AE 481 – Interview: Indigenous Life & Culture in Australia with Lydia White Elk
How’s it going, you mob? Welcome to this episode of The Aussie English Podcast.
Today, I have a really special interview episode for you guys as I have the very first indigenous Australia on the podcast.
So, Lydia White Elk, thank you so much for joining me today on the podcast. She has an absolutely fascinating story, guys, with regards to her heritage here in Australia as well as where she’s ended up today. She’s actually over in Canada and… well, I’m going to leave that for the interview. You guys are going to find out.
So, without any further ado, Lydia White Elk, thank you so much again.
Let’s get it started.
G’day, guys! Welcome to this episode of Aussie English. Today I have special guest Lydia here, who is a fellow Australian but she grew up, I don’t know, what? 4000 kilometres away from me on the other side of the country?
Awesome! So how did we meet Lydia? You messaged me on one of the videos and we were chatting on there, right?
Yeah I was watching the cultivated, broad, and… what is the other one?
The other… and general accent video…
Yeah yeah yeah.
… And I think you, you notice that at the end I mentioned the other Australian accents, right?
Yeah yeah. You had bogan, indigenous and something else, ah wog, which is… I hate saying it.
That is in quotation marks… But that’s… I got told off last time, like so that was the second video that I’d made about Australian accents and the last one I had so many comments originally, that were like, “What about the wog accent? talk about the wog accent”, “My dad speaks to the wog accent.” I was like, alright far out and I’ll mention it, I’ll mention it.
Well, I always watch…Have you ever seen Wog vs. Aussie? It is super Wog.
I think is that guy. Yeah, I think he was the one that you’ve seen in the video, right? Where it was him talking with his friend.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Hilarious.
I know, we grew up watching movies like Wog boy and he was in a lot of them right, back then that actor Nick Giannopoulos is it? The Greek guy?
Ah brilliant! So I mean I wanted to get you on, because obviously you’re indigenous. I mean, for the people who are listening to this it’s not obvious. But, but for the people watching the video and you grew up in Western Australia which is incredibly different from the east side of Australia, right?
Yeah. yeah. I mean I’ve never lived in the east side, but I know from what I’ve heard, it’s different. So, my brother is in Melbourne now.
What was it like? What was it like think growing up in WA? Can you share how was it?
I think it’s more… I’m sorry to cut you off, but no, I think it’s more like in America or whatever, like, they call red states/blue states or whatever. And I think that Western Australia is more like a red state meaning sort of I feel like it’s the country a bit.
It’s a lot more conservative?
Yeah. Yeah. And um but there is pockets where it’s not, it’s really liberal, like for example, Fremantle, Perth, Western Australia is a little pocket of diversity, and I’m pretty sure that they were the first government and council to raise the Aboriginal flag, and they were also the first to vote against celebrating Australia Day. So they didn’t do fireworks or anything. Yeah. And so, were they basically light pressure and I think from the Federal Government to kind of just to not do it. Yeah. So yeah, but they still kind of did it because instead of the 26th, I’m pretty sure they did the 27th, and it was told ‘We Day’, I’m pretty sure or something like that.
I’d love to pick your brains on that later on, because I had an episode where I chatted to my dad about that and it felt like it would be great to talk to someone who is obviously indigenous to hear their opinion of it. But before we get into that, whereabouts did you grow up in Western Australia?
So there’s a Kalamunda, which is the hills of Perth City. So, it’s maybe a half an hour to an hour and 45 minute’s drive to the actual city centre type thing. So, Kalamunda is kind of like in the hills and it’s a very tight community, small, it’s sort of white people. So yeah, there’s like maybe one or two Aboriginal families and stuff, but Kalamunda in the traditional language actually means I’m “Home among the trees”.
Yeah. So it is, it is. There’s trees everywhere, and it’s… it’s really beautiful there, yeah.
But your parents you were telling me I think we’re from, what, 2000-3000 kilometres to the north right out of the Kimberleys?
Yeah, yeah. So, my mum actually white Australian. So, her people, I guess, came on I think was like the Second Fleet.
Really? No kidding!
The Second or The First. Like, they were really, really early.
So, they were convicts?
Actually, these guys were on their last name is Spencer. Yeah. And the Spencers are basically… they’re actually related to Princess Diana. Yeah, but the Spencers are more a… I think they were more well-to-do kind of family. So they came over here to start agricultural streams and things like that.
And so, my mum’s family is kind of (a) well-known settler family in Perth. So, they came here on the First or Second Fleet. So, my mums like six generation Australian. But, she actually is a teacher, and she went…an English teacher, and she went up north to Halls Creek to teach English to the Aboriginal people, and that’s where she met my dad who is actually from Halls Creek who’s Kija and Jaru, my auntie was telling me. So, yeah.
Yeah, because I remember you… I mentioned, I think I asked you, oh, what Indigenous languages did your parents speak. And you were saying that there must have been… your dad’s parents had come from two different groups.
Exactly, and it was a huge thing, like, it wasn’t supposed to happen, because, if you know anything about blood groupings and things like that, you have specific blood groups which allow you to be with specific people so that there’s no incest and things like that.
No kidding? I mean this kind of thing I’ve heard little bits about but never actually had a proper conversation about it. So what is that like and how does it work?
Well, if he obviously disobeys, you get punished. So, it’s lore, like, L-O-R-E. It’s not L-A-W.
