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Oodgeroo Noonuccal

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Amy James

on 12 November 2013

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Transcript of Oodgeroo Noonuccal

'We Are Going'
They came in to the little town
A semi-naked band subdued and silent
All that remained of their tribe.
They came here to the place of their old bora ground
Where now the many white men hurry about like ants.
Notice of the estate agent reads: 'Rubbish May Be Tipped Here'.
Now it half covers the traces of the old bora ring.
'We are as strangers here now, but the white tribe are the strangers.
We belong here, we are of the old ways.
We are the corroboree and the bora ground,
We are the old ceremonies, the laws of the elders.
We are the wonder tales of Dream Time, the tribal legends told.
We are the past, the hunts and the laughing games, the wandering camp fires.
We are the lightening bolt over Gaphembah Hill
Quick and terrible,
And the Thunderer after him, that loud fellow.
We are the quiet daybreak paling the dark lagoon.
We are the shadow-ghosts creeping back as the camp fires burn low.
We are nature and the past, all the old ways
Gone now and scattered.
The scrubs are gone, the hunting and the laughter.
The eagle is gone, the emu and the kangaroo are gone from this place.
The bora ring is gone.
The corroboree is gone.
And we are going.
Oodgeroo Noonuccal
Historical Context

50,000 years before European settlement Australia was occupied by Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders.
The first European fleet arrived in 1788
After the 18th-19th century Aboriginal lifestyle was radically impacted by the settlement of Europeans who robbed the Indigenous Australians of their culture and language.

People have been discriminated against based on the colour of their skin since the beginning of time; Aboriginal Australians are no exception to this
Despite the laws put in place, racism still occurs in our society
Indigenous Australians used to be denied full Australian Citizenships for the “new nation”
Aboriginals were forced to submit to European rule and were later encouraged to practice Western Culture.
Aboriginals were segregated from white people
The Aboriginal population was estimated to be at its lowest in the 1920’s, between 60,000 and 70,000 people.
In 1934 the Aborigines Act was introduced. It gave Aboriginals the same rights as white people, under the condition that they would ‘cease being Aboriginal’.
Despite their help in WWII on Australia’s side, people still continued to be racist towards them.
Until 1949, Aboriginals were not allowed to vote at Federal elections.
Until the 1960’s, Aboriginals were not eligible for social services.
Cultural Context
Oodgeroo grew up in Stradbroke, which was one of the few Aboriginal areas that was able to maintain an unusually high level of tribal culture.
Stradbroke Island had a rich Aboriginal history and was very culture-oriented
Her father, Edward, was part of the Noonuccal tribe.
She vividly recalled how her father taught his children about Aboriginal ethics and hunting skills. They hunted small game and fished only to feed themselves and others in their tribe, never for the sake of killing.
She was taught to be resourceful, and took pride in her family's ability to overcome many of the difficulties of Government-induced poverty by making what they needed from whatever was around
She consistently campaigned for Aboriginal rights, never abandoning her culture or her people, despite being finally accepted in white society.
When she returned back to Stradbroke Island in the 1970s, she changed her name back to Oodgeroo Noonuccal, recognising her Noonuccal ancestors whose land she had returned to.
Oodgeroo's Poetry
The poetry of Oodgeroo Noonuccal is powerful in its honesty and its sadness.
Her poems explore the racism and prejudice that the Aboriginals suffered, and she draws upon her own experiences.
She, as well as many other Aboriginal Australians, has suffered from the prejudice of the white people.
She often uses strong visual imagery and emotive language to promote the messages in her poems, and to evoke a strong response from the audience
Oodgeroo constantly challenged the society that victimised the Aboriginal peoples and her poems display her thoughts and feelings towards the treatment of her people during this time
'Colour Bar'
When vile men jeer because my skin is brown,
This I live down.

But when a taunted child comes home in tears,
Fierce anger sears.

The colour bar! It shows the meaner mind
of moron kind.

Men are but medieval yet, as long
as lives this wrong.

