Belonging: Indigenous Australians and Sense
Belonging: Indigenous Australians and Sense
You are to write a speechto present at a conference titled “Perceptions of Belonging. ” Your speech should discuss HOW Peter Skrzynecki and another composer explore the following statement: “To feel a sense of belonging, you need to accept yourself and be accepted by others. ” Refer to TWO Skrzynecki poems and ONE of the related texts from your portfolio. What is the meaning to belong? One’s perception of belonging may vary throughout their lifetime.
Though generally, to belong is to be accepted and to develop a sense of satisfaction, security and stability through a variety of ways within one’s life. In contrast to not belong is to be experiencing a sense of rejection, alienation and isolation. A sense of belonging usually emerges from the connections and relationships made with people, identity, places and the larger world. It is these concepts of belonging that build the foundations, and influence the search for the meaning in life, and ultimately where individuals belong.
Overcoming the adversity one faces in life of not belonging may be one of the greatest challenges a person may face, but sometimes after continual and perseverance attempting to overcome this adversity, it becomes apparent that one may have to accept themselves and achieve an acceptance from others around them. The two poems found in ‘Immigrant Chronicles’, ‘St Patrick’s College’ and ‘Felix Skrzynecki’ by Peter Skrzynecki, and Kevin Rudd’s well known ‘Apology Speech’, which can be seen on the multimedia link of the Sydney Morning Herald, are all exemplary of one accepting themselves to be accepted by others.
Skrzynecki within ‘St Patrick’s College’ reflectively attempts to distil past experience to make sense of the present. Using subtle language but ironic imagery, Skrzynecki paints a rather bleak portrait of his school life. Motivated by false social climbing values, his mother has made sacrifices in order for him to get ahead, ‘What was best’. At the end of the poem he questions whether it was “for the best” due to the darkness he endured. This raises the question about the effects of childhood; does a traumatic childhood provide grist mill for one that a trouble free childhood fails to do?
Skrzynecki effectively portrays the doubt within his mind through the symbolism of “Our Lady watched with outstretched arms, her face overshadowed by clouds”, with the clouds symbolic of the doubt that filled him as well as being ironic imagery. This also questions the ability of concrete statues to provide comfort and warmth let alone protection. “Luceat Lux Vestra, I thought was a brand of soap”, is symbolic of his immaturity and naivety, having no idea between the true meaning and feeling unaccepted.
The repetition of “For eight years”, shows how he continually did the same things for eight years just to be accepted, although he really didn’t feel accepted at all. An example, “Caught the 414 bus, like a foreign tourist”, conveying his feeling of isolation and rejection through the use of a simile. He continues to depict how he is physically present and a part of the school, but is emotionally detached and disconnected and chooses not to embrace and become a part of the school community.
Again through the repetition of “For Eight Years” and the symbolism of, “I carried the blue, black and gold”, Peter directly emphasised again that he belonged to a school but persisted in not wanting to belong and not accepting himself and in turn not being accepted by those around him. Finally Peter had an optimistic view through the use of juxtaposition right at the end of the poem, “That the darkness around me, wasn’t “for the best”, before I let my light shine”.
This change of perspective shows that although Peter knew he did not want to belong his entire school life, he knew he still had time to belong and “shine”, and did not do this until right up to graduation. Skrzynecki effectively illustrates how on one hand, his father experiences rejection and alienation experienced by many older migrants at the time from the world around him, his friends continue to provide him with a source of belonging, in contrast to himself who experiences neither.
The first stanza beings with the line, ‘My gentle father’ which shows a touching opening for the text and the use of ‘My’ also demonstrates the son’s feeling of the father belonging to him. Skrzynecki effectively portrays the boundaries faced by his father through the use of exaggeration, “Spent years walking it’s perimeter”, which is further explored within the poem because he is a migrant. Peter continues to emphasise the connection created for his father by his culture through the use of the possessive pronoun ‘His’ in ‘His Polish friends’, also stating a cultural reference and showing how the son feels as if he doesn’t belong.
Within this group they continue to portray their acceptance towards each other. ‘Talking, they reminisced…’ this line further illustrating how this group of men hold a shared past and highlighting the sense of ‘brotherhood’ within their group. Skrzynecki as he grows older begins to feel more distant from his father, and a sense of disconnection to his father through the use of a metaphor, “Remnants of a language”. In contrast his father experiences a sense of contentment and security through his home and simplistic nature, conveyed through the use of emotive language, “Happy as I have never been”.
Australia’s Aboriginal people also have in the past upon arrival of the European settlement struggled to sustain a sense of belonging due to the poor interaction between the two different cultures. Their cultural and spiritual connection to the land is one and unified with the land itself. On February 13, 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised for the hurt caused by decades of poor treatment towards the indigenous Australians and the overall intrusion of white people on the aboriginal people’s source of belonging.
This day marked the occasion that indigenous Australians were able to once again connect to their ancestors and once again experience the same connection to the land their ancestors did. In his speech which can be seen on the multimedia link of the Sydney Morning Herald, Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, apologises and reconciles to the indigenous Aboriginals. His words, coupled with the pictures, provide a moving tribute to our native Australians. The repetition of the collective pronoun, “we” in “we apologise…. ” and “we say sorry… ” unites all Australians in the apology.
The repetition of the use of the possessive pronoun in “our nation… ” links all Australians regardless of origin or religion that together we have a home, a place to call home and a source of stability. The institutionalization of Aboriginal people, referred to in this speech is similar to the experiences of the migrants in ‘Migrant Hostel’ also experienced a sense of dislocation. One of the photographs that accompanies this speech shows young Aboriginal children institutionalized and unable to find a sense of home without their families and their land.
The repetition of the word “mutual” in “mutual respect, mutual resolve, mutual responsibility” serves to highlight again the fact that we all belong. There is a sense of togetherness established, which, when coupled with the accompanying photographs of all Australians, black and white, hugging each other, emphasises the importance of finding a place to belong as well as having positive interactions with those around us. All three texts effectively illustrate that to feel a sense of belonging you need to accept yourself, be content with what you have and seek acceptance from others.
Skrzynecki in ‘St Patrick’s College’, demonstrates that without accepting yourself you will always experience a sense of disconnection to the world are yourself. In contrast in ‘Feliks Skrzynecki’, he shows that through accepting yourself and developing a sense of contentment and security, one can be “Happy as I have never been”. Finally, this is also portrayed in the “Apology Speech”, through the idea of seeking forgiveness and accepting one another, a larger stronger connection can be developed and experienced.
Subject: Indigenous Australians,
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 5 January 2017
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