Yeah, yeah, well it’s… lore is actually a set of a systematic set of cultural rites, R-I-T-E-S. So yeah, there’s a lot of cultural rites of passage and things like that that we call lore, and we live our life around that. And my grandfather was the keeper of the lore. So, we had elders who kept the lore and things like that. So, with the blood groups, they just knew a whole bunch of stuff, ’cause as you know it’s not a written tradition, it’s an oral tradition.
So, it’s basically all in your head and like if you had the knowledge you are the “Godfather”, you know, you’re the respectable guy who knows the stuff. So, yeah, my grandfather was a loreman, and he knew a lot about that, and he actually helped the missionaries understand us when they came up.
But apart from that. Yeah, so I have two different tribes, because somewhere someone went beyond the rules.
Wow. Okay, so, it was like forbidden love. Did the loreman, (he) knew okay, if they’re from the Jaru tribe and the other tribe, they’re not allowed to to get married. They have to find someone from somewhere else. Those two are two closely related, are they?
I’m not sure if it’s like related. I think it’s more to do with… like ties. So, if you’re… you’ve got certain times that you can’t kind of cross. I suppose. I honestly don’t know enough about it. And that would be really good interview even people that live there. But there is a cultural barrier between you and say someone who lives in Halls Creek because English as a second language. So, yeah, I mean I hate to be the speaker for them, because I don’t know enough, but I mean, I can tell you what I can, because I speak English, because my mum taught me how to speak English as an English teacher. My dad wanted us to speak English, because he knew that I was very good in Australia, and stuff like that. So, he didn’t pass on language. But…
That’s such a shame. I would be like, damn it! Like, I would give anything for one of my parents at least to have spoken another language and brought me up bilingual. That… I would have been like, Dad, why?!
A lot of them do speak if not a pidgin English. They know a lot of words up north. So, yeah, I mean it’s very interesting to pick their brains, and because I’ve met guys from Arnhem Land and he speaks eight different dialects.
And he’s like met the Queen and stuff, and yeah, it’s pretty cool.
So, what was that like then for you having obviously a mother who is white and a father who is an Indigenous Australian, and not just a mother who is white, but a mother whose family had come from one of the first groups of English colonising, you know, settler groups? Did that… What was that like growing up with that sort of… your foot on both sides of the fence with regards to…? You probably like more Australian than me by miles, because of that fact, right. You’ve got both sides.
Yeah, the whole generation. I think… I don’t know, like, it’s hard to kind of say it without being bitter and stuff, but. It’s a bit hard. But they have the whole half caste system, and their assimilation regime, and breed the black out, I guess. So, with that, it’s kind of tricky, because it’s more of a mindset over like blood quantum. So, what do I mean when I say that? Well, you’ve got like quarter-cast, half-casts, full-blood, three-quarter, you know… so, yeah.
I think, in fact, I did an episode talking about the Rabbit-Proof Fence and I had never heard those terms before reading up on the stolen generation and the Rabbit Proof Fence, like, story and what it was based on, and the fact that they discriminated against full-blood, half-blood, quarter-blood, eighth-blood, even sixteenth-blood, like, they had terms for each sort of division of, you know, what you’re… your lost relative to be an Indigenous Australian, and it blew my mind. I just had no idea that it was that systematic and very complex.
Yeah, complex. Oh well, even before that regime. I don’t know. I feel like we’re seen as very… being half and everything, I feel like I see both sides. Like, I feel like I see, you know, the regimes that they introduce, but I also see us as a people before that, and I see that it was systematic too, like, in our own tribal ways. So, we just weren’t… we didn’t… I didn’t… we didn’t go colonise people. So, I mean we could have. I don’t know, like there’s not enough tech… we didn’t have enough time to kind of develop things, and who knows, we didn’t need these things. Like, we only had what we needed type thing.
Well, that’s the always… I would love to have… I can’t imagine being the first guys to get here. I mean, you know, and you would imagine that, as much as we pay a lot of the English colonisers as being, you know, bad guys who wanted to exterminate everyone, there must have been that curiosity too, and getting to meet, you know, groups of the original indigenous people living that way must have been, you know, that the meeting of two different worlds. Is that ever really discussed or thought about, or is it mainly that the kind of same kind of same is a very negative light nowadays?
I think when I went to theology school there was a discussion up for debate about that, about is it good for that kind of thing to happen in more of a religious sense? So, they talk about, like, the missionaries versus aboriginals, like traditional religion and things like that. I think what the Aboriginal original people and then the colonisers brought that they had in common, well the colonizers had… well, we did also have a systematic way, but it was different. But…
But how did it differ? What was it like? How was it separate?
I think, well for us, like, we have elders and we have like a group of elders, and we have… to me, it’s an oligarchy coming from the English side. It’s more of a, yeah, that kind of regime. So, I feel like the differences could be discussed quite a lot. But the similarities are definitely… well, the early settlers were… a lot of them religious so they were coming from the Anglican church and stuff like that. So, I think that the similarity between the two people is they both had like and agree(ment) that there is a higher power. So, that would be the, probably, the similarity. It’s just…
The stuff that blows my mind about the little that I know about indigenous culture too is that, you guys have this… Like, I don’t know about every single culture having the same way, but you have dream time, right, where you have all these beautiful stories and explanations that would be the equivalent of, I guess, Genesis in the Bible, and…
They’re passed on through songs and storytelling, right, because you didn’t… you couldn’t write it down. There was no written language here, and it was all transmitted through the elders, right, who learnt these songs from a very young age, and then could repeat them. And that that had been passed down for potentially 60,000 years as a song, you know, unbroken chain from one parent to a child to a parent to a… That blows my mind.
