Gunaikurnai and Wotjobaluk creative Ben Abbatangelo introduced the piece by saying that there ‘are a lot of things about the Queen’s death that doesn’t sit well with Blackfellas,' before ‘inviting’ the audience to ‘lean into these truths’.
His segment criticised the ‘overwhelmingly positive’ media coverage of the Queen’s death, while adding that it came as ‘no surprise’.
“It’s history once again being written to the hymn of whiteness,” he said, before pointing out that the Queen and monarchy “represent a system of colonialism, a practice that has crippled generations of First Nations people”.
The writer sat down with Indigenous leaders Meriki Onus and Celeste Liddle to get a perspective that was lost in the vast majority of positive media coverage.
“As an Aboriginal person living in the colony, it was more obvious that we’re living in a completely different reality to everybody else here,” activist and author Meriki told Ben.
“This fanfare that they have for this person who’s so far removed from our reality … it’s weird and it’s really strange to watch.
“In fact, I do find it a bit insulting.” she said.
Celeste told Ben that the backlash aimed at anyone who says something negative about the monarchy has grown even bigger after the Queen’s death.
She also argued that the Queen shouldn’t be celebrated, because she’s "a direct descendant of people who signed off on our dispossession.”
“She benefits from that. This absurd idea that this one family has been bestowed the gift from God to rule over us all? The slavery, the dispossession, the resources that they’ve gotten wealthy off — she’s the direct representative of that system,” she said passionately.
“It seems bonkers to me that a system like that can still exist, and that people are so quick to reinforce it.”
Meriki also added that it ‘was not lost on her’ that the Queen could have a funeral that cost £9,000,000, but many First Nations families struggle to pay for funerals due to the system that the monarchy created in Australia.
“That wealth was gained by the dispossession of my family, and people,” she said passionately.
As Australia paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, our First Nations community were left feeling differently. @benjyabba speaks to other First Nations people about how they felt and why it's important the country starts talking about what the monarchy stands for.#TheProjectTV pic.twitter.com/3Yio1yhXUC
— The Project (@theprojecttv) September 30, 2022
After the segment aired, Ben admitted that he felt ‘revved up’ hearing the leaders tell their stories.
“It’s been a very clarifying couple of weeks. To see the media and so many people default to uphold the whiteness of it all has been really extravagant,” he told the panel.
Fellow panellist Hamish Macdonald was curious to know how Ben felt while watching Australian leaders proclaiming “God save the King”.
“It’s absurd, how do you feel?” Ben replied. “We’re saying from our vantage point, ‘Hey, everyone’s getting screwed.’ At the bottom of this, we certainly are — but all of you, how does this sit with you?”
The Project shared the full segment on all their social media accounts but turned comments off in an effort to keep the conversation centred around the First Nations’ community perspective.
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