South Australia’s History Festival explores Indigenous Australia

Image Source: Amnesty International

By Nikita Skuse | @nikita_skuse

Indigenous Australian history is often overlooked in Australian culture, whitewashed by stories of European explorers and settlers.

South Australia’s History Festival is making a change to this, through hosting a range of events focused on the history of Indigenous Australians throughout the month of May.

Lara Torr, manager of community programs at the South Australian Museum and organiser of the History Festival event ‘The History of Aboriginal Carving in the Flinders Ranges’, said that Australians have a long way to go when it comes to being educated about Indigenous Australian history.

“There’s such diversity and knowledge within Indigenous Australia and most of us have a lifetime of learning to do,” she said.

However, with opening Indigenous history and culture into the South Australian public eye comes the risk of tokenism or misrepresentation.

Ms Torr said that as a non-Indigenous person it is important for her to work collaboratively with Indigenous Australians when creating an event such as this one.

In this instance, Ms Torr has worked alongside Dr Jared Thomas, a Nukunu person of the Southern Flinders Ranges and Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art and Cultural Material at the South Australian Museum.

Ms Torr said this collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is important when considering cultural safety, and helps to elevate Aboriginal voices.

In order to avoid tokenism at an event such as this she said, “It’s really important for people to remember that events which explore Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are relevant 365 days of the year and to consider highlighting Indigenous stories outside of events such as the History Festival.”

“Australians have a deep responsibility to acknowledge that Aboriginal culture has been strong on this continent for 60,000 years … understanding Indigenous history is … a really important part of meaningful reconciliation.”

Dr Cameron Raynes, Contemporary Aboriginal Issues Lecturer at the University of South Australia, said that without knowledge of Aboriginal history it becomes difficult to form a reasonable view of contemporary issues for Aboriginal people in Australia.

“Many Aboriginal people continue to feel marginalized and disadvantaged … we still see instances of institutionalized racism in settings such as education and health,” he said.

“It’s particularly important that people who seek careers as service providers, including teachers, doctors, and nurses, have a handle on Aboriginal history and culture.”

The University of South Australia offers students a range of university-wide electives that focus on Indigenous Australian culture that students can find on their website.

“The onus is really on us, as non-Aboriginal Australians, to play our part in making Aboriginal Australians feel welcome in our representations of our shared history,” Dr Raynes said.

He said that young people can better educate themselves on Indigenous Australian history and culture by seeking out Indigenous news sources such as First Nations Telegraph and the National Indigenous Times.

Torr suggested other ways young people can learn about Indigenous Australia include visiting the Australian Aboriginal Cultures Gallery at the South Australian Museum, getting involved in community events surrounding National Reconciliation Week, and getting in touch with their local council to find resources related to their area.

South Australia’s History Festival is running now until 31 May with events focusing on Indigenous Australian history being held all over the State.

The History Festival also overlaps with National Reconciliation Week which takes place from 27 May to 3 June.

For more information visit the South Australia’s History Festival website.

 

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