The ABC panel program held a Q & A with Arrernte elder Rosalie Kunoth-Monks. She responded in the most eloquent and dignified way when another panelist touted assimilation as a solution to “the Aboriginal problem”. Actions in the name of assimilation have inflicted much pain and anguish on the first persons of Australia, none the least of which were those of the Stolen Generation.
“You know, I have a culture. I am a cultured person. I am not something that fell out of the sky for the pleasure of somebody putting another culture into this cultured being. John shows what is an ongoing denial of me. I am not an Aboriginal or indeed, indigenous. I am Arrernte, Alyawarre, First Nations person, a sovereign person from this country.
I didn’t come from overseas. I came from here. My language, in spite of whiteness trying to penetrate into my brain by assimilationists. I am alive, I am here and now, and I speak my language. I practise my cultural essence of me. Don’t try and suppress me and don’t call me a problem. I am not the problem.
I have never left my country nor have I ceded any part of it. Nobody has entered into a treaty or talked to me about who I am.
I am Arrernte, Alyawarre, female elder from this country. Please remember that.
I am not the problem.”
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About Rosalie Kunoth-Monks
Rosalie (Rosie) was born at Utopia Cattle station (Arapunya), her parents were Amatjere people. She was educated in Alice Springs at St Mary’s Hostel for children from the outback where she was discovered by Elsa and Charles Chauvel starring in her first film “Jedda” at fifteen. After the movie she returned to Alice Springs and completed her schooling. Three years later Rosie moved to Adelaide to work for the Anglican Church. In 1959 she took her vows in Melbourne and become the first Aboriginal Anglican nun. After 10 years she left the order, married Bill Monks, commenced working for the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs in Melbourne and together they set up the first Aboriginal Family Group Home in Victoria. In 1977 they returned to Alice Springs to run an Aboriginal Hostel for the Aboriginal Hostels Limited. Rosie has held various positions has the president of the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service, an executive of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Regional Council; secretary to the Traditional Owners of Alice Springs; an interpreter with the Interpreter service of Alice Spring; Director of the Management Board of the Desert People’s Centre and chair of Batchelor Institute Council. She is passionate about law, justice, education, children and youth affairs. She cares for other children beside her own daughter and has an ongoing commitment to her country and community campaigning for the political and social rights of her people.
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Biography from Territory Stories. Header image is a screenshot of the Q & A video above.