The year 2020 marks 250 years since James Cook’s first voyage to Australia, yet today Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people still aren’t acknowledged in our constitution.
The time is now for recognition and reform, as called for in the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
In February marie claire joins forces with some of Australia’s biggest and brightest names to unite for change. Here, actress Miranda Tapsell bares her soul…
“I was born on my grandmother’s country, the ancestral lands of the Larrakia people [in Darwin]. Most of my baby photos are me on a tarpaulin on a secluded beach, no development anywhere to be seen. I moved out to Mirarr land in Kakadu National Park when I was five. Most of my school holidays were spent swimming with my cousins at Gunlom Falls or admiring the flood plains from Ubirr lookout with my grandparents. I have a strong sense of who I am because of the knowledge my community has shared with me. Growing up with many Aboriginal people around me made me not only highly aware of how differently we all lived but how many were let down by a government that was supposed to represent them.
“We know we need to reckon with this as a nation, but we still haven’t. I don’t understand how advancing Aboriginal people’s autonomy over their own lives comes at the exclusion of the non-Aboriginal people – but that’s the impression I am given when we talk about it. Something I loved about being in The Sapphires, Black is the New White and Top End Wedding is the way non-Indigenous people could see us not as the ‘other’ but as their equals, even if our perspectives are different.
“Most non-Indigenous people are very aware of how many deaths there are in the community, they are aware of the gap in health and education. I’ve had it easier than a lot of the Aboriginal kids I went to school with, but I still saw how the education and health system let down my community. I was just a kid, but still, too much of my time was spent going to funerals. Most of my family members pass before the age of 60. To this day, I still have to say goodbye to loved ones too frequently. I don’t pretend to speak on behalf of my community, but I’m aware of the platform I have so I take the opportunity to be honest about what I see and hear.
“Whenever I get frustrated at the fact that I’m a 32-year-old woman writing this in the year 2020, I think about Aunty Pat Anderson, an Alyawarre woman who’s one of the co-chairs of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and a leader in social justice. She has been on the frontlines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for too many years; I can’t imagine how exasperated she must feel.
“Australians have the power to fix this, but they have to make it a priority. As a result of a very short-sighted view of history, most non-Aboriginal citizens forget that the structures on which the colonial parliament was built were never designed to see us. It erased the nation’s first people. Real change doesn’t happen unless everyone pushes for it. As Dean Parkin, Uluru Statement signatory, says, ‘The voice to parliament is our chance to speak our piece. What we ask today is that you listen and that you take up the call, arm in arm with us.’”
This article originally appeared in the February issue of marie claire Australia.