Yeah, yeah. So, that would be the biggest similarity, I’d say, is they agree on a higher power, a God-like supreme being. I think a respect for the natures of the Earth. So, I think that would be the strongest similarity between the settlers and Aboriginal people. It’s probably that. So, yeah, that’s the biggest similarity in my mind.
Oh wow, so what’s it like being someone who’s 50 percent white and 50 percent indigenous? Do you get treated differently by both sides, you know, of the fence? Or do you get, you know, special treatment on both sides? Like, what was it like growing up as someone who was indigenous but also, I guess? Did you consider yourself white at all?
Well, when I went to school I obviously looked different from everybody and that was like a huge thing, like, I remember people making some comments about like how my features were different, for example, like my nose or like my lips or whatever it is like my skin color and stuff like that. So it’s not a huge difference in comparison to say, like, a full blooded, but it’s still enough of a difference for like white people to notice. So growing up in a white community it’s like, it is a noticeable thing. But then obviously on the other side of things, you know, there’s dark skinned people that struggle like somewhat worse in some instances. You know, I’ve heard a lot about the struggle in America as well with colorism and dark skin people and stuff like that. So, I mean, I agree to a certain extent, but I also think that dark skinned people have that common bond already though. But I mean… and then I don’t as well. So I’m out of that as well. So I’m not really fully darkskin and am not really fully white. So yeah, I mean you hear that a lot the time, that we’re in the middle and, like, you know South African people have made their own genre or whatever, like, you know brown or whatever. So, I mean, I don’t know, like, I do have a duality in what I’m thinking and stuff and a lot of the time, like, I don’t understand if you’re, like, fully one thing. So. Yeah. I mean, my husband is Native American, he’s 100 percent Native American. You know, that’s how he grew up and stuff. Well, obviously there’s not any 100 percent, you know, but still that’s how he, he’s got more blood quantum, than say, I do. So. Yeah.
But how do you view it? Is it. Do you view it as something incredibly positive, because you have a connection to two different cultures that are completely different? Or do you view it as, like, I wish I was just one or the other, so that I would be, you know, less sort of, you know, shared with regards to my heritage.
Um. Yeah. I do. I do sometimes feel like I wish I was one. But I’ve had to kind off see and embrace both sides. Like, one lady told me one time that you’re both. You can, you have rights to both sides, you know, and I was thinking, yeah. Like, that’s how I feel. I feel like I have rights to both sides, you know, and whereas I have agility here. So often times I might speak with my husband who is like a full blooded first nations and sometimes we get into a little fight because we see it differently. But the actual duality of where that whole systematic mindset comes from about, like, blood quantum and stuff like that, it’s actually a negative regime obviously put in by, you know, the colonizers or settlers or whatever you want to call them. They’ve actually kind of put it into our minds that there’s a problem with the less of the blood quantum…
So but that’s all like superficial, right? What was it like prior to that? Do you know much about prior to the colonists arriving, with this to, say, you know, Inter-group racism between tribes?
I think so. Yeah. That would be tribalism for sure. There’s tribalism here as well and in Canada. And… and of course there’s that tribalism there… so… that would be into conflicts as well. So, I mean, I’ve heard, Yeah. Like. how example, like, my family members went beyond the rules, I guess. And they would have been… Yeah. They would have been probably, handled in a certain way. As well. So, yeah, there’s definitely that tribalism there. And then on the white side there’s that systematic, whatever.
So what do you think with regards to the state of things in Australia today. What do you think the biggest issues are and, you know, talking to a white male or what are the biggest things I don’t understand about what it is like to be an Indigenous Australian?
Um… I think maybe it’s just the whole different mindset, you kind of have to put on a whole different mindset. Um… Yeah. What I learnt with my studies and everything is, putting on different glasses and ways to view the world, world views. It’s very important to put on that set of glasses for different world views. So I think, sometimes, indigenous Australian people are kind of… maybe not consciously, but kind of bullied into submission of ideology. You know, you’re Australian, you know, blah, blah, blah. But a lot of them don’t feel that way. So I think that it’s important to try and understand from their point of view. And I don’t wanna… Like, I mentioned the word tribalism and I really think that’s a very negative word, because it kind of makes us look less developed and stuff. But I just want to make it clear that, like, indigenous Australian people had their set of laws and had their system that… they had their language, they had their systems, they had their ways and necessary… and it wasn’t necessarily, like, less developed than, than Europeans. We just had a different context into which we developed. So, because we didn’t have neighboring people like in Europe, we didn’t have to develop guns or whatever. We just developed things that we had because it was the context of Australia. So, they were there for thousands of years before they developed they’re own things and just because it doesn’t look European, doesn’t mean that it’s any less than European. So, I’ve had conversations with people saying that… they’re usually uneducated people. They’re saying that Aboriginal people are less developed, they’re less evolved, you know, and I put on a set of glasses for, like, evolution… I’m, like, okay I’m going to look through this for a second and a lot of those people, if they’re educated or not educated… the non-educated, like, evolution believers will say things like “oh you’re less developed, you’re more closer than a monkey” then… I’m pretty sure, like, Charles Darwin wrote that.
