He was one of two Indigenous people working for Mardi Gras, where he was a workshop artist.
Queers for Reconciliation is happening now because we're at a critical moment in our history of Black-White relations in this country, particularly with the Howard government. I'd say that there was a need for this kind of thing a long time ago because there are lot of poofs and dykes with very serious misconstructions of what Aboriginality is. There's a lot of queer racists as well. It's significant that this comes at a time of [Mardi Gras'] twentieth celebration. That whole queer movement in the 70s was a parallel movement with other movements like Indigenous civil rights and feminism. In a sense they have a parallel history that go quite nicely together.
There is a sense of invisibility of Indigenous people in queer politics and the queer community. Wendy Brady was one of the first Aboriginals on the Mardi Gras board, and I'm the only Aboriginal staff here and I'm only here until this finishes. So it's about issues of visibility. I believe that being visible is the most important thing there is.
The Indigenous queer community has been part of my culture since year dot. It's always been there, it's just been given a name. I remember my mother telling me about gay uncles of her's. Fred Nile [homophobe] has said that he has got support from a group supposedly representing Aboriginal people, and about blocking the Mardi Gras route. Some Aboriginal people just assume that because it might not have been part of traditional life in their particular nation that there can't be a change. They've formed an idea that we are static group that can never change and we've got to keep these values and attitudes forever. Perhaps there weren't lesbians and gays in their nation but for me it's always been there, it's just been given a name.
Queers for Reconciliation is part of a general movement. Whites have realised that the onus is theirs to start the process of reconciliation. That this is the twentieth anniversary of Mardi Gras is making the queer community be introspective about the rights that have been gained, and from that looking at what more work has got to be done. They've realised that Indigenous issues were a big blank and they thought, Well, it's about time this thing was addressed.
Queers shouldn't rest on their laurels
thinking that they exist in some kind of cultural vacuum in and of themselves
and are not influenced by any one else, like the straight community. A
lot of them come from communities where there has been a tradition of the
oppression of Indigenous people, so it's really stupid to think that they
don't hold those values as well. Yes, they are an oppositional culture
separate from heterosexuality, but that doesn't mean that they don't have
the same prejudices as White heterosexuals. I've come up against racism
in the queer community.
And a lot of Aboriginal people can be homophobic. I remember growing up at school being taunted by other Black boys. Every queer Black girl and boy experiences that. It's about being a part of both worlds. There's a funny ether world in between and Queers for Reconciliation is a nice way of inclusion. I love the idea of the mix. That's what queer is and what reconciliation is. It's a solidarity with each other. I think that reconciliation and queerdom go very well together.
There are so many facets to reconciliation. Firstly there's the invisibility thing. The 1967 referendum was the first recognition that there was somebody here [before the Whites arrived]. There was a policy of Indigenous people not existing, not being counted in the census. Terra Nullius was challenged in 1992, and then we only got rid of it in a certain context, only in terms of common law. It's not in terms of people's psychology. Terra Nullius existed because Whites didn't think we were human and that is still perpetuated today by people like John Gorton [ex Prime Minister] a couple of months ago saying that we didn't invent the wheel. Who invented the wheel, for god's sake? He didn't invent the wheel! We have been erased from technology - they don't have the right technology - and then erased from history. A lot of Black fellas don't know the huge civil rights movement of their own people.They look to African-Americans, the most obvious, but never realise the huge movement that happened here and the great struggles.
And it's about self-determination. There's the question of what is self-determination? White people and Black people have to realise that there are a lot of different nations and individuals who have different ideas about what these things are. I'm an educated, Western person with an Aboriginal background so my idea of self-determination is going to differ from someone out in the bush, or even in Redfern. We have to get rid of this idea of homogeneity.
They have this big benchmark that the Reconciliation
process should be finished by the year 2001 (laughter). I'd love to see
that. I don't think it's going to happen. I think that this float will
happen every year until true reconciliation is achieved. And going from
[the response to] this one, the first one, I believe it will. This started
off with only two people who had an idea and now there's three hundred
people on a float. It's got momentum to keep going.