- by Emily Messieh
Advance Australia - Fair
Our country is not what it could be.
These lands are not ours. Never have been, never will be. How can we celebrate a day where blood was spilt, women were raped, children were stolen, the land was plundered? Generations of wrongdoing cry out to us today, if we will only listen to them. They cry to us through poverty, through enormous rates of unjust incarcerations, and those whose trauma continues every day. There is great loss here. There is great wrong. And it continues still today.
And yet here I stand, a white woman. With wealth and wellness and happiness. My path has not been straight or easy, but I have been given the chance to flourish. An education. A house. Food. Clothes. Yet safety is still not something I have. A woman like me dies every week in our country. A legal system that does not favour me in cases of assault, abuse or violence. A heavy load to carry because of this assault, abuse and violence. The opportunity to get well mentally, but only because I have wealth - repairing trauma comes at great cost. An opportunity to climb the career ladder - baby in one hand - job in the other. Unable to walk alone at night. And yet my own home is the most unsafe place for any of us in this country. Australia is not a safe place for me. Because I am a woman. And I am still not free.
Our country burns. We have ravaged our lands. We have not loved them as we should. We have not cared for nature and protected her as we should have. And now we reap the consequences for this. Homes destroyed, communities gutted, animals burned. We have done this to a land which was never ours to do this too.
And for those who come across the sea, we claim we will share. But we will only share if they can pay our exuberant visa cost. If they can prove their own worth to us. The bar is set so high, I do not believe I would even pass it. But I do, because I was born here. You do not, because you were not. The fence is high, and the injustice higher. We imprison people fleeing for freedom for infinite periods of time, as a warning sign to those who will continue to flee. For when the choice is stay and die or flee and be imprisoned - I would still flee too.
Australia, who are we? We are not young, we are not free. But we do long for liberty. We long for compassion, generosity and justice. Close your eyes for a minute and imagine with me: a world where a young woman is safe and free to love and build a career where she is protected from bullying and harassment and can pursue a future of her dreams. A country that welcomes and includes foreigners - giving them their rightful place amongst us - building connected communities - loving and cherishing diversity. A land that belongs again to it's traditional owners - where reconciliation begins - and truth telling is spoken - and we weep together. And we begin to rise together. A country that no longer pursues greed and economic wealth over plundering our planet - a country that knows we must all care for and love this earth - and one that all do their bit to make this world a place that flourishes for generations to come.
This would be an Australia I would be proud of. We can dream. And we can create. Advance Australia - to fairness and equality, and justice, and reconciliation, and safety. Advance Australia - fair.
Emily is a renowned community connector, advocate for women, Asset Based Community Development advocate and leader in her local community, recognised for her work as the Local Woman of the Year in New South Wales in 2016. She has delivered training and workshops all around Australia, empowering communities to address gender based violence and discover the inherent dignity and worth in everyone.
See all previous articles and poems by Emily Messieh