Reflecting on January 26

By Tyberius Larking
Published
January 26, 2024
February 16, 2024
Last Updated
February 16, 2024
Contributors
Written by
Tyberius Larking
he/him
Mirning
Written by
he/him
Mirning
Written by

Predators and prey are in a constant evolutionary battle, predators also develop their own survival strategies.

January 26, 2021

I wait at the station for a train to the city. In my arms is a stack of cardboard signs. 

I look up. I know the Southern Cross is up there somewhere – locked and loaded. I hold the boards over my head and tell myself I’m safe in this little shadow. It’s not after me – not now, not yet. The tracks smoulder as a train comes squealing. I stumble into a carriage and tap my card nice and slow - for two cops in blue second-skins. One has a sniffer dog. 

“Sit down, sit. Good girl,”  says the first policeman, massaging the dog's ears. He snaps his fingers and redirects her focus.

The other cop, sitting beside them, sees my protest gear and sneers. 

“They’re too far gone. Those “activist” types...“

He looks me up and down, “I’d just put ‘em out of their misery.”

The train surges. I open a text from mum: You ready? 

I type and backspace. Women in white dresses and creaky straw hats wave Australian flags made of cellophane.

By Tyberius Larking

There’s no denying Australia holds power. Predator power. Imperial and colonial conquest are predatory processes. Indigenous people have been and continue to be preyed upon. Our numbers are not what they were. 

But in fleshing this analogy, I’m hyper-aware of the risk of reinforcing fascist notions of racial inferiority. Aboriginal people are far from “weak”. This is exactly the sentiment I hope to condemn. 

In a life-or-death situation, we’re taught to prioritise escape. But Indigenous oppression isn’t an acute threat or short-term emergency. Discrimination is chronic. To survive and to prosper, we have no choice but to stand our ground and fight. Because if 200+ years of surviving has taught us anything, it’s that passivity and respectability politics don’t keep us safe – they preserve the system. We have to march, we have to strike. To bite the hand that feeds.

Because predators and prey are in a constant evolutionary battle, predators also develop their own survival strategies. Though Indigenous movements are more strategic than ever, so too are colonial governments. And there’s plenty more to maintaining supremacy than just physical force. 

Aggressive mimicry is the strategic use of deception to attract and trap prey. This often involves the mirage of food, water, shelter, or other basic necessities. For instance, the alligator snapping turtle has evolved a long pink appendage on its tongue that fish mistake for worms. 

Australia manipulates and deceives us, exploits our dreams of stability and equality; promising a pay rise, promising progress; luring us back into the same life-bleaching work.

The narrative our school curriculum often pushes is that Indigenous people voluntarily integrated into society because we envied the luxuries of modernity. The so-called First Fleet arrived on January 26, 1788. The township’s unsustainable hunting habits rapidly depleted the local Indigenous population’s food supply. So it wasn’t long before they were forced to rely on the “charity” of settlers.  

Once I was helping a teacher mark assignments after school. She confessed that before she met me, she’d thought all Aboriginal people were unteachable and unemployable. But you, you’re a diamond in the rough. Don’t you worry, I’ll make sure you succeed. As we finished up, she had a glow about her, a new lease on life. 

By Tyberius Larking

Growing up, to survive in a prejudicial job market, my Mum worked the extra mile. I remember one night she came home with square eyes and went straight to bed. I crept into her room and sat on the edge of her mattress. And reached out and pinched her sunglasses. When I put them on, light yellowed, shadows reddened.

“How was your day?”  I asked her.

Worse than yesterday.

“Why don’t you quit?”

Can’t.

“Can we get ice cream?”

I grabbed her by the ankles and tried to pull her off the bed. 

“Please.”

She said no. I paraphrased, took her sunnies off and snapped them.

“You suck, all you do is work and sleep.”

At this, she sat up straight.

I pay the bills, I keep us alive! 

In February of 2020, I started studying law at university. A month later the novel Coronavirus was declared a pandemic. And within a week, Mum and I were working and studying side-by-side, laptop-by-laptop. 

The law cohort loved to debate. Debate, they insisted, should be steeped in “sound science”. But that “sound science” was Social Darwinism – right-wing slogans. In primary school I was taught more about federation than the White Australia Policy. So to fight back, I had to relearn centuries of history. 

January 26, 2021

At 12pm we marched to Parliament. Magpies swooped officers on motorcycles, pecked at their black helmets. In the heat of the crowd, police melted. 

Our strength compounded. As we pounded on the doors. Kids sat on skateboards with ice creams.

Play
5 min
Play
5 min
Play
5 min