‘The Day Australians Became Refugees’: Exposing the faultlines 8g - A crisis of colonial logic


A crisis of colonial logic

A small child sits on a woman's shoulders. The child holds a cardboard placard in front of their face which reads 'Protect and Respect Sacred Land!'. The sign also features a drawing of planet earth and the Aboriginal flag with a yellow heart at its centre.

[imagecaption] Climate Justice Emergency Rally, Boorloo (Perth), 2020. Photo: Simon Stevens. [/imagecaption]


In an article for the January 26 holiday that commemorates the anniversary of white arrival in 1788, Amy McQuire marked that the rupture of the indispensable relation between people and country lies at the heart of the current climate crisis in Australia:

January 26 does not just symbolise the pain and trauma of our people. It is the beginning of the pain and trauma of this Country over the past 200 years, that has culminated in these disastrous, distressing bushfires. In many parts of this continent, the Country has not heard the languages that have been spoken for tens of thousands of years upon it. It has not been cared for in the way Aboriginal people for tens of thousands of years had cared for it. Instead, it has been ripped up and carved up and the waterways and rivers, particularly in NSW, are drying up. In many areas, for example in Borroolloola in the NT, sacred waterways have been polluted by big mining, the fish now contaminated with lead.

McQuire notes the colonial logic that culminated in the disaster of the bushfires, overturning settler assumptions of the racialised distinction that held [white] Australians could never be refugees. Her words return us to Tracey Moffatt’s  insights about the overturning of colonial divides and the undoing of geographies in her video on white panic occasioned by the wreckage of The Janga off the coast of Christmas Island:

The smashing of that rotten wooden boat is symbolic of how borders around the world are disintegrating. The old world is out, the new world is coming in and borders cannot stay closed.




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