‘Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Queensland. For your safety and comfort, please remain seated with your seat belt fastened until the Captain turns off the Fasten Seat Belt sign.’
Finally! I couldn’t help expressing my relief out loud.
The elderly white woman sitting next to me was a typical Queensland retiree. With her 1950s roller set hair style cemented in hair spray, and a floral Easter Show gown, she looked like something straight off the cover of a retro Women’s Day magazine.
“Excuse me. Would you mind collecting my bag from overhead?” she asked.
She forgot to say please, I thought to myself but let it go.
“Of course. No problem”, I replied.
She thanked me and proceeded to tell me how nice it was to meet a visitor to ‘Her’ hometown.
I’m not a friggin’ visitor! I just arrived home. This is my hometown. I was born here. I’m a traditional owner. I’m Aboriginal.
“Oh I’m not a visitor, I’m actually from here”, I corrected her.
I watched as ignorance distorted her face with confusion and curiosity before belted out more stupid questions.
“I didn’t know any Aborigines were from here. You don’t look Aboriginal. Are your parents from here?” she asked.
Attempting to avoid further conversation, I just nodded and smiled politely back at her. “What about your Grandparents?” she asked. ”Yep, they’re from here too”, I replied. As the plane cleared I got up and grabbed her bag from the overhead locker.
“So how long have they been here?” she asked.
A gap opened up in the queue providing me with a timely escape. I shouted back at her as I took off down the aisle.
“Approximately 65,000 years darl?”
I let the experience wash over me as I walked towards the taxi rank. I was home after all, heading to a job interview. I had to focus. Do you know how often we get asked about our identity? Asked where we’re from, to clarify it, to justify it. These questions are offensive, disrespectful, insulting, and annoying. And they happen aaaaall the time.
The cabbie stared at me in the rear view mirror, and with the wobble of his head and a board smile he welcomed me.
“Welcome to Brisbane”, he said.
As I instructed him to take me into the city, I could feel the inevitable questions approaching.
“Are you coming from India?” he asked.
Here we go again I thought to my self.
“No I am from Brisbane”, I stated.
“Oh because I am thinking you are coming from Indian!” he said. “Your parents? Are they coming from India?”
“No they’re not coming from India either”, I responded. Breath I said in my head. Just breath.
The journey was an interrogation of ancestry and heritage, of my Grandparents, Great Grandparents, and Great Great Grandparents.
“Someone must have been coming from India”, he insisted.
I paid and jumped out of the cab relieved to reach my destination.
“No one is coming from India. My family are all from here, we’re Aboriginal”.
“Ah yes Aboriginal. I know an Aboriginal man”, he shouted.
“I’m sure you do”, I said to myself. I readjusted my outfit, fixed my hair and stood in readiness for my interview.
When I finally got there, I’m faced with an all white panel of interviewers. It didn’t faze me but you would think there’d be one Indigenous person. After all this was an ‘identified’ position, where only Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people could apply as it was specific to my culture, heritage, profession and education. Yep, Welcome to Queensland.
“So what part of your family is Aboriginal?” was the first question.
I lent across the table, grabbed the glass of water, took a big gulp.
Yep, Welcome to Australia.