Deadly Questions: ask Aboriginal champions anything about being Indigenous | Australia news


The Victorian government has launched a new website that will allow non-Indigenous people to ask questions of and about Aboriginal people in an attempt to build understanding as part of a push towards signing a treaty.

Called Deadly Questions, the website allows users to write in questions and receive a personal response from one or more “champions”.

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It is intended to help breach the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Victorians ahead of negotiations of a treaty or treaties, preparation for which is slated to begin in earnest this year if legislation establishing the framework for the process passes parliament.

The legislation is due to be debated on Tuesday. It was pushed back two weeks and faces a series of amendments proposed by Greens MP Lidia Thorpe, most of which were opposed by the government.

The Deadly Questions “champions” are all Aboriginal Victorians and include musician and Yorta Yorta man Adam Briggs, Gunditjmara film-maker and academic Richard Frankland, senior Wurundjeri elder Aunty Joy Murphy and Yorta Yorta Richmond Tigers AFLW player Natarsha Bamblett.

Frankland said no question would be out of bounds.

“This is an opportunity for any Australian to ask that question and say the thing that they are too scared to ask, or too afraid to ask,” he told Guardian Australia. “Not every Aboriginal person will agree with this and neither should they have to, because we are all different.”

Offensive and racist language will be screened out, but questions that have at their base a racist assumption will not. Rebutting those assumptions is part of the aim of the project, Frankland said.

Questions already listed on the site include: “Is being Aboriginal just the colour of your skin?” and “Why don’t we see many Aboriginal people around the city?”

Frankland directed video responses to many of the questions. He also answered a number, including “Why can’t Aboriginal people get over the past?”

He responded: “I often get asked: ‘why don’t you people get over it?’ I can’t be healed, I can’t get over it, until my non-Aboriginal colleagues get over it, until we stop living with the nursery version of history.”

Other questions include: “Why should I be sorry for something I didn’t do?” and “Can you get more welfare if you’re Aboriginal?”, both of which were answered by Briggs.

In response to the former, he said: “I don’t need every whitefella with dreadlocks to come up and tell me he’s sorry. I need true acknowledgement and that comes from the top down, from the government.”

Wemba Wemba actor and academic Carissa Lee said she was initially apprehensive about taking part, but also saw it as a way to help her community by correcting harmful assumptions.

Lee said reconciliation was the work of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, but “we have a lot more at stake about how we approach it”.

“There’s this power imbalance of people that are having to sacrifice bits of themselves to white people as a consequence of having to answer questions … We don’t get to just exist in the world,” she said.

“In Deadly Questions, I feel as though there’s been a priority to make sure that the questions that get through are safe, that they are not hurtful.”

Yorta Yorta elder Aunty Pam Pederson said educating non-Indigenous people was a way to continue the work of her parents: footballer, leader and Aborigines Advancement League co-founder Sir Douglas Nicholls and Lady Gladys Nicholls.

She has observed similar conversations with some fairly prominent players.

“I met the Queen a few times and Prince Philip; back in the old days, [prime ministers] Robert Menzies and Harold Holt,” she said. “Mum and Dad raised me to step into their shoes, and this is what I am doing.”



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