That’s not true. I mean, you know. I mean it’s one of those things, like, I… I don’t think… I think we are both equally as closely related to monkeys as each other. Like, you guys are as much human as us, you know, any other, you know, any other group of humans in the world. But I think it’s one of those things where it’s, like, the cultures are just totally different and yeah, that’s… it’s, you know, the society had totally obviously organized completely differently. You didn’t have things, like, two stored houses and the wheel invented, because that had happened in a few different places and hadn’t, you know, Australia’s completely isolated, right.
Yeah. I mean we… I mean, let’s… boomerangs gotta count for something.
That was crazy, right? That was never, you know, created anywhere else in the world.
Yeah. Exactly. And sometimes I have a joke with my husband about, if you’re gonna create a boomerang you should give some, some of the shares to the Aboriginal people or something, because America is all about that kind of stuff, you know, like, just capitalizing or whatever it is. But umm…
Can you tell us about what was it like in Australia, because I’m sure a lot of people listening will know very little about indigenous culture in Australia and probably think, okay there’s aboriginals in Australia. They’re all one group, they speak one language, they have one culture. Is that true?
No it’s very varied and I think we are also similar with the flag, ‘cause we had our flag, right. Like, something like that doesn’t exist in Canada, like, all the different nations, they call them so, they actually don’t have… they have separate flags, you know. So in Australia we have one flag, but we are different, we are diverse, just like the Canadian First Nation’s people as well. So, we are very diverse. The only thing is, because of what’s happened now is, we’ve kind of come together and we’ve got our one flag. So, you will find an urban culture, urban culture plays a huge factor in how we conduct ourselves now.
So you don’t only have the historic, you know, separation of… I think it’s something like 265 countries, right? Across the entirety of Australia. It’s divided up into so many different nations. But you also have modern day groupings, do you wear say, indigenous people that grow up in the Kimberley’s, or in Perth, or in Melbourne, are totally different culturally.
Totally. because I’m, I’m… okay. I can’t speak as much as I like to on my own people from my own area. I actually know more Noongar words because I grew up in Noongar country, you know. So, I’m, you know. It’s kind of like integrating into another country. I’ve kind of grew up in Perth around Noongar people, therefore I know Noongar slang, for example, like, ‘Bujari’ or like ‘Anah’, you know. There’s like a lot of different words on the street, you know, the Noongars use and we all kind of learn it. So that’s why I can’t really speak as much as I’d like to or my own people, because I’ve actually integrated into the Noongar people.
So that would be, like, the equivalent of that, might be me growing up in England and then as a kid being moved or… in fact my parents coming from England same and then moving me to France or Germany and me growing up there, right?
Even though we looked the same or we have the same complexion, the languages are totally different.
Exactly, exactly. Yes. Yeah. That’s cxactly where I’m coming from. Yeah. Yeah.
So was it… did they accept you too, like one of them? Because I can imagine that if I was a kid in England going to France, I would probably be treated like a total outsider, at least initially, until I had grown up and learnt French or learnt the culture a bit. Was that the case for you or was it much more of… you are one of us because you’re indigenous and you’re Australian?
Well yeah, I mean, my experience has been very different from your average…Well, I’m not even sure but it’s… It’s quite a complex difference, I think. Whereas, you know, if you’re just from somewhere… you’ve been raised there, that’s it. But my… mine and my brothers and sisters has been quite a bit different in that sense. And how did we feel, I mean, there’s always a difference of like darker skin. So in my eyes, like, I was the darker one which is so silly, cause where I come from, I’m the ligther one. So growing up in Perth I am, like, the dark one. I have the more stronger features. But the Noongar people are… I just went to Aboriginal Education Conference in Toronto and there was a Noongar elder and he was talking about how the Noongar tribe is actually the largest tribe statistically in Australia right now. And they’re just growing and thriving and everything like that. And they’re… So, I mean, from that point of view I’m proud to kind of being with them. I’ve got to say that they’re different than us, because when I go up north, there’s a different way about us and there’s a different way about how they conduct themselves.
So what’s the main sort of cultural differences, if you were to say… cause, again, Australians would probably think if you’re indigenous you’re a single unit. But you guys have, like, totally different cultures, based around completely different animals, plants, land, you know, features and everything like that as well. But it’s just, it’s, you know, oranges and apples.
I think it’s quite different to be honest with you because… I’ve obviously growing up in the Noongar country, I’ve been exposed to the Noongar education a lot more than Kija, Jaru. So… just from what… the little that I’ve gathered from the Kimberleys, that… there is quitsh a big difference, because for example, the environment is different… So whereas up North we got wet and dry season. In Noongar country have…I think it’s like, four or six different seasons. So, um… just on that alone it’s very different. And the dances are different because the environment is different. Yeah. so, like, inland Aboriginals have different dances, than say, the ones that are near the sea, because we got the information, intelligent information from what’s around us. So just on what… where you’re… what you’re around is different. So when you go up North it’s like, it’s like a completely different country, cause you got boab trees, you got red desert and then down there it’s like, you got the beach, you got the trees. So that alone is different enough.
Does the… does that translate too into say the oral history that’s passed down. Is that completely different, the stories that they tell as well. Is their dream… dream time different as well?
I haven’t learnt from the Kimberley Dreamtime. so I’m not 100 percent, but in Noongar country is the Serpent…it’s… I think the Serpent is something that’s Noongar, I don’t know about where we are from…
Oh really.. cause i’ve learnt… Is that the Rainbow Serpent, right?
