This past Tuesday marked 233 years since a band of British invaders took formal possession of a cove in which the Gadigal people of the Eora nation resided. We now call this site Sydney Cove.
Celebrating our national holiday on this day is celebrating the decades of dispossession, genocide, and ongoing oppression of the people who form the world’s oldest living culture.
Although calls to #ChangeTheDate and #AbolishTheDate have been rising, both campaigns have been met with backlash from white settlers who accuse Aboriginal protestors and their allies of being “unAustralian” and sowing hatred.
Other migrants who have made Australia their home in more recent years can also be ignorant of the country’s true history, assuming January 26 to be some sacred tradition that has been observed for too many years to be changed now.
In fact, Australia Day was not set as an official national public holiday until 1994. That means this ‘tradition’ as we know it has only been around for one generation, while Aboriginal peoples and cultures span at least 2,000 generations.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang’s classic essay, ‘Decolonization is not a metaphor’.
First published in 2012, Tuck and Yang observe the growing popularity of slogans like “decolonize our schools” or “adopt decolonizing methods”. While these efforts often bear justice-oriented intentions and objectives, many fail to recognize how their decolonial desires “can similarly be entangled in resettlement, reoccupation, and reinhabitation”.
It’s also led me to critically reflect on my own favored phrase, “decolonizing the mind” — the process of consciousness raising and trauma healing, popularly advanced by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and bell hooks.
Perhaps Ngũgĩ’s work as a Kenyan scholar-activist is true to both the metaphorical and literal meanings of decolonization. hooks, however, does not explicitly tie her use back to challenging settler-colonialism.
To the question of how and when Australia can engage in a genuine process of decolonization, of Indigenous sovereignty and futurity, Indigenous scholar-activists are, as always, leading the charge.
One of the rare good things to come out of last year was the 20th Anniversary re-release of Aileen Moreton-Robinson’s book, Talkin’ Up to the White Woman. (I’ve honestly never whipped out my wallet and typed my credit card details to buy anything so fast in my life.)
Moreton-Robinson surgically deconstructs white middle-class feminism, reclaims the power and brilliance of Indigenous women’s subjugated knowledge, and imagines a truly decolonial feminist future. It may be written from an Australian standpoint, but the message will resonate for all cultures grappling with colonialism.
I’ve found unexpected but welcome medicine in two resources shared with me by the designer, artist, and psychic, Rhina Ju. (Her own work is healing via beauty.) The first is an Ainu Reiki practitioner, Marika Clymer, who offers healing and education via her Instagram @moonhousenw. The second is a cultural somatics worker, Tada Hozumi, who has two beautiful videos on ‘Hara (the belly) and the trauma of colonialism’ and ‘Whiteness as trauma in the body’.
I hope these resources nourish, inspire, and provoke further reflection, as they did for me.
The tarot card I drew for us on this full moon is the Three of Swords. As the vivid imagery suggests, this card represents sorrow, grief, and heartache. It symbolizes the brutality of colonialism that has devastated and continues to devastate peoples, lands, and cultures around the world. It holds space for anger and sorrow.
But notice how against the pale, gray backdrop, the pierced heart is a shade of vibrant deep red. This suggests that the Three of Swords is ultimately about survival. Indigenous wisdom cannot be decimated by the forces of violence it has withstood. The decolonial imperative is too strong, too powerful, too true — and it will prevail.
Always was, always will be,
P.S. Next new moon, I’ll be returning to Instagram with posts to lend more regular support to your scholarly activism and reminders to center rest and joy. Please add me as a friend @helenaliu ❤️.