Could he but not see, the colour-baiting clod
Is blaming God

Born November 3rd, 1920 on North Stradbroke Island, Australia
Her father, Edward, was part of the Noonuccal tribe, and her mother, Lucy, was from inland
As she was left-handed, she was punished continuously for using her left hand to write and do needlework when she entered school. She frequently received blows to the back of her left hand and was forced to use her right hand instead.
She left school at the age of 13 and became a ‘domestic’, being paid two shillings and six pence a week during the Depression.
At the age of 16, she wanted to pursue a career in nursing, but found herself turned away by racist regulations that barred Aborigines from joining the program.
In 1941, she joined the Australian Women's Army Service during WWII, and it was a positive experience for her where she was accepted without prejudice.
She served as a telephonist and later trained as a stenographer, earning a promotion to corporal.
Oodgeroo was an Aboriginal poet, political activist, artist and educator.
She articulated the feelings of Aboriginal people for the rest of Australia.
With her first book of poems, 'We Are Going', she became the first Aboriginal poet to have a book published and became one of the best-selling poets.
Her works raised the question of human rights and equality.
She was also a major contributing factor in the recognition of citizenship rights for Aboriginals.
In December 1942 Oodgeroo became Kath Walker when she married Bruce Walker and had two sons; Denis and Vivian, but divorced 12 years later in 1954.
In the 1950s, Walker became interested in writing poetry and joined the Brisbane arm of the Realist Writer’s Group.
In 1964, her first collection of poems ‘We are Going’ was published by Jacaranda Press
It was the first book to be published by an Aboriginal woman and was reprinted 6 times over the next twelve months.
Furthermore, it was extremely popular with white Australian readers.
During the 1960s, as she was developing her reputation as a poet, she also became increasingly engaged in political activities in support of Aboriginal rights.
She became a member of the Australian Communist Party; the only political party in Australian that did not support the White Australia policy at this time.
In 1961 she served as the Queensland state secretary of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI). She was also involved in a number of other political organisations.
For many years she fought for an ‘Aboriginal Charter of Rights’ which sought to alter the conditions under which Aboriginals live for the better.
She was constantly challenging the society that victimised the Aboriginal peoples and stole Aboriginal land and resources.
The FCAATSI played a leading role for the voting rights and Australian citizenship for Aboriginals in 1967.
She campaigned successfully for the 1967 abolition of discriminatory, anti-Aboriginal sections of the Australian constitution.
Aboriginal suffrage was finally officially realised in 1967.
She won several literary awards, including the Mary Gilmore Medal in 1970, the Jessie Litchfield Award in 1975 and the Fellowship of Australian Writers’ Award.
She returned to Stradbroke Island in the 1970s where she changed her name back to Oodgeroo Noonuccal, recognising her Noonuccal ancestors whose land she had returned to.
She bought a property which she called Moongalba, which meant 'sitting down place' and established the Noonuccal-Nughie Education and Cultural Centre.
She died on September the 9th, 1993, at the age of 72 in Brisbane, Australia, of cancer.
This poem explores her disgust towards racial prejudice
As an Aboriginal rights activist, she evidently displays her hatred and dislike towards racism and prejudice through her descriptive poem
The visual imagery and metaphorical language convey her judgment that racial discrimination is a horrible behaviour which displays the negative side of people. The strong use of visual imagery and emotive language also evokes a strong response from the audience.
‘The colour bar’ highlights the barrier that exists between the two cultures of the Aboriginals and the white Australians. They reject the Aboriginals from their society due to their ignorance and unwillingness to see beneath exteriors, judging them based on personal prejudices and the colour of their skin, rather than their actions.

Occurred between 1869 and 1969
The “Stolen Generations” refers to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children that were forcefully taken away from their families by the Australian Federal and State agencies and certain Christian Church groups.
The white Australian people were led to believe that Aboriginal children were disadvantaged and at a risk in their communities and even their own families.
They were actually being removed so that the white people could force their ‘Anglo values’ and ‘work habits’ onto them and put an end to the Aboriginal culture, language and identity that was being passed down by generations.
The stolen children were taken to institutes where they would be locked in dormitories at night.
If they were considered “white enough” certain children would be fostered out to, often abusive, families.
Who made us all, and all His children He
Loves equally.

As long as brothers banned from brotherhood
You still exclude.

The Christianity you hold so high
is but a lie,

Justice a cant of hypocrites, content
With precedent.
http://www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets/noonuccal-oodgeroo http://www.notablebiographies.com/supp/Supplement-Mi-So/Noonuccal-Oodgeroo.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oodgeroo_Noonuccal

