Stan Grant is the Indigenous affairs editor for The Guardian Australia. He is the winner of the 2015 Walkley award for coverage of Indigenous affairs. Stan Grant will be giving the Thea Astley Annual Address at Byron Writers Festival and will also be appearing at a special Feature Event in conversation with David Leser, Saturday August 6 at Byron Theatre. Tickets $30 www.byronwritersfestival.com.
These are the things I want to say to you. These things I have held inside or even worse run from. It is not easy, what I have to say, and it should not be easy. These are things that tear at who we are. These are the things that kill, that spread disease and madness. These are the things that drive people to suicide, that put us in prisons and steal our sight.
I have started this so many times and stopped. I have tried to find the right words. It is so tempting to turn to rage and blame. I am angry: I know that. It flares suddenly and with the slightest provocation; it takes my breath away sometimes. I know where that comes from. I have seen it in my father and he inherited it from his father. It comes from the weight of history.
I am afraid too. And that comes from the same place.
I have known this fear all my life. When I was young it used to make me feel sick, physically ill in the pit of my stomach. It was a fear of what could touch us – the sense of powerlessness, of being at the mercy of the intrusion of the police or the welfare officers who enforced laws that enshrined our exclusion and condemned us to poverty. It was a heavy hand that made people tremble. I see it still in my father. I see it as he tenses up just at the sight of a police car. He has done nothing wrong. But when he is pulled over for something as routine as a random breath test his heart beats faster and he fumbles his keys. We fear the state and we have every reason to. The state was designed to scare us.
This is an extract from Talking to My Country by Stan Grant (HarperCollins Australia) available in all good bookstores and online now, RRP$29.99.