Bingara produces another ABC Heywire winner

December 19, 2013

Bingara girl, Ellen O’Rourke, is the second Bingara resident to become the ABC’s New England North West regional Heywire winner.

Kristen Heal, who now lives in Queensland, won the award when she was a student at Bingara Central School a few years ago.

Ellen’s entry carried a powerful message, and is below:

Ellen O"Rourke

Taking a stand against racism in my school and community

Bingara is a friendly little gem on the Gwydir River in Northern NSW.

I have lived in Bingara my whole life, and my family has always been the only islander family here, being half Fijian and half Anglo-Australian.

Growing up here I didn’t experience racism.

However, since I started high school in Inverell, a much larger town nearby, with a greater cultural diversity, I’ve become concerned of the underlying racism present here.

I see it, I hear it, and I have even been the target if it.

I was referred to as a ‘monkey’ by someone in my class, who was actually a friend of mine – I was utterly offended, shocked and speechless.

Some of my peers would add the phrase, ‘it’s because you’re black’ onto everything, or assumed that anyone who is black is going steal, fight or end up in jail.

Some people would openly express their hate towards Indigenous Australians living in the region.

The word ‘nigga’ was used to describe me and others on a daily basis.

People would laugh and think it was a joke.

I didn’t see any humour at all.

So one day, fed up, I made a video and posted it on my Facebook page to send out a clear message that racism is not funny and I won’t tolerate it.

I received lots of likes and comments from people supporting my view, saying it had to be said.

They shared their experiences with racism.

A mum wrote about how saddened she was that their daughter has to grow up with it, just because she’s Torres Strait Islander.

Some people think it’s OK to say racist remarks. Often it’s followed by “I’m just joking”.
Or by adding the sentence, “I was talking about Aboriginals or Africans”, they think that I won’t get offended.

Some people claim they didn’t realise they were being offensive. I’m sure many of them don’t.

The biggest influence on me is my family, being proud of who we are and embracing our Fijian culture along with our Australian culture.

My mum always hung Fijian decorations at home, taught us about Fiji and we celebrate Fiji Day yearly.  Therefore I stand up against racism, which is still alive in my region.

No matter what form it comes in, whether intended friendly, or deliberately derogatory, racism stops with me.