Two rooms in the Sydney house of the late artist Margaret Olley have been recreated in all their rich, colourful and cluttered detail at the Tweed Regional Gallery in the north of New South Wales. The permanent exhibit is a treasure house that showcases where she did her work and what inspired her still life paintings. Apparently she was also very fond of good chocolate and cheese.
Last week on the ABC panel program Q & A, Arrernte elder Rosalie Kunoth-Monks responded in the most eloquent and dignified way when another panelist touted assimilation as a solution to ‘the Aboriginal problem’. Actions in the name of assimilation have inflicted much pain and anguish on the first persons of Australia, none the least of which were those of the Stolen Generation.
You know, I have a culture. I am a cultured person. I am not something that fell out of the sky for the pleasure of somebody putting another culture into this cultured being. John shows what is an ongoing denial of me. I am not an Aboriginal or indeed, indigenous. I am Arrernte, Alyawarre, First Nations person, a sovereign person from this country.
I didn’t come from overseas. I came from here. My language, in spite of whiteness trying to penetrate into my brain by assimilationists. i am alive, I am here and now, and I speak my language. I practise my cultural essence of me. Don’t try and suppress me and don’t call me a problem. I am not the problem.
I have never left my country nor have I ceded any part of it. Nobody has entered into a treaty or talked to me about who I am.
I am Arrernte, Alyawarre, female elder from this country. Please remember that.
I am not the problem.