Well, if you learnt that from over there… I think that they’ve might of, just kind of made a conglomerate kind of thing…
The people here, the Koori tribe, locally I believe. And the Wathaurong as well. But I’d heard about the Rainbow Serpent at school… we used to do… We were learning about that. We do art about that. Do you wanna explain what exactly that is and how it fits into dream time for those who don’t know.
Okay. So the way I was taught in Noongar Country is basically… um… it’s a Serpent that created the gorges and as the sun was kind of slithering, it created the mountains and the valleys and things like that. And then they have the woman who’s got the long hair and she flipped her hair and all the stars came of that, for example. So… um.. yeah, I mean… it’s… I guess people wanna see it as allegorical. um.. But it’s kind of like Genesis, you know…
Exactly. It’s how the world came into being, right? and how humans were created and…
Yeah. So obviously with the whole Christianize movement it’s also limited the access to information like that as well, because… um… I don’t know, I feel like maybe, the culture is demonized or something like that. So, yes, so…
Well, It’s two, two religions, right? As soon as that happens and two come in contact, one of them normally wants to take over completely, right?
Exactly, exactly. So… so I mean… it’s kind of hard to comment on that because the details aren’t really, right now, for me… I have learnt from Noongar elders and I know a hell of a lot more than I’ll ever know. And that’s actually something that we have in our culture, is there are the ones with more information and actually he was telling me and my husband, but you only kind of earn the right to information through your humble spirit and things like that. So you can’t just learn information because you want to. You have to kind of go down a journey of self discovery and have a humble humility about it before you learn from people…
And people have to decide to obviously teach you, right? There’s no backing. Back in the day you would imagine there’s no internet, there’s no… you can’t just go out and learn these things for yourself and it’s learning them or not learning them is the difference between life and death, right? Or the survival of a tribe… if someone decides I’m not going to share any of the information passed down to me to my tribe. That’s it, right? You wouldn’t know what to eat, where to hunt, how to survive.
So it’s been used… sometimes in a power trip by… I’ve seen here in Canada a little bit that people don’t want… the olders don’t wanna share their language and stuff… and they criticize the young people for not sharing it. So, I mean, for not doing it properly. They’d be like “oh we don’t say it like that”, for example. But it’s basically called lateral violence and it’s basically violence that they’ve experienced. They now kind of lash out on their own people…
They take it out on other people… So how is that changing in modern day times with regards to the passing down of knowledge through indigenous tribes, whether they’re Australian or Canadian? Is that… Is it done the same way or is modern day technology taking a part in that as well and preserving that information.
Well, for example, Blackfoot, The succeed nation, The prairie, The lords of the prairies, I think. That’s what they call then so. Yeah. Cause they were creating the rail road here in Canada or in America. They were mixing with the lights of black slaves and Chinese slaves. Chinese Premier came over… basically the Blackfoot people here, they have decided to take language on, into technology and other aboriginal education conference… a lot of the different Aboriginal groups we’re talking about, they’re taking the education and combining with technology so it lasts. So like apps, like language apps for, like, the Blackfoot language, which is Nitsitapi, and that is on an app now… so something like that, anyone can just get it for ten dollars and just learn on their own time.
Do you think that’s incredibly important, especially too for Australian Indigenous languages, because I think I read, some of them have the average indigenous language in Australia that, there’s like 300 of them, right? The average one has between like 10 and 100 speakers these days and there’s only a few that have, you know, thousands or tens of thousands, if that at all. Do you think that modern technology is gonna be able to save a lot of these languages for future generations?
Yeah. For sure. Like I said, like, I feel like education is seen differently in different cultures, like, Aboriginal culture, for example, like… obviously you can do things like that and I think that there will be someone who does it. But I also think that there’s an approach to education in a different way. I know from where I’m coming from is, I guess, integrating is, like, become a huge thing…
As in… It’s become difficult or it’s been something that people are pushing for…
Yeah. It’s been pushed a whole lot that, you know, some…I don’t know. Things are probably going to die off, unless someone makes a conscious effort to go back and, like, some of the missionaries, like, wrote books about our languages and stuff. So, yeah. If someone wants to do that, like, make a conscious effort to do that and help the people out. I think that it could survive but I don’t know if there’s people, enought people, who are interested in… It needs to be a collaborative effort I think.
Because that’s the biggest issue, right? You’ll have, say, tribe X in Northern Queensland where everyone speaks the language and then they have children who all get exposed to the English education system and English in Australia. They learn English and they reject their native language or don’t use it enough and then it gets lost, right? If they don’t… if they are pushed to at least try and maintain that.
Exactly. Because, for example, in Quebec they’ve been able to keep Quebecoise, because they’ve made a conscious effort to and the whole… and the government around here is, like, allowed to enforce it, not that that’s negative, but that’s what they’ve done here and they’ve even got on their… what they call it… the drivers plates that got “Je me souviens”.
Yeah there are signs everywhere, right?
Yeah. But they have this one thing, “Je me souviens”, something like that, but I mean, its like “I will remember”. So that’s the kind of the Quebecoise…
Ah! “Je vais souvenir”. Got you, got you. Yeah. I will remeber.
Yeah. So they’ve got that written on their drove, on the back of their cars, on their plates. So they have made a conscious effort to remember. Whereas in Australia it’s hard to remember… so it needs, like I said, it needs to be in collaboration with… not just us… with a lot of other people…
And it’s so difficult, I take it too. Because for instance there’s a, you know, a tribal group here that live where my parents are and if I drive for 30, 40 minutes I’m in a completely different area with a different tribe, that speak a different language. It’s not like it’s a single language, that can be conserved if the entire country of Australia says, okay next week…
You’ve got to… you’ve got to every single one of these, you know, 300 different tribes and say, you know, do that. Effectively that process that Quebec has done, right?
