Sunday, 29 March 2015

Learning about the History of Australia + Myself!

This blog post is from my Study Blog and was written and published on the 24th of February..

Last night I watched a chilling documentary about the first Australians and was completely and utterly heartbroken. The documentary was called Lousy Little Sixpence and went into detail about colonization and the impact it had on Indigenous people.

As an indigenous person myself I was mortified. I remember touching on the subject at School but never in this much detail and while growing up with the white side of my family and then getting shuffled around foster homes throughout my adolescents I had no real idea about my culture or what they went through all those years ago.

My Grandfather was a full blood Torres Strait Islander and my Nana was Pom. My Nan moved onto Thursday Island as a way to get away from a sexually abusive father and a family who turned a blind eye to the abuse. My Grandfather was already married and Nana was his second wife. This was not unusual on the island. My Grandfather had a daughter to his first wife before Nana fell pregnant with my Mother. Mum was born a half-caste. Making me quadroon and my children octoroon. Nana spoke of a lot of traditions on the island before she passed away, how her husband was a fishermen, how the house was ran, what it was like having to share your husband with other women (he had 4 wives) and what life was like on the island.

Just before Mum was due my grandmother left the island after hearing of the traditions set by the elders of the community. According to TSI tradition the first born child in every family must be given to an elder. Nan didn't speak much of why but she also mentioned that it was also tradition to bury a newborn baby up to their neck in the sand and leave them overnight. Apparently if they died during the night they were not strong enough for the tribe but if they survived, they were accepted and welcomed into the family with a special welcome ceremony. By leaving, our culture and heritage were also left behind and Mum was raised being the only indigenous one in my Nanas family.

My Grandmother went on to have another child who was blonde, blue eyed and fair skinned. Nan married three times but Mum never met her real father or any of her family from the island.

Although our skin is dark and our indigenous features stand out we have no idea about who we are, what tribe we're from, what language we spoke or even what my Grandfather looked like.

I researched a little right after my Nana passed away and found an announcement of my grandparents marriage. It was listed under the heading "Mixed Marriages" and was almost invisible at the bottom left hand corner of the newspaper. I contacted a man whom remembers a telegram being sent from the mainland to the island but then returned. That telegram contained information about my grandfathers death at age 42 and was never received by his family. I also found where he is buried through research of plot names was in the same place he passed away. 

Since then I started a family tree and found and connected with the relatives and family he grew up with but caught a snag upon finding out that he was actually adopted. His biological parents are Unknown. Sailor was his adopted name and Nawie was in fact the name on his birth certificate. 

I guess we'll never really know much about him. All I know of him is that he loved my Nana and all of his wives deeply. He worked hard to provide for them and his child (Mum's half sister). He loved to sing and was a hard worker. He loved the ocean, his people and his family. After Nan left his he became an abusive alcoholic. When Nana went for full custody of my mother (Mum was 4yo) he threatened to kill her during the hearing. He was drunk. The court ruled my Nana full custody and made a life intervention order against my grandfather to protect my Nana. He never fought to see Mum again.

I never thought I'd be writing about all of this but it's amazing how just a small component of my study into indigenous culture and learning about the history of Australia can impact my life and make me want to appreciate who I am more. 

I have also learned to appreciate who my mother is and the life she's had to live. Although it doesn't completely excuse her for the choices she has made throughout her life, this part of her past, her identity and need to fit in somewhere while growing up with a racist family has contributed into her being who she is today. I love my Mum and always have and in doing this part of my family tree and learning about my family history I now understand the effects of displacement, racism and her loss of identity. I only wish someone had reached out to her in her times of need.. 

My Mum on the right..


1 replied:

Launna said...

Mel this was touching to read... I think it is important to know where we come from and I think it's sad when people are unable to find the answers.... My mother had a past that she tried to unravel... no one would help her find the answers. It was hard for her not to know...

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