Aboriginal Culture and Greater Australian Society
Hello again! It is almost 9 pm on Thursday, Sept. 12 and I am writing from one of the libraries at the University of Queensland next to my buddy, Semret from the IFSA-Butler program. I’m in the middle of exams and I am not exactly overwhelmed but just really busy. My semester has composed mostly of extensive essay writing so I feel my hands and eyes are going to fall off. On the other hand, the extensive research I have done has allowed me to delve into Aboriginal culture and issues in Australian society. My research has been about looking deeper into the Hindmarsh Island bridge controversy in the mid-1990s and to verify if Aboriginal women had been able to successfully exert the rights in cultural and land claims.
To be honest with you reader, one of the things I have found most disappointing in Australia are the contentious and racist attitudes that pervade popular opinion and government policies. It has really amazed me to see how an Australian could have never interacted with an Aboriginal person in their life and have such a strong opinion of characterizing all of them as “alcoholics,” for example. It is no doubt that statistically in many Aboriginal communities there has been high incidences of alcoholism but one must understand the context underlying these negative behaviors. In my personal opinion (everyone is entitled to their own opinion), colonialism has dismantled Aboriginal culture and displaced the traditional roles that men and women (but especially men) have played throughout history. When one begins to understand how country is so tied to the Aboriginal perception of reality and life, land confiscation seems so tragic and sad. Granted, assimilation into Western society was inevitable and Aboriginal culture today is extremely complex and layered, so there is no one representation of an “Aboriginal person;” there are Aboriginal people of different descents living in cities and a few full-blooded Aboriginal people living in restricted areas such as Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. To me it is shocking that there are many tragic historical accounts related to Aboriginal people that have not been publicized openly in Queensland history. This fact was demonstrated by Fiona Foley, an Aboriginal artist and activist who has advocated public awareness of these hidden histories. It bothers me that an artist of her passion and resolve needs to be creating art in a very subversive manner because public contention would arise otherwise.
I can go on and on about different things I have learned regarding Abrorignal culture and issues in present society, but it irks me somewhat. I believe that any study abroad student that comes to Australia should strive to become aware of these issues either by taking a class or attending special lectures, but one cannot leave this country with a rose-coloured perception of perfection. I think Australia is an amazing and wonderful place to explore but one cannot be immune to the pain and suffering that has tinged this country. Awareness, the very least, is a step forward for social advancement.
On another note, I went scuba diving in Great Barrier Reef this past weekend! The scuba diving was last minute; initially I was just going to snorkel. The problem was that the waters were very choppy so visibility was very poor and I felt that the only way I can truly enjoy the reef was to scuba dive. Reader, I’ve never scuba dived before so I was slightly apprehensive but I was surprisingly calm throughout the whole experience. Scuba diving has been something I have always wanted to do in my life but have been terrified. This whole experience was one of overcoming fears and pursuing dreams. I feel in love with scuba diving and I am going to see if I can become certified sometime in the future in Miami. I feel that if students can go to the reef, they should defiantly try to go. However, I recommend avoiding the reef during the months of October-May for this is when the Irukandji/box jelly fish tend to be more prevalent in the waters (or I am not sure, it is best to do your own research).
I am very excited because the IFSA-Butler program has organized for us to go to Lammington Park this upcoming weekend so I am curious to see what that will be about. It will be a wonderful opportunity for everyone from orientation to get together and have a fun weekend. Well farewell for now!