I identify as an Aboriginal Australian, or more specifically, as a Bundjalung man. Some might use other terms: mixed heritage/descent, fair-skinned Aboriginal, or as author Anita Heiss coined, a ‘concrete Koori’. Others might use more antiquated or even derogatory terms. I believe the reason for such variation is because many people still have a poor understanding of Aboriginal identity, and in particular, why many people who are from mixed parentage, choose to identify as being Aboriginal. My reason for identifying can be simply summarised: it’s who I am. It’s what makes me, me.
As an Aboriginal person, I’m actively engaged in trying to promote a better life for all Aboriginal peoples. I’ve mainly done this in the health arena, where I have spent almost 20 years involved in Aboriginal health policy, programs and service delivery in one form or another. However health is the only area where I attempt to actively make a difference. I’m a great believer in Reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians: in fact I see it as a crucial element to creating an equitable Australia. From that basis I have developed a passion for bridging cultural divides through cross-cultural safety and sensitivity training, and am exploring ways in which this can be done. I see it as a two-way process: educating non-Aboriginal peoples to be able to engage with Aboriginal peoples in a culturally safe and sensitive manner, and helping Aboriginal peoples understand and make the most of living and working within a non-Aboriginal ‘mainstream’ society. Many would consider this as’making two worlds work’, and I would agree at this stage this is where we are (or are working towards) as far as briding the divide between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples. My vision, or at least my hope, however, is that one day we can occupy the same world – not an assimilated world, but rather one where we enjoy life regardful of our cultural differences.
Embracing my Aboriginal identity has been both the most natural thing for me to do, and one of the most challenging, and is something you will likely see me discuss via my blog. I’ve been very fortunate to have found people – including previously unknown family members – who have helped me understand who I am and where I come from. Over that time, I’ve developed a huge appreciation and empathy towards others who want to embrace their own identity, but either don’t know ‘enough’ about their background to feel comfortable doing so, or are concerned about being doubted, marginalised, abused or vilified for their choice. Knowing what I have been through in my own experiences, I have a strong desire to make the process of identifying easier for those who would like to, and again, am exploring ways in which I can do this.