Yeah exactly. And, like, the guy I meet from Arnhem Land who knows eight dialects, I guess he’s got so much knowledge. And it’s up to him, really and guys like that who kind of know that staff, to kind of get it down… And for people to help him to do that. Cause he can’t, he can’t possibly sit there and write all that… He probably needs like a team around him. You know, things like that. So just maybe, maybe something like that would be good, as if we could find these people that know the languages and work with them as a team or something like that. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on whatever they do… Yeah, it could possibly be implemented, like, specifically. Yeah. but I mean, yeah, like you say, there’s a lot of different languages but there are people out there that are indigenous that know all those different dialects. There’s no reason why they can’t record that stuff that they know…
Yeah. There’s just that effort and funding needs to be put into that.
Yeah, just more specifically with stuff like that, instead of I don’t know what they, I don’t know what they’re spending. But, yes… so just not carelessly dealing with. I feel like someone needs to really care about it, if they going to do it, I guess.
And then, I guess too, it is just a lot of work, right? It’s not just okay we’ll do this for one group, it’s like, if you wanna do it for all of them, that is you literally you’re gonna have to go all over Australia, it’s probably going to take decades, but it has to be done.
Exactly, exactly. And I’m pretty sure there’s people in college right now, linguistics and stuff like that they’re actually writing stuff about this, like, I read a PHD student who’ve written something about the Kija language, I’m pretty sure. So there are people out there making that effort and that’s really great, like and they’re not necessarily Aboriginal, they’re white Australians. And that’s something I believe too, is like, if you care enough about the culture and you can be integrated into our culture and…
That’s one of the things I kind of resent a little bit about Australian culture, is the lack of access that I as an Australian have to indigenous culture. Because it’s funny, like, as someone who’s British I’ve never been there. I’ve… my parents were born here, like, I don’t, you know… I’m British but I’m Australian, at least I consider myself Australian, but I feel like you guys are the real, you know, authentic Australians and I would love to learn a lot more about this country and its history from. But it’s, like, there is this big barrier between us where it’s just not available, you know, or it feels like you can’t ask, you kind of as a white male, you kind of feel like it’s, it’s not your business, you’ve got to stay out of it and you don’t have the right to do that.
Well what you’re feeling is something that a lot of people feel even if you’re Aboriginal. We don’t necessarily feel that we have the right either, because like I said, it’s the ones that have the information, they may be willing to share it with us more than you but that’s not necessarily true, because I’ve, I’ve met women who… I’ve met one artist, Helen, she’s gone out there and can’t of which specific tribe, but she’s gone out there in the bush and she’s literally integrated and she’s been initiated as part of the tribe and she’s a white woman. So… She’s got, she’s done more than I have ever done. So it’s definitely possible and I don’t… You know, like, yeah there is colorism. I think what you’re talking about is colorism, if you’ve got lighter skin then you can’t do anything…
I think though for me it’s almost from other people who are Caucasian Australians, would almost… there is this kind of impression of, like, you’r just, you don’t even try, like, you’re not, you’re not one of them, you can’t do that, you know. And it feels like there’s no, there’s no encouragement or message from the other side either that would say ” do it, do it! Get over here! come and… come and integrate and learn about it”. But maybe I just haven’t been looking hard enough.
Well, yeah. I think you could, you could go right dive into it, you could go sit with it and so, look. I’m really interested, you know, I wanna learn for me and I’ll take you through whatever rites of passage or whatever. You could literally do it the old school way like that, you could. There’s no, there’s nothing in your way and show a good example to all the other white people. I don’t think there’s any problem with that. But, on another note, I was just thinking that… I’ve been thinking about this a lot… Is how cultures, modern cultures have manifested and how they are so intrinsically influenced by First Nations people without even knowing.
I mean… I feel, I feel that way, because I feel like it’s hard not to be… Okay. So this is an example. So urban hip hop culture in the States, you go hip hop come out of New York City, basically a lot of… it’s been… the Latino people were part of it. The black people were part of it. Anyone who just had or needed to have a voice were part of it and they started this revolution. And it’s built upon multiple cultures. And so now, you know, how many years later it’s still thriving. I know. I feel like it’s an example of how culture develops with many voices and influences. you know…
So you think we need to push more to sort of try and integrate those two cultures and not necessarily feel like we’re separate and create our own, you know, fused version of that here in Australia. Do you think a lot more needs to be done to blend the two?
Yeah totally. Like, I worked at Evergreen Garden Market for the brickworks in Toronto and they’re talking about city planning and they’re talking about… they’re just talking about city planning from a different perspective. So let’s just say the colonizers have this way, or the settlers have this way and the Aboriginal people have this way, you know. Integration and mash up of the both would be really good. So more nature within the city or, you know, finding city planning ways to integrate nature and welcoming and less concrete or whatever it is, you know. There’s, there isn’t a utopia for sure. Integrating the both. I think.
The both. So French, that’s so French. Yeah. You know Le Due, Le Due. Right? The two, the two.
So I guess before we finish up. Australia Day. what are your opinions on Australia Day? Finally, I get to ask someone who isn’t a white male Australian who fought for their insight. How does it feel to be someone who is Indigenous? Is it something that’s incredibly offensive or is it something that’s just a non-issue. You don’t even think about. What are your thoughts on Australia Day.
