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Archive for July, 2015

Jetta’s spear throw was on his Noongar Country

Posted by cegan on July 31, 2015

The media has revelled in looking at Lewis Jetta’s response as a compilation of standing up for his mate, but it also symbolises Jetta’s connection to his country. Sports Journalists around the country may not be able to interpret this as Aboriginal history is poorly taught, many don’t have friends that are Aboriginal and many see their culture as ‘primitive’.

This is to expose the stories behind this image as a white man on Wadjula Noongar country. Subiaco Oval is very close to sacred ground at Kings Park, which is part of the city’s soul – but rarely do we recognise its significance to women’s rights and particularly to Noongar culture. As Jetta did his war dance in defence of his friend Goodes, it was not just part of the story of Goodes, but a story of the defiance of Noongar culture that continues to be ravaged by poverty and incarceration.

Jetta’s country, his land, his spirit, his people was reason enough to step up. In Melbourne and Sydney the boos would have hit home, but at Subiaco Oval, his country, his spirit it would have been devastating. A friend he had welcomed to his country being booed on his land. There was nothing more he could do but deliver a war dance against those who chose to discriminate.

This war dance was different to Goodes in that it had meaning rather than a simple celebration of Indigenous Round as Goodes words spoke. It was something that portrayed the spirit of Yagan in standing up as a Noongar man on his country. The interpretation we have seen from sports journalists, not racist in anyway but tells us how far we have to explain the stories of Aboriginal culture so that we accurately raise what these symbols mean. Jetta’s war dance to many is just about defending Goodes, but it tells us more, Jetta wants this to mean more than defending his mates, but communication is hampered via the culture that White Australia has imposed since 1901.

We hear the stories in the history books, but very few of us are friends with Aboriginals. I am mates with Noongars – some who I am very close too. I have worked with Noongars, been drunk with Noongars, philosophised with Noongars and in turn felt immense empathy with the people who own my country. I am as close to these people as I could be as a White Australian – never be one of them, will never hear all the stories but have learnt more from my friends than most Australians. I will be forever grateful.

I have learnt not to be paternalistic in my defence, that it is not my role to deliver change for Aboriginals, it is for those societies to initiate the change. Something that Jetta would not have done until this aggression was displayed in a game on Jetta’s country. This is the important factor not coming out – we still see Aboriginals as the same, but how? I am referring them as Aboriginal in this piece as that is what Noongars want to be called if they are a collective, not Indigenous Australian’s.
In other parts of the country they want to be referred to as Indigenous – but not in Perth.

This has been further proven by the State Government changing the departments name from Indigenous to Aboriginal Affairs. The reference of seeing Aboriginals in a holistic sentiment is part of the problem of the analysis of Jetta’s ceremonial dance.

I speak to my Noongar mate about welcome to countries in south west Australia incorporating the didgeridoo as not being part of traditional Noongar culture. A conversation I had many a time with my Noongar friend in how it could be explained to the people of Perth was obviously delivered in a message from him as a recent welcome to country in the Perth cultural precinct explained this to the audience. Education because of a strong relationship developed between white and noongar man.

You see there is much to be explained about skins, eel traps, rock art, culture in a nation that chooses to only highlight the child abuse and drunken behaviour in its national media.

So when Jetta stood up for his mate, we just got the paternalistic analysis of standing up for a mate. Linking in the themes of white cultural stories of ‘mateship’ rather than Noongar stories of defiance and continuation of culture. We didn’t look deeper into the fact Jetta was a proud Noongar man, standing up against prejudice on his Noongar country with the spirit of Yagan oozing through his blood.

By Chris Egan

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