Video: Aboriginal teen stands up for her people

Aretha Brown
From the Daily Mail (Australia)

16-year-old Coles deli worker studying Year 11 at high school became the face of the #changethedate Australia Day protests after seeing an ad on Facebook and asking if she could deliver a powerful speech.

The phone hasn’t stopped ringing for Aretha Brown since she was moved by her Indigenous heritage and her own experiences to stand up at the biggest ‘Invasion Day’ protests in years in Melbourne on Thursday.

‘Too long have Aboriginal people been talked about rather than talked to,’ Ms Brown said in front of up to 50,000 protesters who crowded the streets.

‘Too long have we set aside peoples’ public holidays over our pain and our history. ‘It’s not right’.

Since her speech Ms Brown has found her picture on the front page of news websites and being hailed by proud friends and family as ‘proof this generation has its s*** together.”I couldn’t believe she had the balls to do it myself,’ said her proud father Paul Stewart.

Explaining her decision to speak, Ms Brown, a woman of the Gumbayngirr clan on her mother’s side, said: ‘I do support changing the date. ‘A lot of people would say it’s not very patriotic or you don’t love Australia because you want to change the date or it’s “un-Australian”‘. ‘But I think it’s more the fact … it represents genocide and all this stuff you shouldn’t celebrate.

‘A lot of people prioritise their right to a barbeque (over) Indigenous history. ‘I do think it should be changed to when Australia had Federation (January 1) or received sovereignty or something like that.’

The teenager said she understood people found words like ‘Invasion Day’ intimidating and said Australia needs ‘harmonious reconcilliation’. ‘Some people need just to understand (what) the premise of Australia Day is … before they go out and drink and have a barbeque,’ she said.

It was the first time Ms Brown had ever spoken at a rally. She said getting up didn’t make her nervous.

Other speakers, including a 19-year-old woman, made her excited to have her say.  ‘I just wanted people to listen, full stop,’ she said.

‘The amount of people who turned up was just astonishing… especially towards the end’.

Her father, Mr Stewart, said he was ‘so amazed’.

Ms Brown comes from a long line of storytellers, including her grandmothers and one of her aunties, he said.   ‘When I went to school, the only Aboriginal education we got – an old Koori guy to the sports oval and he threw a boomerang around a few times,’ said Mr Stewart.

‘This is a new generation coming through, they understand the suffering of the Aboriginal people’.  Ms Brown said she is not sure what she wants to do in the future, but Indigenous activism is on the agenda.

Modelling, teaching and acting are all possibilities.  And she named Indigenous model Samantha Harris; actor Uncle Jack Charles and her grandmother Aunty Janice Brown as people she looks up to.

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