Ep #20 Wearing the black armband: Mick Dodson talks ongoing colonisation in Australia

“The black armband is going to be worn until there’s reason to take it off. And we haven’t given, as a nation, any reason to take it off. And it’s not about blaming the present generation. But we can blame them if they refuse to accept this history.”

iTunes Button (via NiftyButtons.com)Professor Mick Dodson AM, a Yawuru Aboriginal man, Australian barrister, academic and recently retired Director of the National Centre for Indigenous Studies at ANU, talks to our own Julia Brown about some of the ongoing struggles for Indigenous Australians. They discuss education aSubscribe on Androidnd language, calling out everyday racism and unacceptable behaviours toward women, the role of anthropology in Indigenous Australian affairs, the Northern Territory Intervention, the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and self determination. The Native Title Act (or Settlement) is also mentioned, along with the Stolen Generations and the 2008 Apology. Their conversation concludes with a reflection on Indigenous meanings of health and well-being.


“We don’t look back enough to go forward, I don’t think. We need to look in the rear view mirror everyday.”

“Where have we gone in Indigenous education in 230 years of colonisation? Not very very far, would be my view. And what has happened is recent, and reluctant.”

“These are probably the oldest languages in the world. There’s something wrong with your values if you don’t think that that heritage is of any worth.”

“The thing that troubles me about anthropologists is that there’s a level of preciousness that seems to afflict the discipline.”

“I think the great thing that’s happened in research of any sort but particularly anthropology is the ethical clearances processes … how are you going to be impartial, independent – that’s where preciousness gets in the way.”

“Maybe we should select people to study anthropology with greater scrutiny.”

“‘Going native’ ought to be frowned upon. You know, you can understand it but don’t try and become it.”

“In its essence self determination is having control of your destiny, as a group. It’s a right of peoples … coupled with social justice it means that you as a group are in control of the decisions that affect not just your daily lives but what happens to you as a group, into the future.”

“With the Uluru Statement, it’s been framed in a negative way … The response is really mean-spirited, and unfair, unjust, and a perpetuation of the colonial project really – ‘we’ll decide what’s best for you black fellas, cause we have the power and whatever you dish up we can say yes or no to.’”

“It’s not always recognisable, it’s subtle, almost hidden … people who don’t have to live with racism everyday don’t recognise it, I don’t think.”

“We’re human beings with the same potential as any other human being … they treat us like children.”

“Subsection 26 of section 51 [of the Australian constitution] allows the parliament to pass laws that can be racially discriminatory. And they have. Since 1967, they have, at least five times, used that power to discriminate against Australia’s indigenous people and only Australia’s indigenous people.”

“There is a connection between culture and identity confusion … connecting the young with the broader family, clan, nation, universe, has broken down, through colonisation and dispossession.”

“Yawuru people have a notion of Liyan, which is a feeling of well-being … health is not just a physical condition, it’s also a spiritual and intellectual and cultural condition.”


Dodson, M. 1994. ‘The End in the Beginning: Re(de)finding Aboriginality’ Wentworth Lecture.

Referendum Council 2017.  Uluru Statement from the Heart

This anthropology podcast is supported by the Australian Anthropological Society, the ANU’s College of Asia and the Pacific and College of Arts and Social Sciences, and the Australian Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, and is produced in collaboration with the American Anthropological Association.

Music by Pete Dabro: dabro1.bandcamp.com

[Image of the Milky Way sourced at Pixarbay: https://pixabay.com/en/milky-way-starry-sky-night-sky-star-2695569/]

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