I’m not an expert on Aboriginal spirituality // Cultural Appropriation in Australia

in Political Satire by



Some resources if you’d like to learn more about Aboriginal culture, history and politics:

HISTORICAL & POLITICAL RESOURCES:
Koorie Heritage Trust:
Koorie History:
Koorie Victoria and State Library of Victoria Collections:
WAR (Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance):
Welcome to Country:

MUSIC:
Treaty – Yothu Yindi (calling for Treaty):
January 26 – A.B. Original (change the date of Australia Day):
Took the Children Away – Archie Roach (about the Stolen Generation):
From Little Things Big Things Grow – Paul Kelly (about Land Rights):
Song for the Gurindji/The Gurindji Blues (Land Rights):

STOLEN GENERATION / LAND RIGHTS / RECONCILIATION
VIDEO Gary Foley: Sorry is not good enough, reconciliation is not justice, Native Title is not Land Rights:
VIDEO Our Generation documentary:
VIDEO From Little Things Documentary (Vincent Lingiari Land Rights):

ADVICE FOR ACTIVISTS:
VIDEO Gary Foley: Advice for white Indigenous activists in Australia video:
Decolonizing Solidarity:

OTHER:
VIDEO 1971 Springbok Tour of Australia (Aboriginal involvement in 1971 anti-Apartheid protests):
VIDEO Basically Black – comedy/satire Black Theatre production:

My other videos on cultural appropriation and similar topics:
Historical Context and Spiritual Integrity:
Shadow Work and Social Justice: as within, so without:

Laura Bowen’s website:

Book: Decolonizing Solidarity by Clare Land

Kelly-Ann Maddox’s video:

Benebell Wen’s video:

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18 Comments

  1. Very well-expressed, Katey. I did Aboriginal Studies as part of my BA and can only endorse everything you've said here. How lucky you are to have someone of the stature of Gary Foley as your lecturer! For my part, as a white settler Australian, the fact that I practise an earth-centred spirituality does NOT mean that what I do and believe is the same as that of Indigenous Australians, or that it gives me the right to use any of their rites and sacred sites without permission from the owners. This is a contention I've had quite a few times with some Australian pagans. The exception being things like Laura Bowen's cards which are freely given.

  2. This was definitely one of the most reasonable videos on the topic of cultural appropriation that I've seen so far. I appreciate the analogy with mental illness too, I think it illustrates the dilemmas and issues around the topic of claiming expertise perfectly. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!

  3. Great video K. I so agree with all you said. I also believe that the land you live on and were born on is your land to connect to in your own way. I remember living in OZ and it took me 4 years to "feel" the land. After that period I felt like the land accepted me in a way, like it opened up to me and I felt a distinct difference. That has nothing to do with the Aboriginal culture but with a very personal experience. I'm so with you on what u said about Aboriginal culture. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Thank you so much for this video! Such an interesting perspective. I wish that I had placed more emphasis on the value of supporting the work of oppressed groups financially. But there is always more to say on this complicated topic.

    You’re right about the search for permission from white people. In the comments underneath my video, lots of peeps made the point that they know someone from a specific culture who is ok with what they are doing or that there are lots of people from non-white groups who don’t believe in cultural appropriation.. It’s kind of a confirmation bias thing.

    The book you recommended looks so interesting!

    I’d like to ask you about the Dreamtime reading cards. How do you feel about the idea that lots of aboriginal people might not like the idea of you reading with them at all, may disagree with Laura Bowen making them for a white audience etc? Sometimes you’re trying to do the right thing and approach a culture in a conscientious way but you know that there are people from that culture who don’t think you should access it at all, and I think that is an understandable perspective but I am sometimes confused about what to do in response to that ‘no access’ point of view.

  5. You may not be an expert but your reseach, experience, introspection, respect, and consideration – you are definitely an important voice. Thank you for such a great video!!

  6. Such an important perspective! I feel this often gets lost in discussion on cultural appropriation, the problem is not so much engaging with other cultures but doing so from a perspective of a) having the right to do so without being called out for possible misuse by people from that culture, and b) without giving back (financially and otherwise) to that culture. It's quite different bying art, jewlery, or ritual or religious symbols from local artisans or ngo's supporting local causes, and buying "native" jewlery from h&m or whatever.

  7. I appreciate this perspective, As someone living in America, of European decent. I can totally understand. Unfortunately the whole world has been colonized. I was and still am a supporter of those who went to Standing Rock. I love learning about all cultures, much of mine own culture has been lost to time. I heard that each place on the planet has it own song. That we must learn that song of the land where we live. So understand the history of the people who inhabited the land before us is important. Although I do believe that all we have to do is open our hearts to the land and it will tell us it's story.

  8. You bring up a lot of interesting ideas that resonate with what Kelly-Ann said. For me, the jury is still out, but that’s because I interact with a different culture that probably wouldn’t be considered marginalized.

