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Jump Sis!

Jump Sis!

Wander up the coast a little and you'll find a creek with a footbridge built over it from which local kids leap despite thickets of signs warning "DO NOT DIVE" and "DIVING IS DANGEROUS".

It's also a few hundred metres from a housing estate that's heavily populated by indigenous Australian families.

On school holidays, it's not unusual to find dozens of Aboriginal kids, ranging in age from about four to late teens, swarming over the bridge, inventing different ways to make their plunge into the water more spectacular and dangerous.

A friend of mine, who's almost as white as Andrew Bolt, along with his wife and two daughters, aged 10 and seven, stumbled upon this scene a few months ago.

"There was not an adult to be seen, except us, and after a few dozen, 'please, please, pleases', we let the girls go up there," he said.

"It's about a seven-metre drop to the deep water, so the girls were pretty hesitant to jump once they got up and saw how high it was.

"They slowed up the show for everyone because there's really only one spot to dive from but all the other kids said to them was 'Come on sis, jump!"

"There was not a harsh word or smartarse comment the entire two hours we were there."

My friend is painfully aware of sounding like the patronising white guy who goes on holiday and returns with a heart-warming tale of engagement with the indigenous community.

"But it was the realest, best thing my kids did all week and it's all they've talked about since," he said.

"The whole time, however, I couldn't help wondering if it would have been as accepting a vibe if a visiting Aboriginal family had pulled up and joined in with a group of 30 local white kids on 'their' turf."

I'd like to think a big group of white children would have been just as tolerant of two young indigenous girls if they wanted to jump off "their" bridge.

I'm much less certain there wouldn't have been at least a couple of kids who'd have made a sly dig or tasteless joke.

In January, Radio National's John Doyle ran a segment with Professor Larissa Behrendt based on her book Indigenous Australia for Dummies.

She told the story of how Barangaroo, wife of famed Aboriginal mediator Benelong, used to walk naked into Government House as a way of asserting her custodianship of the land it was built on.

She also gave birth to her last child on the grounds - a hugely significant act of ownership for Aboriginal people.

Still, the fact Barangaroo regularly dined (naked) at Governor Phillip's table suggests, despite many misgivings, she accepted whites were here to stay, so engagement was essential.

Sadly, I think many Australians don't recognise the other side of that coin - our indigenous population is also here to stay.

This manifests itself in one of most pernicious of national myths - that indigenous Australians are a "dying race", that their culture is "disappearing", that there's "no real ones left".

In fact, there's more than half a million people who identify as indigenous and, while a good part of this country good-intentionally talks of "building bridges" between black and white culture, the truth is "they" are "us", "their" culture and history is "ours".

Let's all dive off the bridge together.

You can follow Sam on Twitter here. His email address is here.

54 comments so far

  • Pretty sure you've already done this one.

    Date and time
    March 04, 2013, 9:00PM
    • I've read the bridge story before, too.

      Date and time
      March 06, 2013, 8:00AM
    • Don't be too hard on the author, guys. Sure, he's recycled this story, but what a powerful, thought provoking message: "racism is bad." This article has really given me a lot to think about...

      James Hill
      Date and time
      March 06, 2013, 9:36AM
    • Good to hear others realising this piece has been published before. I am sure about 3 of Sam's blogs over the last few years have had reruns.

      Not De Ja Vu
      Date and time
      March 06, 2013, 9:48AM
    • Sometimes, for whatever reason, the SMH editors take one of Sam's blogs and publish it as a column. The last time this was published it was in a different part of the paper and no-one could comment on it...when that happens rest assured it will appear some weeks later in Sam's blog, and use that time to create the perfectly witty and insightful comment that will have people remembering your nick.

      Date and time
      March 11, 2013, 6:15PM
  • Interesting that you focus on Bennalong. What was to be known as Sydney Cove was the home to the Eora people when the First Fleet arrived. They had two notable leaders, Bennelong and Pemulwry. Bennelong was said to be friendly and co-operative. Pemalwry was more suspicious. When the newcomers depleted local fisheries and game, Pemalwry commenced a decade long 'guerilla war'. Pemalwry was finally captured and beheaded, after having been betrayed by Bennelong. By which time introduced diseases and deprivation had reduce the Eora people by half. Bennelong's fate was no less tragic. He died of alcoholism, alienated from his own people. Although it is Bennelong who is celebrated in contemporary time with a prominent Federal electorate is named after him.

    Date and time
    March 04, 2013, 10:28PM
    • The focus wasn't on Benelong, but Barangaroo

      I agree Sam. I would love to see this country take the Australian Aboriginal Flag as its national flag.

      Date and time
      March 05, 2013, 8:12AM
    • "I would love to see this country take the Australian Aboriginal Flag as its national flag." @ Shelby

      Whenever I see suggestions for alternatives to our current flag (the one with the foreign flag in the corner) I always think we already have a wonderful more more appropriate choice, the Australian Aboriginal Flag (if the designer gives his permission of course). Obviously lots of my fellow Australians don't agree with me (see link below).

      Date and time
      March 05, 2013, 9:59AM
    • I sand corrected Sheby

      Date and time
      March 06, 2013, 2:13AM
    • I stand corrected Shelby (great name)

      Date and time
      March 06, 2013, 4:37AM

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