Adam Goodes’ war cry wasn’t an outrage: it was a heartfelt show of his proud heritage
“It’s Indigenous Round – what are we saying to those other Indigenous boys who are going to run out over the next two or three days, if they had something planned?” Goodes said. “Are they going to go out there and represent and be proud? I hope so. But if people are going to get their back up against a wall … maybe they’re not going to come out of their shell. I want people to be proud and represent because we have so many different cultures in this country.”
More power to him – at anytime, but especially in reconciliation week.
It is a sad reminder of the reluctance of too many Australians to celebrate Aboriginal culture. It has massive potential to be a unifying force for the whole country. Nowhere else has anything like it. It is the oldest part of Australian culture and one of its most significant – for all of us.
If you doubt me, look to New Zealand. While the haka has long had a central place in the heart of all rugby-obsessed kiwis, Maori culture is now far more significant to the country than just that. The whole country. A single language helped entrench Maori words into everyday conversation. The koru, an unfurling fern frond and symbol of creation to Maori, is now as significant to the country as a whole.The national anthem used to be sung only in English despite the existence of a Maori version. Now both are sung, everyone knows the words to each and I suspect most know the Maori one sounds better. The embrace of Maori culture by the rest of New Zealand has made it a vastly richer culture, not without its problems, but much improved on the white-bread version of its past.
The poor reaction of too many to Goodes shows just how badly Australians are missing out.
Any culture which can survive 60,000 years, then the consequences of invasion, dispossession and slaughter and remain standing today is enough to suggest it ought to be a badge of pride for both Indigenous people and everyone else. But it has a far richer culture than survival – and many of us have no idea about it.
The organisers of reconciliation week say it aims to build respect between Indigenous and other Australians to close the gaps and bring a shared sense of fairness and justice.
And that remains urgent, and true. Take one measure of one massive gap – incarceration of young people. If you are indigenous and aged between 10 and 17, across the country you are 24 times more likely to be locked up than others the same age. Not twice as likely, not three times as likely but 24 times as likely.But there’s a positive part to the list of objectives: pride. Pride in indigenous history, pride in the culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. A shared pride for all of us.
By his actions and words, Adam Goodes is helping the rest of us get there. Carry on.
Tim Dick is a Sydney lawyer. Twitter: @dick_tim