and strong ally.
As a descendent of a pioneer of the sugarcane industry
I must acknowledge that I personally benefitted from your displacement from your custodial lands,
And it is further likely that I benefited from the exploitation of First Nations and other minoritised peoples.
For that I wish to extend my heartfelt apology.
My failings extend beyond these,
In ways that I now understand
And in ways that I am yet to.
I know that I have experienced privilege all my life
Which means that conversely,
Each and every one of you has faced obstacles that I did not.
I cannot change any of this now,
So I will always feel like an imposter.
It is better to feel like an imposter,
And use that to spur me on to be a better person,
Than be afraid to admit it to myself
Thereby continuing to be one.
I will always try to use that guilt
To maintain my humility
To be the best kind of ally.
An ally that listens
And is guided by your voice.
For over half of my life, now,
I have considered myself your ally.
I have listened to your voices
And advocated for you based on what I discerned from those voices.
I spoke up against elders and contemporaries when they criticised indigenous culture and practices.
Or when they have expressed overt racism.
And I have sort to role model to my sons a deep love and respect for all First Nations peoples,
Especially our own.
But I know I have been too passive.
I offer this expression of regret
In the spirit of Makaratta
Described in the ‘Uluru Statement From The Heart’ as
“a process of conflict resolution, peacemaking and justice”.
It is my personal response to First Nations peoples’
“aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia.”
It is my truth in the hope that I can make genuine connection with my lifelong friends
And with the culture
That I love
And am so proud has existed in you
The custodians of these lands
For all of my life I have beared witness to
The “torment of [your] powerlessness”.
What is more,
As above makes clear,
I have, regretfully, been a party to
Perpetuating your powerlessness.
And even when I realised it,
I was far too passive.
I, too, must
Stand up, and
And I will!
If we cannot treat right the people who have lived in this country for over 60,000 years,
who can we do right by?
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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2022