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The Northern Myth

Jan 24, 2014

Jessica Mauboy, Australia Day and taking the cheap shots

I am able to celebrate Australia day and embrace the stories of survival. I want to know the stories and share them with people as well. I have accepted that as a big part of my life, as a 24-year-old indigenous woman.


Jessica Mauboy is not my (musical) cup of tea but earlier this year I was able to redeem my status as a really shit godfather to my 11 year old goddaughter when I slipped her a copy of Jessica’s latest album for her birthday.

Here in the Top End Jessica Hilda Mauboy is “our Jess” who can do no wrong.

For those who’ve come in late (or have lived under a rock for the past eight years) Our Jess is a young Indonesian/Australian (in the truest sense of that nationality) performer of stage, screen and record who grew up in Darwin and has the strongest of ties to this place.

Elsewhere in the country it seems that she is less well regarded.

Last evening on Facebook – that journal-of-record-for-self-appointed-moral-arbiters – journalist Chris Graham threw this post into the Facebook cesspit:

Jess Mauboy participating in Australia Day celebrations…. Hmmmm

That started a long comment chain, much of it dismissive of Jessica’s participation in a series of Australia Day concerts on Sydney Harbour. I popped up with the suggestion that Jessica could maybe play at both the Australia and Invasion/Survival day gigs and that criticising her for doing her job was a cheap shot.

That attracted this response from Chris Graham:

Really Bob? Really? Jessica Mauboy enjoys privileges today that she would NEVER have enjoyed if it wasn’t for the people before her who sacrificed so much.

Celebrating Australia Day dishonours them all.

Presume you support Anzac Day? Can’t see any link?

If there was a national day on any other day – a day that didn’t mark the theft of Aboriginal land – then go for it.

Until then blackfellas who participate in Australia Day celebrations are, in my book, not only part of the problem, but unlike bogans they cannot plead ignorance.

Makes it far worse.

Nala Mansell popped up with the one word comment “coconut.” Arika Biara Errington reckoned that Jessica was “Just another to add to the assimilation pile.”

Around this time I backed out and watched this unseemly brouhaha from afar.

Michael Brull was one of the few to argue against the apparently common view that Jessica Mauboy was some kind of traitor to her heritage.

Disagree with Chris. It’s worse being white and celebrating Australia Day imo.

A conqueror celebrating their victory and ignoring the suffering the conquest brought about – whether through racism or stupidity – strikes me as more obscene than someone insincerely paying lip service to it.

To which Chris Graham responded:

Brull: I actually think ignorance is an excuse. Not a particularly good one, but an excuse none-the-less.

I know a lot of non-Aboriginal people who really just don’t get it. As the years roll on, I think they’re running out of excuses for their ignorance.

But Jess Mauboy has absolutely no excuse.

She knows what it means – she went for the cash instead.

I have a major issue with that. But I take your point.

The discussion (for want of a better word) then morphed into a churlish thread about Jessica’s response to the US-version of the DVD cover of the hit movie “The Sapphires when released there.

At this point I retreated to my bed and my dreams.

In this morning’s NT News  – with her face splashed across the front page – Jessica sends this message (in part) from her home in Darwin:

I think Australia gives you a unique identity. Although we are so diverse, somehow we resolve that in the one word, Australia.

It makes us bigger and better than our differences. That is our heart.

And in what may work as a post dated answer to those who doubt her sincerity, Jessica has this to say about Australia Day:

I am able to celebrate Australia day and embrace the stories of survival. I want to know the stories and share them with people as well.

I have accepted that as a big part of my life, as a 24-year-old indigenous woman.

You want to help that situation, to help people heal and maybe singing a few songs and being the colour I am can help.

Let’s not be bitter, let’s be proud of who we are and being here and living so they get to tell their family’s stories to the next mob.

We’re all free and good to go, that’s the opportunity we have to grab. We have to help each other to make it better, to make it special.

Jessica will headline the Harbour Concert Series on Sunday along with a “melting pot” of other artists. 

The Yabun Festival will be held at Victoria Park in Sydney to celebrate the the 25th Anniversary of the original Survival Day Concert of 1988.

Robert Gosford —

Robert Gosford

Likes birds and people, not necessarily in that order.

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4 thoughts on “Jessica Mauboy, Australia Day and taking the cheap shots

  1. Diane Bell

    Jessica, so well said. Enjoy yourself, you are a wonderful role model for young Australian women be they pink, purple, black, white……who cares!

  2. Tom Jones

    I was at a ceremony where the Aboriginal Flag and the Torres Strait Islander flag were flown along with the Australian flag. There was an acknowledgement of country by a large number of people and of the ancient nature of the Aboriginal Culture.

    Australia Day was only invasion day in NSW and the date has little significance in other regions of Australia except it was the day that immigrants and native born came into contact on the broader continent.

    Jessica Mauboy is a great ambassador for Reconciliation and Recognition of the fact that the Aboriginal people were here for tens of thousands of years before colonial rule was established. She is proof of the need to get along with each other now since we can’t change the past. Not only that she is talented and generous.

  3. Hector Lung

    Jess Mauboy is solid. In the bigger picture she is actually quite a radical. Compared to the other pop dollies, she has been staunch in backing her heritage and NT lifestyle and has copped plenty in recent times. Only a few weeks ago she was lambasted for being in a goose hunt, standard Top End fare. Why do I say “radical”? Well on 26 January any performer getting up at any mainstream event and being proud of their Aboriginal heritage is running a risk. 26 January has increasingly become the day to become self-congratulatory and pour scorn on anyone even hinting at our troubled history. Far better for Jess to hit the boards and put a spunky brown face into mainstream proceedings than save her talents for those converted to the cause. Jess doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone but I have been rapt in her getting down to Kununurra each year recently to play a gig to the locals at an Aboriginal run family festival. No biggie – just her way of getting among the people and being real. When you cop it from both sides Jess, you know you are on the good path.

  4. TheFamousEccles

    Graham, Brull, et al are soooo hand-wringingly emblematic of what is standing on the neck of this fair country, and to my mind (if I can borrow from one of these people) they are able to do so as they “enjoy privileges today that (they) would NEVER have enjoyed if it wasn’t for the people before (them) who sacrificed so much”.

    Jessica Mauboy’s music is not to my taste, but as an individual she is several orders of magnitude ahead of these clowns. To maintain composure in the face of such outright animosity is grace personified.

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