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Aboriginality Reflections — Erin's Story

Aboriginal identity and background

Hey, I’m Erin! I’m a Trawlwoolway woman from North-East Tasmania, and am descended from Dolly Dalrymple, granddaughter of great leader and chief, Mannalargenna. Growing up, I knew I was Aboriginal, but it’s only something I’ve come to terms with in recent years. When I was at art school, I did a folio on my Aboriginal identity, and my passion has come from there. Last year, I pulled up stumps and moved to Tasmania, and enrolled in a course in Tasmanian Aboriginal studies. It was an amazing experience, and so fantastic to meet people with the same ancestors and political aspirations as me. Though I have strong roots in Tassie, I was raised in Melbourne, so the opportunity to reconnect was truly fantastic. It was like coming home.


Passion and interest in decolonisation

This year, I moved back to Melbourne, and started an internship at Our Dilly Bag. Something I’m really passionate about is engaging allies, and finding ways to bridge the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in this country. The way I see it, we learn a whitewashed version of history, where British colonial views are prioritised and everything else is ignored. We learn about the Gold Rush, the Eureka Stockade, and the landing of Captain Cook, but practically nothing about the invasion of land, the stealing of children, or the denial of identity. This makes it very difficult for Aboriginal people to move forward, because we are constantly facing a culture that denies our existence. That’s why I have an enormous regard for allies – despite all this, they are able to see our struggle and commit to the fight with us. As Aboriginal people, we have a long history of fighting for our rights, and have achieved some amazing things, but we can’t do this on our own. We need allies.

Reflecting on racism and ignorance in Australia

My Aboriginal story has been an interesting one, because I grew up away from culture and country. My dad is a proud Aboriginal man, and made sure my sister and I knew where we came from, but it wasn’t quite the same as growing up in community. Like many, I faced a lot of ignorance about my identity growing up, with countless people asking the question, “If you’re Aboriginal, why are you white?” And the thing is, I don’t necessarily blame them. We live in a world where we’re fed a very limited idea of what an Aboriginal person can be – that we are hunter gatherer types, that we use boomerangs and didgeridoos, and that we live in the central desert. Though ignorant, these views are upheld by Australian schools, politicians, and the media, and have a profound influence on the way we view Aboriginal people today. It’s a tale as old as time – the ones who know the least are the ones who have the most power.



Photography pieces from my 2017 Graduate Exhibition in 2017. Was thinking about privilege/disadvantage between white/Aboriginal people and the ways these are seen in Australia/embodied in my own life.