explainer

"Taxis refuse to drive you home." The reality of being an Indigenous Australian in 2020.

Australians all let us rejoice …” 

You’re wearing your 10-year-old trackies and oversized shirt, it’s covered in holes. Your hair is a bird’s nest and you're not wearing any shoes.

You look like a hot mess, but you don’t care ‘cause you feel comfy. You’re at home. You’re in your safe space. 

About to cook your next meal you realise you’re out of key ingredients. Begrudgingly, you change your clothes, fix your hair, put on shoes and leave. 

Watch: Awkward Questions I Get Asked As A Young Aboriginal Woman. Post continues below.


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You make the extra effort so shop assistants don't assume you're going to steal.

Being followed around the store is a regular occurrence. Does that seem fair? No. Is it racism? It's too subtle to tell.

The next day you visit a large department store. You’re with your best friend. They’re white. You’re not. 

They’re dressed more casually than you. You both make purchases. Yours is in a bag and you have the receipt ready to go as you leave the store. Your friend just holds their purchases and pockets the receipt. You explain to them how ruthless the store is at checking bags. They better get their receipt ready. 

As you both approach the exit, the shop assistant ignores your friend and their eyes are set straight on you. 

Your friend walks out not having to provide proof of purchase. You, on the other hand, get everything checked… all the bags, receipt thoroughly inspected. 

You even say to the shop assistant, “But what about my friend? You forgot to check them.” They ignore you. 

Satisfied you haven’t stolen anything; they wish you well. You feel down. You don’t feel comfortable to shop here again.


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Image: Supplied. 

You think to yourself is it fair that your bags got checked and your friends didn’t? No. Is that racism? Your friend doesn’t think so. 

It’s not like anyone was calling out derogatory names or anything, right? If it is racism, it's too subtle to tell. 

Over the next few days, these encounters continue. You’re next in line at the café, the newsagent, the petrol station… the shop assistant's eye-line glazes over you and lands on the white person who is standing behind you. They get served next. 

Some people will do the right thing and say, “no, no, they were next in line.” The keyword here is 'some'. Not all.

Does that seem fair? No. Is it racism? It still feels too subtle to tell.

Taxi drivers refuse to drive you home. Some request cash up front. Even Uber drivers have cancelled the trip right in front of you and sped off. That doesn’t seem fair. Maybe it IS racism. If it is, it's too subtle to tell. 

When politicians talk about giving everyone a “fair go” it seems great in theory but the reality is, when your skin is a different colour, out there in the real world amongst other Australians and immigrants, “fair go” goes out the window. 

Listen to Mamamia's The Spill, where hosts Kee and Laura discuss SBS' new NITV program, Big Mob Brekky. Post continues below.

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That’s fair dinkum. Burnt into our subconscious at every grand final, major national events and in school we’re reminded of the fairest of them all. Advance Australia Fair. Our national anthem. 

When Scottish born colonialist, Peter Dodds McCormick wrote the original lyrics in 1878 (100 years after the first fleet landed) was he referring to “fair” being just, beauty or white? 

One must remember that it was written at a time when First Nations people were still regarded as flora and fauna, unable to vote and forced to work without wages. 

There have been amendments over the years to the lyrics to be inclusive of all immigrants and not just those from Anglo Saxon backgrounds. But still the First Nations people have been excluded. 

Perhaps now is the time for us… we, the people to really prove that we’re all about equality and giving everyone a fair go. 

Change the anthem. Change the date. Draw a treaty. Stop deaths in custody. Stop requesting taxi fares up front. Stop following us around the stores like we’re going to steal something.

This week in Australia we celebrate NAIDOC and recognise First Nations people have occupied and cared for this land for over 65,000 years. 

We reflect on the 2020 theme: Always Was, Always Will Be. What a great time for us to come together and have these conversations. 

It’s also a great time to start incorporating all that you learn this week into your everyday life. Don’t just celebrate our culture this week only. Celebrate it every day. Does that sound fair to you? 

There are over 500 different clan groups / nations in Australia. Meet with your local elders, Aboriginal community, learn our language, our history our stories. They are yours too. 

Australia has a black history and it always was, always will be, Aboriginal land. 

Sovereignty was never ceded.

Andrea Fernandez is a Yamatji woman with family ties in the Kimberley region of Western Australia and India. An actor and vegan / toxin free educator, Andrea has been writing for stage and screen since 2017. Her writing credits include the stage play A National Park (Yirra Yaakin, Blue Room Theatre), Djinda Kaatijin (Yirra Yaakin Theatre) & Molly and Cara (SBS). She is currently writing Bollywood Dreaming, a musical about her parents love story. Follow her on Instagram @prettyumvegan AND @andreafernandezwriter

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