COMMENT: Rid scourge of racism from our community

Djiringanj and Ngarigo elders Glenda Dixon and Ellen Mundy
Djiringanj and Ngarigo elders Glenda Dixon and Ellen Mundy

I would like to comment on the article “Rich history” with elders Glenda Dixon and Ellen Mundy (BDN, 4/5). As a young girl growing up in Wollongong 50-odd years ago, I never understood the cruelty of any human being to another because of culture/race. Our white history in Australia is one of invasion of a vast southern land by explorers from the north almost 250 years ago. Yes, let’s call it what it was – an invasion. 

What sickens me was the disgusting treatment, not just the loss of land which came with an invasion, but the cruel acts that followed.  I read Glenda and Ellen’s article with heart-sickening reality that in my lifetime, Glenda Dixon and Ellen Mundy were young children walking to school “with bullets above their heads” when I was the same age catching my school bus, but because of my white culture I went to school without serious harassment or potential harm.

What person would think that shooting bullets above the heads of children was OK, for no other reason than their race? Those people may still be living in the Bega Valley and I hope they have read this article and feel shame. I don’t want the “Rich History” to be just read and not given thought by us who never had to suffer such bias and ill treatment. When you inquire, it is realised this abhorrent behaviour towards Indigenous people was more common in the Bega Valley than most of us of white culture today are aware of. Not that long ago – 50 years only, recent history. 

How hard to bridge the gap when there is recent memory of such disgusting acts. Let us truly understand the pain past behaviours has caused. Time does not erase those memories, the people who suffer these indignities just have learnt to bury the episodes and get on with their lives. But upon asking, racist experiences are described quietly, as a matter of fact. This happened to me at work yesterday where I was told a similar story that elders Glenda and Ellen describe. If you have a heart, what do you say to these stories? Sorry does not seem enough and I felt embarrassment and shame for the low individuals both back in history and those who still harbour these feelings towards people of other culture/race. 

Racism is a worldwide scourge not just in Australia. What is done in past history is done, but for goodness sake let’s walk in someone’s shoes who has experienced racism and understand the deep pain. This is not easy for me to write about, my instinct is to not think about the racist behaviours as it is my culture who has been the perpetrators, but we all need to be made to feel uncomfortable to rid the scourge of racism from our society.

- Brenda Ramstadius (blow in to Bega Valley 10 years ago)