Updated: Jan 7
As an Australian Aboriginal woman I have had my fair share of run ins claiming my Aboriginality over the years, most question me as I do not share the stereotype appearance that Australia holds onto.
More so in the last year but over the course of my life I have had to defend the use of the word Aboriginal. I have often been told that as an individual I should be calling myself an Aborigine because the word Aboriginal is the plural of Aborigine. However I point out the words used in Australia towards the native peoples were Aborigine and Aborigines, the word Aboriginal was used much less often in Australian history. Besides, many of us feel the word Aborigine has the same racist undertones that the N word does towards Black Americans. Most of us don’t like it.
Lately I’ve seen people as why we use the word Aboriginal because it's an English word and we are now being asked why we don’t come up with our own word that our people can use as a name instead of Aboriginal. In short the answer is; it’s a word that was forced upon us to use as a blanket to obscure all our names; because we were meant to die out generations ago.
The long answer is because Australia refuses to learn the names we call ourselves. We are not and have never been one nation of people. The UN recognises 54 countries in Africa, that’s what we are - only we have more than 500 nations. Nations that Australian’s refuse to accept exist even without a single treaty, required by British law to establish their colonies & replace our countries in the first place.
So when I talk to people about my race; I am easily understood when I name the European nationalities but I have to blanket the names Alawa and Marla with the word Aboriginal to make my fellow citizens happy.
The people who ask about us making a new word to replace Aboriginal have me asking a counter question, because those thoughts are colonial thinking. We see that as forcing an ‘outsider’ view onto more than 500 nations of people.... Squeezing 500+ square pegs into one single round hole, won’t really gain the results anyone wants. Instead ask why should the oldest living cultures in the world have to rename themselves, again, to make others happy?
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have bent & moulded ourselves into something else for close to 250 years, we have taken up the word they gave us to replace our own names, we have assimilated into their society as per their ideals. Isn’t it time the rest of Australia bent and changed for us instead? After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. We’ve renamed ourselves to make others happy once before; but that resulted in being asked to justify using the name given.
So instead we as Aboriginal People & Torres Strait Islanders would prefer that the names of our countries were recognised - Realistically, all around the world individuals describe their nationality with their county name.
The First Nations of Australia would love the chance to reach the same level of equality that other Australian’s hold upon these shores.