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I was raised to think and act white, which has been a hard thing to come up against and change in my life. I am a black man, I’m an Indigenous Australian, and I am an Aboriginal, I am a native. I think with my head and my heart simultaneously, as we all do. We live and dream the land. To be raised to think white and act white, how did they do that? I used to ask my mother’s mother if I was Aboriginal, if I was dark, if I was black. She used to say “You’re not Aboriginal, you have just got a sun tan.” My mother used to give me the same answer. But I didn’t stop searching, I spoke to people who might have known my dad and I found out who I was. Rhys Nagas. Wiradjuri man. Health and Wellness Professional

Photography by Belinda Mason.

Assimilation as a concept is necessarily racist because it presupposes that the majority culture is inherently superior to the minority culture. It creates its own justification for the enforced imposition of the majority culture on the minority. We need to remember the old saying, ‘Assimilation equals genocide’, because the logical end result of assimilation is that Aboriginal people with Aboriginal cultural values no longer exist. So unless we want a future Australia where there are no Aboriginal people, but rather people who are brown on the outside and white on the inside, and who talk, think and act like white people, then we need to debate, challenge and resist the dominance of assimilationist ideas and policies in Australia today.

Dr Gary Foley

Gumbainggir man

Senior Lecturer in History, Victoria University, Melbourne