The smoking ceremony held at last year’s Bundaberg NAIDOC celebrations in Lions Park.
The smoking ceremony held at last year’s Bundaberg NAIDOC celebrations in Lions Park.

Gidarjil CEO sees benefit of register for Aboriginal people

GIDARJIL Aboriginal Corporation’s chief executive said he supports the establishment of a register to identify indigenous people, believing it will “open the closet up” for a population that had been shamed and unaware of their history.

Kerry Blackman said more people identifying as Aboriginal would be of benefit to culture, history, and national pride.

“It’s time to stand up and be counted, if you’re Aboriginal, and to tell the world,” Dr Blackman said.

“Don’t be ashamed. It always was Aboriginal land and always will be Aboriginal.

“This means more funding to address our dispossession and our disparity in this country.

“We have a right to share in Australia’s wealth, land and political life in this country as First Nation people.”

An Aboriginal register was recently proposed by Warriway lawyer Josephine Cashman in a letter to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, which was published in part by the Weekend Australian, while criticising the indigenous authenticity of prominent author Bruce Pascoe’s book Dark Emu.

Ms Cashman is an indigenous advisory panellist who also requested the minister’s support for Aboriginal identity reforms, saying questions such as ‘do you identity as an ATSI person?’ was not beneficial.

Aboriginal businesswoman and lawyer Josephine Cashman. Picture: Kym Smith
Aboriginal businesswoman and lawyer Josephine Cashman. Picture: Kym Smith

“I invite you to assist me in collaboration with the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister to develop a national strategy for establishing a register for Aboriginal people,” she said.

“I suggest a panel composed of traditional owners, on-the-ground elders, government experts and others to examine the most efficient manner to achieve identifying Aboriginal people.”

The proposal was criticised by Townsville indigenous leader Professor Gracelyn Swallwood, and by State Minister Leeanne Enoch, who identifies as Quandamooka.

“This offensive talk of a register of indigenous people is an insult to everything they endured and fought against to make this nation a better place for all,” Ms Enoch said.

But Dr Blackman, who also supported Mr Pascoe’s identification, said the register would reveal the influence of indigenous Australia, considering many had denied or forgotten their history over more than two centuries.

Gidarjil Aboriginal Corporation’s chief executive Kerry Blackman speaks during a flag-raising ceremony at Buss Park.
Gidarjil Aboriginal Corporation’s chief executive Kerry Blackman speaks during a flag-raising ceremony at Buss Park.

“We have to tick a box on the census and nearly every form we fill out today we have to tick if we are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander,” Dr Blackman said.

“I’m fair skinned and people try to say ‘you’re Maori’ or ‘you’re one-eighth or two-eighth or three-eighth.

“No, I’m an Aboriginal, I was born Aboriginal, I’m an Aboriginal now and I’ll die an Aboriginal.

“A lot more Aboriginal people who have been closet Aboriginal should come out and identify and all of a sudden you’ll find that our population would go from an alleged three per cent, to a couple of million Aboriginal people that’s alive and well and thriving in this country.

“It’s a good thing to be proud and strong as an Aboriginal person and proud and strong in culture.”