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Dharug Voices – Shanaya Donovan

Dharug Voices is a storytelling series celebrating Country and supporting new works by custodians and artists.

Shanaya Donovan is a Dharug and Gumbaynggirr emerging writer from Western Sydney. On 26 January 2021, Arts & Cultural Exchange (ACE) commissioned Shanaya’s compelling work Ignorance. This work paints a poignant and emotional picture of the life of a young Dharug woman (Shanaya Donovan) as she chronicles her thoughts, feelings and the actions surrounding January 26. This day serves as a bitter reminder of the traumas inflicted upon First Nations communities, and the protagonist refuses to be silenced in the face of ignorance and criticism. This work is a proud declaration of who she is and where she comes from.

This work was made possible through Create NSW’s Rescue and Restart fund.

The full piece is available to read below.

Shanaya Donovan is a Dharug and Gumbaynggirr emerging writer from Western Sydney. Ignorance commissioned 26 Jan 2021 by Arts & Cultural Exchange as part of our Dharug Voices storytelling series.

Ignorance by Shanaya Donovan

While waiting in the line at Kmart to buy flag paraphernalia, the white women in ugg boots will contest my right to wear my ‘Invasion Day’ shirt. This is only a free country for the white people, and god forbid I be free to speak my mind on my own land.

While preparing to drink all night, they argue and discuss why the 27-year-old tradition of drinking till they can’t stand outweighs my right to be upset on this date. Let’s celebrate! Celebrate our brave warriors, their murders and mutilations of thousands of men, women and children! The arsenic in the water, the diseases, the massacres. Let us celebrate teaching violence and hatred to peaceful people.

While watching the news that night, people who have never experienced dispossession and the stolen generation will question why I couldn’t just get over it, why I wasted a day, as I and several others are arrested on live television. They will call it terrorism, but the true terrorists raised their flag on my shores on the 26 January 1788.

While watching the first fleet parade in the street, the patriots will scorn as I expose my middle finger to the paper mache colonial monsters who came seeking imperial expansion and who bought hatred, sickness and violence to my shores. But hark a reminder from the imperialistically out of touch Prime Minister, ‘it wasn’t a flash day for those on first fleet vessels either.’

I am the amalgamation of my ancestors. Their beliefs, behaviours, attitudes, values and personalities are what make me who I am. My culture is at work within me, a constant, driving force in the decisions I make and sides I stand on, tearing me between the preservation and modernisation of my culture. However on the 26 January each year, I am compelled by both sides to dispute the celebrations of murder, rape and dispossession.

My identity, opinions and lifestyle will be questioned within an inch of my life, as men and women who have never experienced the long-lasting effects of invasion and colonisation, debate whether or not my trauma is a valid enough reason to change the date of a national day. To them, I am still a savage. But to my people, my allies and myself – I am a young, black woman from Western Sydney, proudly living and fighting on the Country my ancestors were born and bred on.

No matter what I do or where I go, my opinions as a disadvantaged, intergenerationally traumatised Aboriginal girl will be an issue for some of those around me. However, as the living essence of my ancestors, it is my place to say that the grim and raw history associated with Australia’s First Nations people and their interaction with imperial and colonial powers has no place being ignored on the day Australia is celebrated.

But their anger and distaste for me and my people will not deter me. It will never deter me.

Still, I will run the streets with ochre on my face and dirt on my feet. The spirit of my ancestors flowing freely in me will escape my feet and hands and back into mother earth and father sky. They will give me energy and tell me to stand on my Country and demand justice. I will flaunt my brown skin, my eyes the colour of the earth, my skin the colour of the dust. I will sport my emu feather earrings and my handwoven accessories because I refuse to be afraid to tell people who I am. I refuse to be silent so others can be comfortable. I will show Australia the beauty they fail to mourn.



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