For the upcoming Voice to Parliament Referendum, we asked Njamal man Tyson Holloway-Clarke what he wants for the future. This is his response.
I want our people to be custodians of this Country for time evermore. Imagine this place a year from now. Some things change, they always do. The arrow of time ever onward. Leaves fall, children grow. Yet most things stay the same. Imagine a decade from now. Are we still in the same place as a nation? Do we cry the same tears in both joy and sorrow? I suspect we will, a decade is not long. But what about a century? Or a millennia?
I want to live in a place where people are working together with Country to ensure our shared survival for thousands of years more. A thriving people, a thriving land. This was our job in our ancient continent and the legacy of our ancestors. This is a legacy we all now inherit.
Australia is a young nation, and we have not really figured out what we want to do when we grow up. Before Australia, our many First Nations had shared this role between us. For tens of thousands of years our Ancestors collaborated with land, developed thousands of languages and dialects and maintained culture. Now we have a new multicultural nation and everything has changed.
It is easy these days to get stuck in the present, to be locked onto the screens in front of us and to be filled with anxiety about the coming days, weeks and months. The environment is collapsing, society is fragmenting, and the economy is rigged and nothing feels like it will change anytime soon. So we keep chugging along, watching the bank balance get bigger then smaller as time passes us by.
This is expected of a colony. This is the deal. The whole invention during the origins of empire was extraction and exploitation as efficiently as one can endeavour. What we do becomes who we are. We pull up resources from the ground, turn Country into farms, flatten forests, provide services to each other and those from other parts of the world and do a little bit of manufacturing so the economy can stay alive. It is all a big game, and we are expected to play by the rules we make up as we go.
I could be convinced to be happy about that. My phone tries to make me happy about it all day. The algorithm cooks, the screens dish it up and I eat, scrolling for hours. Money gets spent, the clock ticks and we age. Money gets stolen from us, we lie to ourselves about the clock, and we still age. All the while, Country is dying.
Leadership by mob is needed now more than ever. Not just for our communities, but for the whole of Australia. We hear our people cry out for food, for justice and for better futures, but their cries are not alone. While we might only seek to be the champion of our own people, the causes we champion affect us all.
Blak history is a triumphant one. For hundreds of years we have been held hostage by a colonial government that seeks to eradicate us by any means necessary. Yet we are still here. Our resilience and strength have meant that finally, some parts of the nation are beginning to see that we are right about many things. Not everyone does yet, and I simply have to remind us all about the fact the Uluru Statement From The Heart called for truth-telling too and we are in sore need of it.
As we have been forced to assimilate, our resistance holds up a mirror to the face of Australia. Our tragedies reveal their nature. If we can reconstruct our culture and communities in the face of tragedy, the rest of Australia will follow.
The first step is survival. There is no point to being a custodian responsible for a country if you cannot survive. For the longest time this meant knowing how to eat, live and breathe with Country – but it also meant not being taken out by someone or something who wants you gone. For a lot of mob, this is the first and only step and I am so proud of all my Blak family who are still with us today despite the suffering and struggle. You are the embodiment of your Ancestors and you honour them in survival.
For the time being, my days will be filled with a focus on our shared survival. Then at night, I’ll dream of a place fifty thousand years in the future where we are still the custodians of this land, singing both new and old songs. The rest in the middle is up to all of us.