    I’ve read a lot of texts about marginalized cultures/histories written by peoples of those cultures, and I find those perspectives are very important for understanding the underlying appropriation/misrepresentation that occurs in the mainstream. Still, I think the issue is so fraught with caveats and qualifications that I’m still going to take more time to think things through.

    I really appreciate your thoughts on the subject of cultural appropriation and how it contributes to the larger conversation here in the virtual communities we’re a part of. ☺️

  9. You are a wonderful advocate for the value of being informed and educated about these issues. I’m disabled (born with Spina Bifida) and when you talked about the “top down” approach, it REALLY resonated with me. In college, there was a group of students who were asked to comment on the accessibility of the campus, and we all had plenty to say, but in the end they went with a committee of staff and faculty (with no disabled people it) to decide on the fatre of the campus, and the campus went from being not-very-accessible to dangerous. If they had just one disabled person on that committee, it would have been very different. What you said is true- no matter what the “issue” is, whether it’s Aboriginal culture, mental illness, disabilities and health issues- we need to start talking to the people who have experience with these things, not just the people who claim to be “experts”. This is actually a great lesson for life itself. Nothing replaces experience.

  10. This is such an interesting take on the cultural appropriation debate! I’m a South American woman living in Hungary, and living here I’ve become aware of the intense racial issues, discrimination and hate that lots of European countries hold against Roma settlements and communities. Here in Hungary Roma people are generally seen and treated as thieves, mentally inferior and animal-like. So when I started seeking tarot communities online I was shocked at seeing how common it is to take advantage and use the image of the “gypsy” in tarot decks and businesses, without any insight or effort to understand the culture behind or the damaging stereotypes that are passed on to by white people who believe Roma people are nothing more than nomadic fortune tellers. And this is a culture that is currently persecuted and abused by many powerful groups, but I’ve seen very little discussion online about how we as practitioners exploit these themes without addressing their struggles.

  11. I think what you said about power and money is so central to this discussion. One of the questions I ask myself about cultural appropriation is: is what I am doing extractive, manipulative, condescending or disrespectful? And that is just a start. Like you said there is no list but it goes back to your own ethics and morals. And how would you feel if your own culture had been abused and stolen from and traumatized and then this same group were turning around and trying to profit from your culture? There is no one answer for everything and everyone. But you said so many really critical things here. Supporting cultures that have been suppressed by supporting their artists and creators is a positive step I think. And the hive mind mentality that people assume about other racial groups than theirs is so important. Just because you know one East-Indian person or family who thinks its fine for you to wear a sari does not mean they all do. No one person can speak for ANY racial group and assuming that someone can simply makes their unique experience somehow smaller. Loved so much here. Thanks for addressing this subject.

  12. Great perspective Katey. Deprogramming a lot of the internalised colonisation habits is something to be more mindful of. It's great to learn about another culture and learn other languages (I'm actually a strong advocate of global multilingualism rather than needing a global "international" language. But this is obviously another topic for another time) but when it comes to incorporating aspects of another culture as one's own. That's where there needs to be a line drawn. We as white people are so heavily conditioned into the colonizer's narrative that we don't realise the harm we are actually causing unintentionally through cultural misappropriation.

    Celebrating the problematic holiday Thanksgiving in the US and Canada is an example of a damaging holiday that is literally a feast for celebrating the mass genocide of entire groups of indigenous people. Whilst it might seem harmless on the surface owning something that is supposed to be from another culture but made by a white person when it comes down to it, it does water down their culture and further harm the people associated with that culture.

    Asking for permission or being like: "Well, my friend is (insert minority group here) and they are totally fine with me doing it" is completely irrelevant. The fact that is being done in such a way to "exotify" or even "fetishise" a group of people isn't being generous or kind to the indigenous people. It just invalidates something that is theirs and has MORE meaning to them than it will ever have to a white person. That's why I shy away from tarot decks that are "Native American" themed or are specific to a non-white ethnic group and created by a white person. But having a non-inclusive only beautiful cis heterosexual white people decks as it depicts to racist mindset (even it is unintentional) of the superiority complex the colonisers had over the countries they've stolen without any remorse.

    Another thing that might seem harmless but is actually cultural erasure is mixing cuisines from two totally different cultures in an attempt to be "edgy" or creating thing "new and exotic". (Ex: Sushi Burrito) That is in itself is disrespectful to both cultures being misappropriated and for what exactly?

    Research is the first step followed by respect and reflection and then experiencing it in the most genuine way possible.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences!

  13. YES! Thank you for your clarity and compassion. I have Laura's Saltwater Reading Cards and absolutely love them. I know there are other decks out there marketed as Aboriginal, but I'm pretty sure that some of them aren't done by Indigenous Australians. Which other decks do you have in your collection that you know are by Indigenous artists/writers? Thanks so much.

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