A couple weeks ago, there was a mandatory general meeting on the first day of Orientation Week for study abroad/exchange students. It was scheduled bright and early at 10:00 am and was the first time I was exposed to other students who were studying abroad.
Before the informational meeting started, global relations coordinator Elise Gumm opened up by acknowledging the land Swinburne University and everything else in Australia was situated on: the land of the Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people. Since Swinburne is located on Melbourne’s east and outer-east land, they have a particular connection to the Wurundjeri Tribe. Much like the United States and Canada, Australia was once inhabited by indigenous people before European colonizers took over.
She went on to say that these kinds of statements were the norm in Australia and that we would most likely be hearing numerous iterations of it during our stay in Australia.
And her statement has been verbally and visually confirmed on numerous occasions. I’ve come across acknowledgments on banners while walking in the Central Business District, Aboriginal flags and Torres Strait Islander flags swaying in the wind alongside an Australian flag, and even on smaller things like acknowledgments on Facebook concert event pages.
The Australian Aboriginal Flag was designed by Harold Thomas. The flag is black and red with a large yellow circle on its center. These colors hold very symbolic meanings: black represents the Aboriginal people, yellow represents the Sun and red represents the earth.
The Torres Strait Islander Flag was designed by Bernard Namok. The flag is green and blue and contains two stripes. Additionally, a white star and headdress are placed on its center. The colors on this flag also bear meaning: green symbolizes land, blue represents water, black represents the Torres Strait Islander people, and white represents peace. The star and dhari—a dancer’s headdress—also serve to represent Torres Strait Islander people.
Though Indigenous matters are often acknowledged, it is not to say that Australia is living in some post-racial society as many Aboriginal people and Torres Straight Islander people have been and still are largely discriminated, disadvantaged, and neglected in society.
However, I was still shocked at the fact that this meeting opened up with this statement because the United States definitely does not to the slightest least acknowledge Native American land or seem to have hardly any respect for Native American people.
Aboriginal Flag source: http://www.naidoc.org.au/sites/default/files/field/image/australian_aboriginal_flag.jpg
Torres Strait Islander Flag source: