opinion

What indigenous voices are saying about the Yumi/Kerri-anne argument.

Elizabeth Wymarra was feeling great as she helped with the marshalling in Sydney’s Invasion Day protest on January 26.

“I was absolutely 100 per cent happy that so many people were coming together in solidarity,” the Indigenous author and activist tells Mamamia.

She thought it was “amazing” to see to see so many non-Indigenous people at the protest.

“I feel we’re not alone anymore. There are so many non-Indigenous people that are supportive and coming from a really good place. I absolutely love it.

“That’s why it’s so hurtful when panels like Studio 10 do what they did.”

On Studio 10 yesterday, Kerri-Anne Kennerley made comments about the Invasion Day protesters that made headlines.

“Has any single one of those people been out to the Outback, where children, babies, five year olds are being raped?” Kennerley asked. “Their mothers are being raped, their sisters are being raped. They get no education. What have you done?”

Her comments led to fellow panellist Yumi Stynes telling her she was “sounding quite racist”, a label that Kennerley strongly rejected.

Wymarra says Kennerley’s comments were “so culturally inappropriate it’s not funny”.

“She doesn’t get to decide whether that comment was racist,” Wymarra says. “I get to decide because I’m the one offended by it and I decide that it’s racist and I’m offended and she needs to apologise.

“Yumi did a good job. She called out the racism like we expect all good allies to do.”

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Wymarra put her thoughts about Kennerley into a video yesterday. This morning, she was at a protest, organised by FISTT (Fighting In Solidarity Towards Treaties), outside Network Ten in Sydney.

“This racism needs to stop,” she says. “People cannot just throw around comments about Africans, Muslims, Aboriginal people on air without any Indigenous representation, Muslim representation, African representation.”

One of the other protesters at Network Ten this morning was Bruce Shillingsworth, an Indigenous community leader from Brewarrina, in north-west NSW. He had travelled to Sydney to be part of the Invasion Day march, and turned up to this morning’s protest after hearing what Kennerley said.

“Being an Aboriginal person myself, I found it a bit offensive,” he said. “I’m from a little town called Brewarrina and I was at that march. There were hundreds of people that came from those small communities.”

Shillingsworth says he’d like to see an Aboriginal person on the board of Network Ten or on one of the morning shows.

“That’s what we call real reconciliation. That’s where we need changes.”

Among the many tweets yesterday in response to Kennerley’s comments was one from Shannan Dodson, a Yawuru woman who is on the national NAIDOC committee.

“When being racist is much more offensive than saying racist things,” she wrote.

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Dodson explains to Mamamia that there’s a lot of comment on these types of issues from non-Indigenous people who are “very ill-informed and rarely provide context”.

“Kerri-Anne’s coming from such a privileged background,” she says. “She is sitting within the dominant culture. She doesn’t understand that the social issues Indigenous people face are due to colonisation, dispossession and discrimination, so she can’t reflect on her own biases and why Yumi would say to her, ‘What you’re saying is racist.’ But her comments are based around racism, systemic and institutionalised racism, about Indigenous people being a problem that needs to be fixed.”

Dodson believes that when people aren’t prepared to face up to the truth of history and reflect on their own white privilege, they go on the attack.

“The commentary will be, ‘Well, there are bigger issues to think about, so how ridiculous that you’re protesting a date.’ The reason why people are protesting against this date is because it symbolises colonisation – the beginning of pain, trauma and suffering – and when you’re part of the dominant culture, it’s hard to grapple with how that matters today. I just don’t think Kerri-Anne can make those connections.”

Dodson believes that the only way to achieve any change when it comes to Indigenous social issues is for non-Indigenous people to agitate on those issues as well.

“Protesting is one way of getting the message across and creating a swell of support. That doesn’t mean that other work isn’t being done. It all works in conjunction to push for long-term change.”

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