Um. it’s, it’s a sore spot when I was growing up, because I hadn’t travelled around the country. Now I have. I have more of a worldwide view, I feel. But when I was living in the country and you kind of stuck there in Australia Day, it’s, it is… it makes you feel a certain of way, cause there’s so many people that hate you, like, it’s just, it’s like, you walk into a shop and people like, check your bags or you know, racial profiling or even, like, people from other countries not, like. And some of your people are from other countries, they would, like, just tell them, like, just try and learn something before you judge, because I know, like some people from other countries come and they will be like “Ah you guys are drunk and smelly and lazy”, you know. But I’d like them to take in consideration the context and things like that. And if you have… Aboriginal people are usually happy for a yarn if you, if you show a bit of interest, you know. So I guess, growing up on Australia Day, like, everyone… it’s just a feeling is just… it’s not a nice one, sometimes. And sometimes it’s like race wars and things like that and it’s just not a nice environment, you know. It’s not very inclusive. I’m sure, like, new Australians as well, but I feel, like, just as an Aboriginal person it feels like even worse, it feels like a slap in the face, because it’s basically a celebration of, like, mass murder of…
‘Cause that’s, that’s a point that is, that is important, ‘cause I have heard quite a few indigenous people mention that and say, you know, the day represents when the first settlers arrived, you know, on the 26th. But for me, I guess, it was one of those things that I would say but I just don’t even… when I celebrate Australia Day I don’t even think… Like, I didn’t even know, you know, for 20 years of my life that that was the exact day for this reason, it wasn’t something that ever entered my head. Is it… Guess where am I going with this point, it is that you’re worried or think that the average Australian is celebrating for that reason specifically or…
No, I think it’s ignorance and I think it just shows the lack of knowledge in a less lack of history. Like, I guess they say… I don’t want to say they were victims, but there’s that whole quote victories, written by the victors and stuff and I do feel like people just, they don’t dig it, they don’t dig enough. They kind of just judge on a very superficial level just as like as a fashion show. And that’s…
Well we’re lazy, we’re lazy. There’s only so many minutes in the day, right? We are just like, good enough, whatever.
Yes, so I mean if it gets forced in your face to look at it maybe you should consider that that’s has come to. And I mean, that’s not necessarily negative eigther. I think what’s happening now is pretty good, like, Aboriginal women, you know, they’re standing up for their beliefs and they’re standing up for what they think is justice, which I believe is justice. It’s not like those people know, like, most of guys don’t know, like, most of you guys didn’t personally kill anyone, but it’s just nice to… Okay, here’s a good example. If your grandfather… I can’t really… but it’s just, it’s hard not to…
I guess it’s like that situation in the US, right. Where a lot of white people feel like they’re blamed by black people for slavery when it wasn’t, it wasn’t their grandfather, it may not have even been their great grandfather. Maybe it wasn’t even anyone in their family, but because of their race they kind of get blamed for having some kind of historical part in a crime.
Yeah. I think, I think it’s just acknowledging that this is a city, an urban setting, in an urban setting. If you are living in an urban setting in Australia, you are benefiting off of the col… the settlers. they set this society up for you and up for whoever else wants to come and into that society. And I just think that it’s just fair and respectful, just to respect who was there before. Even if you don’t agree with whatever. Just respecting that they were there before and that they are not necessarily been…that they don’t have a society…
But they are still here, right. It’s not even that you’re gone. You’re still here today.
Yeah. Yeah. I am still here and we’re trying to make way for ourselves in a society that wasn’t necessarily built for us and we were just forced to assimilate. And if we’re, you know, so I think that people just need to take that into context. Yes, you are part of those people but you are benefiting from the things that they’ve set up.So if you’re coming to Australia or you’re, you know, white Australian, whatever. Just have that in mind, just… I know a lot of people people are greatfull, just be grateful you know, like, that you’re benefiting from what the setttlers created for you guys, you know, and just try…Just think of the indigenous people that they are trying to make their way too. We’re trying to make our way through this maze as well. And it would just be nice not to be disrespected all the time and just basically spot on. I remember one time I was walking up the street and someone said I you’re a black slut, you know like, just shit like that. You know like. It’s just unnecessary to be so hateful without just trying to understand. So…
It’s funny too because I take it, they are the kind of people and I’ve heard a lot about this in say the U.S, where you meet or you hear about these people who are massively racist and then you find out they’ve never actually met anyone who’s black, you know, or they’ve never met a Muslim but they hate Muslims and you just like… Do you think that a lot more needs to be done to bring those, those two sides of the community together and kind of get rid of those barriers and those prejudices?
Yeah. like I believe Fremantle’s onto something with their own celebration on the day after everyone that was different. They had different backgrounds and then there was the Aboriginal people as well and they, like, not to be stereotypical, but like, in an urban setting, like, Aboriginal people can be pretty…
What is it? Like full on.
Yeah, like loud and…
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
You know what I mean like… so, I mean, somewhere like Fremantle it’s really cool because you don’t have gentrification as much. So they’re not trying to push you out or trying to build up areas and than, like, clean it up and then get police to come arrest and mass incarcerate black people. So freemount was a really nice example of how you’ve got a whole bunch of different people on that day just chillin and Aboriginal can be whoever they want to be… those people can be whoever they wanna be and they’re all just coexisting together nicely instead of just trying to, like, clean up the streets, I guess.