Modern laws forbid racism and other discriminative acts to protect freedom of religion
Since the 1960’s people of white and European descent have been trying to achieve reconciliation between the two cultures.
National “Sorry Day” was created in 1998 and has been held annually on the 26th of May. This day was created to pay respects and apologise for the mistreatment of the Aboriginal people.
Whilst racism is still not an uncommon thing, it is becoming increasingly frowned upon amongst society.
History of Australia:
The racism of her time (1920-1993)
The Stolen Generations:
Modern 'Solutions':
When the same racial discrimination is shown towards children, however, ‘fierce anger sears’. This indicates the anger parents experience when their children are faced with such cruelty, and causes the audience to sympathise with the victims of racial prejudice.
The use of the repeated word, ‘all’, in the poem emphasises that everyone is regarded as equal in front of God. The final stanza, however, indicates that even Christians observe racial prejudice, yet overlook it. This further enhances the belief that racial prejudice brings out the worst side of people, and how it is easier to turn a blind eye.
Oodgeroo effectively expresses her belief that racial prejudice is an unjust behaviour through her use of sound techniques including alliteration, repetition, assonance and rhyme
The poem explores many issues of her time, particularly the loss of their culture, and she draws upon her own cultural context to create a 'tangible' sense of reality.
The use of strong visual imagery and emotive language, evokes a strong response from the audience, allowing us to really connect to the poem and fully understand its meaning
There is no particular rhyme scheme in this poem, as it is free verse. This shows how Oodgeroo did not conform to the usual standard, and embraced her own culture, speaking her true thoughts and feelings; her voice would not be confined or left unheard.
The repetition of the words ‘we are’ enforce the strong connections that the Aboriginal peoples share with one another and highlight the importance of their cultural values in their sense of identity.
This represents the complete disregard of the Aboriginal people, along with their culture and their values. The racism and sense of superiority of this time was very high, believing that they had the right to treat the native inhabitants this way, and that there was nothing wrong about the way they were treated.
In the poem, white men are shown to believe that Aboriginals are strangers and treat them like they don’t belong in Australia. But they invaded the Aboriginal’s land and it is they who are the strangers
Due to the invasion of the whites, the Aboriginals lost a lot that they may never recover. They lost their sense of identity with themselves and their people, and their thoughts and attitudes were strongly tainted by the whites as they oppressed them onto them. The Aboriginals feel like they have become strangers as their sense of belonging and spiritual connection to the land has been lost; they are no longer sure of their identity.
The poem reflects on the past of the Aboriginal people, and allows the audience to see the importance of their cultural values. It also shows how much the Aboriginals have suffered, losing large parts of their culture, as well as their language, kinship and family connections, traditional knowledge, and their land.
The Bora ground and corroboree were both a valuable part of Aboriginal culture, containing layers of meaning based on religious knowledge, symbolism and myth. But with the invasion of the whites, they have been lost, showing how the Aboriginals were robbed of their lives and their sacred traditions.
The whites have taken over their lives and destroyed their values and what’s important to them; everything that makes them who they are has perished. And if everything that makes them who they are is gone, they will disappear soon too.
This is just what the whites wanted, with the process of assimilation put into place to slowly wipe out the Aboriginal culture and their race. The process of assimilation was to bring the Aboriginal people into conformity with the customs and attitudes of the ‘white nation’. They intended to help the native inhabitants ‘adapt and adjust’ to the modern world, by slowly blending them into the greater population, until they ceased to exist at all, and their race died out.
Symbolism of Layout
We chose this background because nature is such an important part of the Aboriginals' lifestyle, as they share a spiritual connection with the land. The tree represents the tree of life, and is symbolic because not only did their culture stem from there, but nature provided them with everything they needed to survive.
Oodgeroo's background information lies at the roots of the tree, as it represents her own roots, and she draws her inspiration and experiences from there.
The cultural context is beside the watering can as the cultural influence of her tribe was very important in making her the person she was; her culture helped her to develop and create a strong sense of identity, and the watering can represents this nurturing influence
The historical context deviates away from the tree, representing how drastically different the whites' attitudes were compared to the Aborigines, and how they tried to change the Aboriginals to conform to their standards, leaving behind their culture and their values
The 'We Are Going' poem analysis is set up in a 'life cycle' but is broken at the end, representing how the whites disrupted the Aboriginals' lifestyle so greatly that they have never been the same since
The rhyme scheme of the poem creates emphasis on the final word in each line, creating a lasting impact on the audience and enforcing a strong message about the attitudes of the whites
The alliteration in the lines such as 'the meaner mind of moron kind' and 'brothers banned from brotherhood', further enforces the meaning behind these lines and leaves a greater impact upon the audience
‘When vile men jeer because my skin is brown’, leads the reader to believe that Oodgeroo has been the victim of racial prejudice, but accepts the treatment more or less.
Subdued and silent’ shows how the Aboriginals were treated and their culture was suppressed. At the time of Federation there was an assumption that Aboriginal people were bound to ‘disappear’ and therefore the kind thing to do was to segregate them from white society to protect them from abuse and ‘ease their dying days’. The whites believed that they were awarding the Aborigines a kindness and generosity in what they were doing, but because of the harsh treatment from the whites, little remained of their tribe.
White men are represented as ants in the poem, busy working and hurrying around. This represents how they only think of themselves, and were so clearly involved with their sense of what they believed, they never stopped to think of the other perspective and consider how their actions have affected the Aboriginal people.
A Bora ring is the name of both an initiation ceremony of Indigenous Australians, and the site on which the initiation is performed. At such a site, boys achieve the status of men. This ring is central to the poem as it is not being respected, with the sign saying that ‘Rubbish May Be Tipped Here’.
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