Another Day in the Colony

Chelsea Watego

Another Day in the Colony
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Another Day in the Colony

Chelsea Watego

A ground-breaking work - and a call to arms - that exposes the ongoing colonial violence experienced by First Nations people. In this collection of deeply insightful and powerful essays, Chelsea Watego examines the ongoing and daily racism faced by First Nations peoples in so-called Australia. Rather than offer yet another account of ‘the Aboriginal problem’, she theorises a strategy for living in a social world that has only ever imagined Indigenous peoples as destined to die out.

Drawing on her own experiences and observations of the operations of the colony, she exposes the lies that settlers tell about Indigenous people. In refusing such stories, Chelsea tells her own- fierce, personal, sometimes funny, sometimes anguished. She speaks not of fighting back but of standing her ground against colonialism in academia, in court, and in media. It’s a stance that takes its toll on relationships, career prospects, and even the body. Yet when told to have hope, Watego’s response rings clear- Fuck hope. Be sovereign.

Review

Professor Chelsea Watego is a Munanjahli and South Sea Islander woman who grew up on Yuggera country. She recently joined Queensland University of Technology within the School of Public Health and Social Work to lead a $1.7 million project to develop Indigenist Health Humanities. She has over two decades’ experience working in the field of Indigenous health as a health worker, academic and activist. Colonisers habitually frame the health of First Nations peoples as a ‘problem’ with complete disregard for the very root of that problem. Watego’s PhD championed strength-based approaches within public health in an attempt to shift this narrative and call out the colonial violence perpetrated by the health system.

In this collection of sharply written, fiercely intelligent and engaging essays, Watego is clear that her book will not surrender to the settler-colonial narrative that pervades the Australian literary scene – a ‘place which has yet to centre or celebrate sovereign storytellers; those who speak to the souls of Blackfullas rather than white women.’ This is definitely not a book about ‘Black problems or the problem of Black people’. The title, Another Day in the Colony, comes from a hashtag used on Twitter by Watego and others to document and share the acts of colonial violence they are subjected to every day. This book speaks to the ‘power of the Black woman as witness … it is these stories that should be told, read, heard, and memorialised in this place, rather than the fictions of white folk and their fanciful psychological journeys.’

Across the essays, Watego reflects on her childhood and path into academia where she fought to strategise for a Black future on its own terms. She critiques the literary scene with its ‘non-fiction’ books that perpetuate the power of the white witness and sustain the colonialist narrative of the ‘Aboriginal problem’. She documents her own confrontations with the legal system, in one instance her young son’s image was used without her permission in a campaign by the Queensland Department of Education to entice teachers to remote Queensland. Underneath her son’s image it described Aboriginal children as ‘trouble-makers’ to be rehabilitated. Watego credits critical race scholarship for her survival and relinquishes hope for change in favour of sovereignty. This book is absolutely essential reading.


Kara Nicholson is from Readings online.

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