Chelsea Watego is a Munanjahli and South Sea Islander woman born and raised on Yuggera country. First trained as an Aboriginal health worker, she is currently Professor of Indigenous Health at Queensland University of Technology, a prolific writer and public intellectual. When not referred to as ‘Vern and Elaine’s baby’, she is also Kihi, Maya, Eliakim, Vernon and George’s mum. ‘Chelsea Watego crafts a powerful and important personal account that is a must-read: confronting, generous, moving and insightful. She is a defining voice of her generation and our people.’ Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt ‘This book is a must-read for all citizens of this country called “Australia”.’ Dr Lilla Watson
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 theorizes a strategy for living in a society that has only ever imagined Indigenous peoples as destined to die out. The ‘problem of the Aborigine’ in the colony is our very presence; always was, always will be. Despite the colonisers' best efforts to disperse ‘the Aborigine’ geographically or absorb us statistically, we remain, and we continue to claim a being via our land and our culture, rather than via a proximity to them.
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 narrates 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 the 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. Chelsea
Despite our supposed marginal status, statistically and culturally, the Black body itself is not marginalised. It is powerful, in its remembering, in its standing still – here. We exist not on boundaries, between binaries, or a dual consciousness, but fully, here, and fully human. Moreton-Robinson reminds us that, in life and in death, Black bodies testify to the truth of this place, signifying our ‘title to this land’. As such, we are not situated on a frontline; rather, it is the Black body that is the frontline. It is our bodies upon which colonial violence is visited most brutally, and that is why I come to health as a Blackfulla – not to remedy our condition behaviourally or materially to stave off disease. I come to health to strategise a Black living which presumes a Black future, of a forevermore kind; a future that doesn’t mark itself via an aspirational proximity to colonisers, of a ‘vanishing Aborigine’ via gap closing, but one that is set on our terms, on our lands. It is on those terms that we mark out the battleground on which we are prepared to fight, but too provide the necessary armour for those who in their sovereign Black selves put their lives on the line every damn day in the colony.