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Filipino-Australians it’s time to embrace our relationship with First Nations Australia

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By Alyssa Powell-Ascura

Last 30 December, Filipinos all over the world commemorated the life and works of one of The Philippines’ heroes, José Rizal.

Rizal was a prolific writer and polymath. More memorable though, is that he was also a proud nationalist. Revered for his intellectual thinking, his empathy and passion influenced many.

As posts of Rizal and his legacy flooded social media, one quote of his that struck me was this: “To foretell the destiny of a nation, it is necessary to open the book that tells of her past.”

Alyssa Powell-Ascura
Alyssa Powell-Ascura

My name is Alyssa, I’m a Filipino Australian, multi-hyphenated creative, visual artist and writer. As an artist and a young adult, I find it challenging to find ways to integrate the rich history of my ancestry and my own personal narrative as a first-generation Asian Australian. As I continue navigating my national and ethnic identity, it has become apparent to me how vital it is to be in solidarity with First Nations Australians.

I don’t celebrate January 26.

Australia was not founded on 26 January 1788. Australia has a history that existed for eons, long before colonialism. The Philippines also has this in common. Our traditions, our beliefs and our ancestry did not start — nor did it end with the Spanish colonial rule. We have resisted thousands of years of erasure and discrimination. Our archipelago boasts hundreds of different ethnic tribes, languages and Indigenous survival.

And we’re still here, to this day.

So, with all this in mind, it makes sense to seek First Nations Australians knowledge and understand more of one another.

I grew up in beautiful Bundjalung and Yugambeh country. With its abundance of nature reserves and water holes, it became the setting for my upbringing. I chased waterfalls and hiked during winter and read by the creek after morning dips during the summer.

It is painful to think that if the White Australia Policy (1800s – 1972) had continued, our Asian migrant identity and experience would be very different.

I want to remind Asian Australians, Filipinos included, to embrace our rich history of longevity and connection with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that began pre colonialism, at around 1400. The people of the Asia Pacific region traded with First Nations Australians, which created meaningful cross-cultural relationships and exchanges.

Australia is a continent of many First Nations countries. I encourage you to find out whose land you are living on, wherever you may be, and learn about its history.

As Filipinos, we practice kinship that doesn’t have to be through biological or blood relations – it can be chosen. Think of how it’s basically first instinct to call someone Tito or Tita. We have great concepts of relationships that we can extend to others, especially to the land and its people, to whom we are accountable.

Australia has the potential to continue her story in a way that involves everybody.

We have the responsibility of creating the story of our future together. And that starts with acknowledging our past.

Arabella Douglas, from "Currie Country", a First Nations company operated by one of the biggest traditional owner families in the Yugambeh Bundjalung nations
Arabella Douglas, from “Currie Country”, a First Nations company operated by one of the biggest traditional owner families in the Yugambeh Bundjalung nations

To learn more, search:

  • Currie Country
  • Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance
  • NITV
  • IndigenousX
  • Path to Equality
  • Creative Spirits

READ MORE


Alyssa Powell-Ascura is emerging Filipina Australian creative raised in Bundjalung country, Alyssa works with the intent and purpose of building a legacy through her work and life.

Her artistry spans across visual arts, digital and traditional media, jewellery making, writing and audio. She is currently featured in Kindling and Sage’s Issue 3: Joy which is available to purchase online or find stockists near you.

She is passionate about the environment and strives to live a mindful, healthy life and believes that community collaboration is vital to creativity! You’ll find her on instagram @roseandcitrus 

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