While 2021 was a hard year for all of us, I ended my year with a tiny new bundle of joy. Ochre Yuluwirri. Her beautiful name raised questions with my 74-year-old Nanna. She asked, “what does it mean?” I immediately had feelings of sadness and I’ll admit, embarrassment.
I explained what it meant to her; it is earth pigment, and it’s the foundation for Aboriginal Art, is used in ceremony and traces back to over 20,000 years. I finished by asking “how do you not know this?!”
Her answer made me think. She told me: "I wasn’t allowed to learn about it."
This made me reflect on my own experiences in school and gave me the idea that our education system colonises Aboriginal youth, at least that’s how it feels for me.
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The generational effect it had on my family meant that because my Nan was not allowed to learn anything about her culture, she didn’t have the answers for her own children. This brings me to the Year 6 excursion that haunts me to this day, a day at the Maritime Museum in Sydney.
The standout for me was the Endeavour - I can remember the guide telling us how the convicts slept in hammocks, and how they always kept cats on board to keep away rodents. I remembered that part because I’m petrified of mice.
But it was far more memorable for other reasons and when I learned the true meaning of it, I felt like a traitor.