When you have to justify your existence every day; when you’re told you’re not black enough or that you’re not an “authentic” Indigenous Australian… well, sometimes you just have to laugh.
And that’s just what our Indigenous community did this week when they took over Twitter and, using the hashtag #Itriedtobeauthenticbut , laughed themselves silly.
I laughed a lot too.
“I’m impressed with my mob’s capacity to laugh in the face of adversity! And gee we’re funny!!! And might I say, also kind! Xx,” said author and activist Anita Heiss in a personal note.
And who was the butt of the joke? Tony Abbott.
This week he made the bone-headed comment that the first Indigenous lower house MP, Ken Wyatt was an “urban Aboriginal” and that the parliament should do more to encourage “authentic” Indigenous representatives.
Cue much *falling about in hysterics* from the blackfellas on Twitter.
Just what makes an Aborigine “authentic” they wondered? How is it different from being an “urban” Aborigine?
Is it knowing how to spell corroboree? Having legs that look better in high heels? Toe nails painted hot pink instead of caked in red ochre?
The gags came thick and fast.
I tried to be authentic but…
@LukeLPearson every year at Corroboree I just end up line-dancing by myself in a corner somewhere singing “Achy-Breaky heart”
@AnitaHeiss I’ve thrown more parties than boomerangs!
@Ebswearspink I thought the song “from little things big things grow” had to do with superannuation
@Shannondod the only culture I know is Culture Club
@nathblackmagic writing stories in books is a lot easier than writing stories in caves:)
@Morris11Donna the only tracking I do is with gps
@Utopiana my parents named me “Celeste”, rather than giving me a traditional blackfella name like “Alison” or “Bess”
@PeteDawson law school wouldn’t accept my essays in dot form
@anitaheiss the only stars I want to sleep under is five stars. *****
@Nareenyoung I actually have no artistic talent. Whatsoever
@Morris11Donna I buy my speared meat on kebabs at the supermarket
@Tahjee_Moar the only time I stand on one leg is when I do the tree pose in yoga
@Ebswearspink my totem animal was a tamagotchi
The hilarity rolled on… for hours.
And it still is, after brilliant cartoonist First Dog On The Moon posted this at Crikey.com.au.Excerpt from original “Fauxborigine” to be found, in full, here. Thanks First Dog!
Last night I spoke to the young Indigenous woman who started the hashtag.
She’s a 27 year-old lawyer who hails from Byron Bay and goes by the Twitter handle @Ebswearspink. A self-confessed “girlygirl” and social media addict, she describes herself as: Formerly Blonde. Green eyes. Crazy. Passionate. Political. Fun.
“I wouldn’t trade my blackfella sense of humour and sense of community for anything,” she said. “I loved that we took a negative comment on our identity and turned it into something that demonstrated our brilliant sense of humour, our intelligence, quick wit, resilience and pride.
“It turned into a celebration.”
Of course she has every right to be angry about the continuing denigration of her Indigenous heritage, but, she says, “the anger goes away quickly – it doesn’t achieve much.”
“There’s so much to be done and anger is an impediment.”
The days of marching in the street for indigenous rights are over, she reckons. “But change is happening when people aren’t looking.”
She loves the freedom of social media where she can be free of the old stereotypes. Now she’s “ripping it up” on Twitter with a group of like-minded friends who share the same politics, puns and jokes.
“I think it’s still an unknown quantity in mainstream Australia that we have a great sense of humour,” she said.
Our unique Australian sense of humour owes much to Indigenous culture says Nareen Young , CEO of Diversity Council Australia.
“I often think it has a lot of Aboriginal sensibility in it,” she told me.
“The blackfella sense of humour is so good, so unique – we love words, we’ve got a good turn of phrase and we’re self deprecating.
“We have always dealt with the hard stuff with humour and this week was a classic example. Despite what people think, we aren’t bitter or humourless. But you know, sometimes we laugh because we just get weary.”
Then she turns to the stuff that hurts.
“To see this base, racist way of approaching Aboriginal identity? To think that a person like Andrew Bolt is dictating the national debate? It’s sad.”
Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda has called for the ongoing debate in the media about the definition of Aboriginality to stop.
“It is not up to the media, politicians or academics to define whether a person is Aboriginal or not,” he said last night.
“Further, Aboriginality is not defined by the colour of your skin, or whether you live in a remote or urban community.
“I live in metropolitan Sydney and I deal with people in Government, heads of multinational corporations and Indigenous peoples around the world while my mother was born on a mission in Central Queensland.
“We are both Aboriginal. I am Aboriginal. I am a proud Gangulu.”
Cover image: Portrait of Bonita Mabo. 2008 Sam Mooy
If you want to get in on the Twitter action, follow @indigenousX. It’s a lively discussion with 5,000 followers led by Luke Pearson and features a guest Tweeter every week. Everyone is welcome. As they say, the more, the merrier.
You can follow First Dog On The Moon @firstdogonmoon