Yesterday, it was a cold and rainy day, so my walking was cancelled. Instead, I opted to walk around the corner and visit the Australian Museum. I must say that it was, in a word, impressive. It is probably the best single museum that I’ve ever been in. I specify “single” because, by far, the best museums that I’ve ever entered were the Smithsonian museums in Washington, DC, but this museum was very impressive.
There are a number of things on display: From memory:
1. Birds of Paradise
2. Indigenous Australians.
3. Surviving Australia
4. Birds of Australia
5. Prehistoric Australia
And a few more that seem to escape my memory at the moment. However, the one that resonated with me the most was the Indigenous Australian exhibit. Upon entering it I was fascinated by the paintings and about their culture of what they call Dreaming. Basically, their religion where everything is sacred. They have a great amount of art representing different dreams, etc.
Then, I came to the section of when Europeans, mostly Brits, came to Australia and encountered the Torres and Aboriginal peoples. The first thing that they did was ‘assume’ that as there were no temples or icons that these ‘savages’ had no religion and thus they were forced to accept Christianity. Further, since they were of dark skin, they were automatically assumed to be less. This was particularly poignant to me as throughout history, the Brits spread racism wherever they went: Africa, Australia, United States, anywhere that they set foot. They came to Australia, displaced the indigenous populations, did the same thing in America to the Native Americans, created and introduced slavery to the Americas. The exhibit was powerful and left me feeling a bit angry, honestly with the whole might makes right and white is right.
As I continued to look at the exhibit, I saw that the Aboriginal people had similar movements as were being done in the US. They had freedom rides, etc., trying to fight against the “White Australia” policy, where, as one of the placards said:
[P]eople were often denied service in shops, separated from whites in cinemas, banned from hotels and clubs, and excluded from pools being used by white people.
The “White Australia” policy was formerly discontinued in 1972 and another policy outlawing Racial Discrimination was passed in 1975, but as the placard says, the struggle continues today.
Sound familiar? Same fruit of the same poisonous tree! It was disgusting! While I stood there, a small group of girls and a teacher from a local school came by. The teacher said, of the photo at the top, remember that we talked about this? The Brits treated the Aborigines very badly. I so wanted wanted to chime in: And the Native Americans, Africans, etc, etc, etc. Everywhere they went, poison! But, I restrained myself. I realized that it was an emotional reaction.
The exhibit continued with Aboriginal art, posters, and other cultural items.
Even now, as I watched television, there was a program on about the mining of Aboriginal land. One of the CEOs of a mining company was talking about payment to the indigenous people, with constraints on how they could spend the money! Talk about arrogance. Further, they wanted to pay a flat rate and the land owners want royalties based on how much is pulled out of the land. Lastly, the company said that they were doing a favor by providing jobs. Say what? They were getting along just fine without jobs!
Anyway, this was a fantastic exhibit. I very much enjoyed it, but it touched me deeply.