Walking Together as First and Second Peoples

What Reconciliation means to me

Black Lives Matter protest in Darwin 13 June 2020

The Darwin Black Lives Matter rally and march on Saturday 13 June 2020 opened with powerful words from the organisers, young Larrakia Nation women, Mililama May and Sharna Alley.

Ms May and Alley said the gathering was primarily to protest black deaths in custody and incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples however there were many more justice issues for First Nations Peoples which need to be addressed. 

In the gathering after the march, voices of other young women of colour were invited to address the large crowd.

This reflection was written by Varaidzo Basira,  a member of Casuarina Uniting Church.  Varaidzo was born in Zimbabwe. At 18 she has a maturity beyond her years.  – Stuart McMillan Assembly Consultant Covenanting

What Reconciliation means to me growing up in Darwin

By Varaidzo Basira

National Reconciliation Week to me means so much as it gives me the opportunity to commemorate and acknowledge the culture of Australia’s first people. It has allowed me to further deepen my understanding of their culture.

As an African who was born in Zimbabwe and moved to Australia at such a young age, I often find it hard to fit in. Not because I’m an introvert or because people find it hard to understand me, but more because of the racial stereotyping that goes on.

When I take a look at what’s going on in America I find it hard to believe that a justice system can be so discriminatory against people solely based on their cultural heritage.

Growing up in a minority (cultural group) has been a challenge. When someone makes a joke or comment that is racially insensitive you are forced to ignore and carry the burden of the impact behind those actions.

But now is the time to speak up.

In the wake of George Floyd’s death, not only has the cruelty and injustice that takes place in America’s judicial system against people of colour been revealed, but it has also brought to light what stays hidden; here on our Australian soil.

It’s awful to think that this injustice occurs without any recognition and is simply swept under the rug. But it’s time to speak up for our race and culture whenever someone says something insensitive.

We no longer should feel the burden of having to prove society wrong, disproving the negative stereotypes they’ve placed amongst people of colour for hundreds of years. As those negative stereotypes end up being how we, as a minority perceive ourselves. That joke, that was said in primary, middle or high school may have seemed harmless to the giver but for the receiver, we are left to reflect on the constant battle we have had with society in trying to change the way we are perceived.

As a person of colour, I often find myself living each day just to prove to people that my intellectual, social and physical capabilities are high. I often find people judging me and stereotyping me, viewing me as a “typical” African, the one who lives in a grass hut or one that lives in a village with no tap water or electricity. Yes, that’s all true, I grew up in a small African village and so did the rest of my family, but alongside that I have also grown up in the city, in houses built and designed similarly to the ones here.

Again, I say this as a person of colour who has experienced racism, there are times when I feel angry, hurt, confused, disgusted, and helpless to the situations that I’m exposed to. Yet, I know that expressing these feelings is okay, because they are all valid. I know that God is there, and he will guide me through it all.

For me Reconciliation Week is a foundational pillar of what it means to be Australian, an embodiment of cultural diversity. It’s a week in which we Australians celebrate National Sorry Day, apologising for the wrong and unjust way Indigenous people were treated and are still treated to this day.

Living in Darwin has also taught me to be resilient, to be able to get back up when knocked down. More importantly it has shown me just how diverse Australia is. The Northern Territory is highly diverse, with people coming from all over the world to live here. Thirty per cent of our population are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who teach us the importance of their land. As a migrant it allows me to feel welcomed in this extremely diverse country of Australia as everyone within this community is so welcoming.

Although there are times when I feel as though the colour of my skin defines who I am as a person, I know that regardless of it all, we are all made the same: same coloured blood, same heart, same brain and the same internal organs. The only thing that differentiates us is the colour of our skin.

However, with the good comes the bad and with living here I have encountered racial remarks, whether that is through being discriminated as a swimmer, receiving an ugly look, or snarky comment about my complexion, weight or hair, I have learnt over the years to not let it decrease my confidence and in fact have embraced those negative words to build be to be a stronger version of me.

At times I feel as though, with my brothers and sisters of the Indigenous Australian population, that we are essentially bonded by our skin colour, which sadly in this current day makes us targets for racial discrimination.

UCA member Varaidzo Basira (in November 2019) standing with First Peoples against racism