Well, and there’s plenty of these, plenty of, you know, non-indigenous Australians who filthing the streets as well, right? By being drunk, or loud, or…
Unfortunately, we just get a little bit looked down upon for some reason, not sure where that comes from but…
I think it’s always one of those things where it’s easy… it’s that tribalism in everyone, all humans seemed to have it, where it’s just the outside group is the bad group, even if they’re doing exactly what we do because they’re different or judge them for it.
You go, you go, sorry.
Well I’m… Well yeah. To answer the question about, do you think people need to together. Yeah I do. And I think there is councils out there coming up with really great ideas and I just think that we should vote for people that are a lot more like that.
Yeah, like… who want to bring two sides together. But so what do you think with regards to Australia Day and bringing people together. Do you have any suggestions or ideas for what can be done, you know moving into the future whether it’s big changes or even just advice for listeners who want to learn more about or be involved with the Indigenous community in Australia?
I would say first of all try not to get mad. Just take a step back and you may have had some negative experiences with Indigenous people, but just, maybe, trying to put on a different set of glasses and I would just say if you want to reach out just there’s always guys around. Just… just go ” Hey how is it going?” or something. They’ll probably sit there and talk to you for a long time, you might just have to say “Sorry, I’ve got to go.”.
But they’re always usually open for a chat, you know. Yeah. So just reach out where you can, I suppose. Just smile.
Yeah and Australia Day, should Australia Day just be changed completely? What would be a way to make that a day that everyone can celebrate?
I think your intention should be made clear. Perhaps, perhaps you say ” “Hey I just want to respect the first people and happy Australia Day” if you choose to celebrate, you know. And I mean, I’ve met some young people recently, quite radical and they’re white and they are like “We’re against the Australia day, we are, like, boycontting it” I Mean and you find that too. So that’s fine as well. But if you want to celebrate it just don’t worry about it.
Exactly. Always the confusing thing for me was that, at least you know, in Melbourne they don’t tend to be a lot of indigenous people and so the only people I would ever hear complaining about Australia Day would be is as white as I am and as English, you know, blood wise as I am and I’ve always been like yeah it’s like me complaining about sexism towards women, right. Where it’s like, I wanna hear the problems from the people who are apparently being affected. I don’t want to hear from someone else who’s, you know, taken up that problem on behalf of someone else.
Well I definitely appreciate, like you know, like I’m not disrespectfull. I love the fact that… I think that’s awesome. But like I said, if you choose to celebrate and stuff like that just, I don’t know… I don’t know it’s such a complex situation and…
There’s no easy answer.
I guess, if someone told me here in Quebec, if you respect others they’ll respect you.
You know what I mean?
All right, last thing. How did you end up in Quebec and how did you end up learning French? You know, I think you must be the… I haven’t met a lot of indigenous people learning foreign languages but you must be the first one I’ve met learning France who is living in the foreign country as well. How did you end up in Quebec?
Well my husband is first nations Blackfoot from Alberta and so I met him online and then we, like, got married and stuff and we bonded over being First Nations and the similarities. And I basically got married and then moved here and we lived Calgary, we lived in Toronto, in Kingston and now Quebec because he’s in the military and so that’s how I ended up here, he is in the military.
And how it’s been learning French? Has that been a steep learning curve?
It’s awesome. I love it. I think it’s really cool. I think it’s awesome how they string things together so lovely and eloquently like a song. I think it’s really nice to learn another language. I think people that learn other languages… I definitely think it’s beneficial to the mind…
Has it completely changed your sort of perception too now, learning a foreign language and obviously probably communicating with people who don’t speak English? Has that like, did that, did you have that mind blown moment when you had your first conversation with someone who doesn’t speak your native language?
Yeah because they, I don’t know, my experience has been really positive. A lot of people in Canada have their whole thing with Quebec and stuff. But my experience has been really positive and I think Anglo Anglo mindset just seems a lot different to a Francophone mindset and especially Quebecoise mindset. So I feel like learning and talking with them is just like a refreshing thing, sometimes, you know, if you get sick of something, like, just like go somewhere else, go to a different community or something cause…
Mix it up.
Yeah that’s what I’ve had to do.
And do you think you’re going to use these skills to go home and learn either of your father’s parents’ languages one day?
[00:56:06] Yeah. I would love to. I would love to. I’m just trying to explore the language center of my mind and open it up and get it, the muscle kind of exercise and stuff.
I think it’s definitely repetition and getting out there and having conversations with people even though you feel stupid. And just have a laugh about it, I guess and keep going, don’t give up. It’s hard but…
It’s worth it.
Yeah. Exactly. When you start getting into the rhythm of it, it’s hard not to forget that, it’s like a muscle, you know. That muscle is always there whether you’re practising it or not. But when you’re practising it, that’s when it is the strongest.
I think you are right. Well, Lydia thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. They’ve given us an hour so I really, really appreciate answering all of these questions.
It’s ok. I hope I did everyone justice.
You did well. I have to get you back on in the future when I come up with another list of interesting questions to pose you.
Yeah, sure. Absolutely.
Alright, guys. So, that was the interview for today. Lydia, thank you so much again for coming on the podcast and sharing your story. It’s really important to me that you were on here, so thank you once again. I’ll have to get you on in the future.
Guys, I hope you got a lot out of it. I know it was a long one, almost an hour long.
And with that, I hope you have an amazing week and I’ll chat to you soon.
See ya, guys!