This article, from the Weekend Australian Magazine, examines the issue of Aboriginal identity in Australia today. According to the interviewees, skin colour seems to be less relevant to Aboriginality to those with whiter skin, whereas darker Aborigines argue that those with paler skin can not appreciate the hardships and prejudice that dark-skinned Aborigines face in Australian society.
This leads to issues more relevant to 366/566, namely, culture and identity. Relating to a discussion we had in this unit earlier in the semester, who can be classified as Aboriginal depends also on being recognised as such by members of the Aboriginal community. This article discusses the situation of Dallas Scott, who “definitely looks Aboriginal, […] but that’s not enough. His problem was he had no people to vouch for him.” The author goes on to explain that this “scenario is not uncommon. Many Aboriginal people struggle to place themselves on a family tree because they were raised by white people, or because so many of their ancestors refused to acknowledge the Aboriginal blood in their line.” This refusal was of course caused by the racial discrimination towards Aborigines, and the major push for assimilation.
Also highly relevant to LING366/566 are the comments linking language and identity: “There are, in fact, some Aborigines in the Northern Territory who would say that only those who speak the language, dance the dance, and live on their own land are truly Aboriginal”. One interviewee, Paul Albrecht, is non-Aboriginal yet has lived most of his life in an Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory. He “learnt the language of the Western Arrernte people and is one of a handful of white Australians with inalienable visiting rights “which no Aboriginal person would deny me” to the land where he was born and raised. Albrecht says the Aboriginal people he lived among had their own definition of what it means to be Aboriginal. “It had nothing to do with colour and everything to do with culture… If you were a person who knew the culture, and lived by it, who spoke the language and was sensitive to it… that was all part of it.”” The experience of Albrecht illustrates how important language is to being part of the community; because he speaks the language and is inside the culture, he is accepted even to the point of having access to sacred land. By those standards it seems that language is identity.
Victoria Wilson, LING566