On the road with Sophie Matterson
When I got the call from Australian Geographic to track down Sophie Matterson and...
I first met these guys in the sandhills of Davenport Community and it quickly became apparent that their dance and storytelling was unique. At the time they were choreographed by Lavene McKenzie who had her own mission story to tell. I experienced the power of these performances at events like the National Reconciliation Breakfast with Archie Roach and school visits across the state.
These images were designed to represent and honour this story in a linear format.
The Aboriginal Protection Act of 1869 introduced the removal of children to legislation to the Central Board for the Protection of Aborigines.
This act gave powers and jurisdiction to forcibly remove children of ‘half caste’ appearance. Many institutions and missions were set up to facilitate their assimilation into white bloodlines through a four generational campaign to remove the black blood and replace it with civilised white blood.
My formative years in school were spent pledging allegiance to a Queen i’d never met and running the gauntlet of uniform inspections under the threat of caning in the nape of the leg or knuckles. We were taught all about the glorious colonisation and education of a savage, simple race of people that peacefully embraced the culture, laws and society imported directly from Britain.
Self discovery is something that can never be underestimated and this transcends into all things. If you don’t go out and find out for yourself you will live your life believing the official story force fed down your throat by the establishment and to be honest that is exactly what they would like you to do.
Be passive, don’t resist and swallow it down as quickly as possible without questions or resistance.
Last year I spent three days with Mona Olsson documenting her story which resounds all over the country through similar stories of forced removal, indoctrination, loss of language and culture as well as an unrepairable void in identity and connection to land and family.
The sadness from the education I have received over the past three years breaks my knees from underneath me and the injustice breaks my heart and yet I see the patience and a strange forgiveness mixed with a desire to move on and get to work repairing damage created by a colonising force that sort to naively impose their best interest on a people who, as proved by history, are the most robust society surviving and thriving for over 60,000 years.
How is one to fight foreign decease, rifles and the ‘advancement of society’ through ‘progress’. My main question relates to the current day dualistic system. The mainstream or dominant system is Commonwealth which dismisses the richness and lifeline style connection to land, culture and community through it’s bricks and mortar approach.
The saddest part is the continuation of The Stolen Generation through unlawful imposition to community through quickly branded Interventions.
To brand people as drunkard pedophiles and post huge signs outside of communities seeks to demoralise and deconstruct the strength and pride of an entire race. Even through Australia has been blacklisted for Human Right violations from the UN and providing third world conditions to the First Nations People it’s hard to see where these good intentions are to be found in 2015.
Without this intent it’s just abduction, harassment and clear abuse and even with the intent history has shown you clearly to not repeat such an epic naive mistake bred through a sense of blind superiority.
Dusty Feet Mob know that storytelling through dance and song is a powerful way of celebrating Aboriginal identity, culture and connection to country. While at the same time their performance is a way of entering into past hurts and injustices experienced by Aboriginal families in a way that allows both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to grow in acceptance, understanding and empathy together. A significant part of this is focused on the promotion of healing and awareness of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities together.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that this gallery does contain images and voices of people who have died.