The Animal Boy

I live in Australia and if you know a little about Australia, you’ll know that the Aborigine people are indigenous to Australia before the British came to settle in the country.

Because of this, the Australian Government is very sensitive to the Aborigine people and has made efforts to pay respect to the people and to honour our ancestors and traditional ownership of the land which was, under the circumstances, stolen from them and not conquered.

Like many indigenous people, Australian Aborigines lived together in harmony with rival tribes. Although there were skirmishes here and there, each tribe had their own region, language and culture but they were one big family.

At the time before Dutch exploration, Australia was home to some 1,000,000 Aborigine people and if a modern map could depict how Australia was divided among the tribes, it would seem like this:

aus_map_covered_text_lined-1024x933.jpg

Among one people alone, Australia was and still is a diverse country from its very foundation over 40,000 years ago.

The Dutch explored the west coast, naming islands off the coast around modern-day Perth, the area of the Perth city centre itself, which consisted mostly of swamp at the time of discovery and the island of what is now known as Tasmania, before returning to Europe as they could not grow crops on Australian land.

British Explorer, Captain James Cook explored the east coast and later, the British claimed the land for Great Brittain and settled the land with convicts and some British soldiers to keep them in order.

They were met by the local Aborigine people, the Eora people. At first, the indigenous Peoples avoided contact despite British efforts to make contact and assimilate with the people. They did this by capturing Aborigine people and teaching them English. Unfortunately it didn’t work on many of the attempts because the Aborigine people were losing land which they gathered their food and drank water from, land which belonged to everyone now only belonged to the British.

Years of blood shed followed and British attitude changed towards the Aborigine people. Instead of trying to assimilate the Aborigine people into British culture, their primary goal was to “keep them away”.

As more British convicts and people arrived and settled throughout the island, the attitude had escalated into a sport among hunters and thousands of Aborigines lost their lives.

The island which consisted of six self-governing British colonies federated to form a sovereign country called Australia, latin for Land of the South which would be ruled under the British crown.

Fast forward to the 1940s when I was a young a boy and life was very different for me back then.

I was born to slave parents who were used to farm and serve a British family. They were ordered to reproduce and my parents did not fall in love with each other like in a life as we know it today, but were partnered together based on selection of convenience by the British. Much like when you mate a pair of animals together to reproduce for a specific purpose.

That’s not to say that my parents did not love each other or me after their paring, they grew very fond of each other as two people who have only each other to take comfort in and who were all alone in the world. They learned to love each other but instantly loved me when I was welcomed to the world.

During the day, my dad worked with a few other Aborigine men on the farm whilst my mother worked inside the big house. I’m not sure what she did exactly as they never spoke about it to me. I was by my dad’s side on the farm and received training from the white farmers on how to farm as soon as I could walk.

At night, we slept outside, barely sheltered from the cold and the rain. We were given rations to cook food with nothing to cook it with, so my parents made damper which is a type of bread that is cooked on a fire on the ground, and occasionally, received the left overs from the big house where the slaves fought over them like a pack of animals.

There were children and I wanted to play with them. I didn’t see colour, I didn’t see the difference between us. I just wanted to play with the other children and their toys. They looked like so much fun, all the bright colours and moving parts. I kept trying to play with them because they were being looked after the Aborigine women, but I kept getting removed from them every time I did and I remember crying uncontrollably.

But this was normal. This is all I knew in life. This was all my parents knew in life.

Meanwhile, the world around us was modern. The big house had electricity, heating, lights, television, radio, luxuries we thought was only available if you were human.

Yes. When I grew up in Australia, I was raised knowing that Aborigines were not human, we simply had similarities to humans like monkeys and apes. We were animals and this was the law. The Flora & Fauna Act. As a young child, I thought I was an animal, yet I had the capability of understand and communicating with humans.

I suffered the pain my mother, my faster and the other slaves endured when they were kicked, beaten and whipped like they were wild animals who had no sense or purpose but to serve their purpose. I would say live stock but the sheep and cows were treated more kindly than we were.

We were uneducated but one of the slaves in our yard had come from the outback and was convinced that we were being lied to, that we were humans. I remember the stories around the fire at night as he would talk in the broken Aboriginal dialect mixed with English that was spoken, similar to cave men speaking.

My parents didn’t believe it, but I remember the hope it filled me with. What if we were humans like this crazy guy was saying? What if we were the indigenous people of this land and that there are people who live like they use to out there?

Fast forward a few years. My mother, father and I had escaped. Years of the crazy guy’s teachings had made us want to rediscover who we were. We fled to the desert and had joined some a Murri mob.

They taught us the ways of the land and how to live and cook like our ancestors. We learned the language over many years and I grew up with the mob, meeting other Murri mobs and discovering what it meant to be alive.

At that point, I still didn’t know if we were human or not but I didn’t care. We were happy and safe.

That was, until our happiness was ripped away from us. One day when my father and I hunted with our group, some white men came in a car to where we were and shot their guns in the air. We knew that they came to shoot us. This was part of our old life and every Aboriginal person knew to run for their lives and we were no exception.

See, the white people could legally kill us for the sake of hunting. Because Indigenous people were regarded as fauna in the eyes of the law, these men simply needed a permit to shoot and kill us dead. We ran for our lives but my dad was shot dead by these bastards. They laughed and cheered as my dad slowly fell to the ground

I couldn’t even turn back to comfort him in his final moments as he bled out. I held back tears as the rest of our group ran back to solitude.

Thankfully, it wasn’t a common to be hunted like that, but one that was still considered normal to the white people.

Not long later, in 1967, Australia changed. The law that classified the Aborigine people as fauna was voted out by the people of Australia in a landslide and for the first time in my life, I was human. No longer would we be hunted like animals for sport, nor would we be deprived of our liberty.

 

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