Interview with Robert Bropho, Nyungar Elder


- posted to cdp:reg.easttimor on May 26, 1997

Originally printed in the New Internationalist, May 1997

[Note from poster, JC: Robert Bropho is a respected Aboriginal elder, an activist, a film maker and a "stirrer". He is a member of the Nyungar group, living on a tiny remnant of bushland surrounded by Perth suburbs. His interview with "New Internationalist" in May 1997, is printed below. He is presently a fighter for Aborigine land rights in Australia for all his peoples. We hope that he wins.]

Like other Aboriginal communities across this immense country the Nyungar are fighting for both land rights and cultural survival. Robert, now age 67, is right in the forefront of those efforts. Years of activities may have etched his face but they have only honed his mind. He has one foot planted firmly in the old ways and the other planted in the present struggle of his people to secure title to their land, and hold onto their identity against powerful forces of change. He speaks the truth....

"I worry about what is going to happen to us blackfellas. I'm worried about the young girls and boys who will become the adult women and men of tomorrow. What will their chances of survival be? Who will they turn to if they lose their roots? Will they just be forced to accept whatever the white man says: that we must leave behind what we once were, that we must forget our rituals, our religion and cultures? The white man says there's a bloke named Jesus Christ and a god in the sky. And there's a devil down in the ground. They build their cities. They destroy the land, the forests. They pollute the water.

Right in the middle of all their main cities, they've got their worshipping places. Five days a week they go about their business. Saturday they go shopping, and one day a week they go and pray for forgiveness from the god in the sky who knows what's right and what's wrong. But we are a nation and our religion and culture is a long way older than Jesus Christ. He was only on the earth 2000 years ago. We were the first race here before the white man came. We've got sacred sites here dating back over 100,000 years -that's a hell of a long time.

Black people today go to the white man's school, and what they are taught is how great the white man is. They leave out all the bad parts -how in the early days he'd come upon a group of Blacks and just shoot them all; how white men used to travel from a town called Busselton (down south of PerthWA) on three months excursions, killing blackfellas for sport. They'd catch them, then kill the men and rape the women. The kids they'd bury in the ground up to the neck and have a sport of kicking their bloody heads off. Those things have got to be told.

The white men today can't say, "Oh, that's all history now, just forget about it". He talks about his wars, "lest we forget", and how Sunday is the day to pray, and the 25th of December is the birthday of Jesus. He wants to remember all this. But in Australia he wants us to forget about who we are and what we've been through. He came, he stole, he raped, he killed our kids and then he turns around and says: "What's in the past, what we did to you, forget about it." We can't do that.

My own hope is that Aboriginal culture should be taught in all schools and white kids should understand it, so that the old hard-core people that's got hatred for Blacks will die out. My only hope for this community is that those white kids of today will have a clear understanding when they take their place in society. The gov't here is trying to have absolute control over aboriginal people. They've got total control over the land, now they want total control over us human beings. Until that's done they won't stop. So where is it all going to end? I can predict what's going to happen. You can bear witness, if I'm dead when it happens, that violence will come to the streets of each capital city.

I believe we now have a good chance to show the world this lack of justice for Aboriginal people. We are planning therefore to disrupt the Summer Olympic games in Sydney in the year 2000. Indigenous people the world over should work towards stopping them. We've already started this effort and have received some feedback. If these Olympic games are stopped, if indigenous people come together to make this happen, then the white man has no-one to blame but himself, because he's inflamed all that hatred.

I've lived my life studying things and I'm a pretty good judge of men's and women's attitudes. And one thing I've always taught is that if you have anything to say to somebody, you say it. You know then where you stand. This goverment in power believes old Aboriginals like me are living in the past. I think they're hoping I'll die out beside the road.

But you've got to have a past to have a future. If you haven't got a past, you haven't got a future. You only have the present moment. You're going up the road with nothing planned in your bloody head."

[Note from poster, JC: Our present white leaders derive their plans, decisions, dreams, and attitudes from the brutality of Western man represented in North American/ European imperialist traditions and the need to kill off the indigenous/native peoples of the world, just to steal their lands, degrade their bloodlines, rape and steal their children and enjoy the necessary killings that they believe they are entitled to perform.

Australian politicians have currently decided that no recompense will be paid or recognised for the mass stealing (with the assistance of politicians, police, priests and parsons) of native children. They were to become cheap labor in, and sexual alternatives in the squatters' homes and cattle industry. All were told that their parents were dead. All contact with their tribal relatives was forbidden. Some were disciplined in Church schools and turned into christians; but their future lives and innate beliefs have now caused a great surge of family tracing.

There were about 150 separate tribes with differing languages. The babies and children were deliberately sent to faraway areas. But Aborigine specialists can now tell exactly where each person originated. Many wonderful reunions are recurring even among the squalor that has been forced on them by white power. Some have become professionals and thus, with ability in English, are able to represent their brothers at Law, who have never been able to protect themselves from the police or the squatters or anyone else, using their limited words to try to prove innocence.

Australia's jails have a very large proportion of Black people. Australia's christian, dumb police still brutalize and hang them as suicides in their 'lockups'. As in America, police are there to protect MONEY, ASSETS, the SYSTEM; but not poor people.]

Back to SIS