I was waiting to board the plane from a community back to Alice Springs and a young client who I had seen the day before was in the queue. It was great to see she had decided to move on. She had a pillow and a lot of hand luggage as well as her chubby young baby. I offered to carry something and she held out her pillow. I took it. We walked to the plane together sharing a little history and contemplating the new life she was heading towards. She beamed hope and liberation from a very tough time in her life.
On the plane she went to the back, row 23 and I stopped at row 1. I told her I would ask a hostess to bring the pillow down when she was settled in. I put on my headphones and started to listen to John Mayer. Once the door was shut, I asked a lively young, very blonde and Aussie hostess who came from the back of the plane if she could give the pillow to the tall young woman in row 23 with a baby. She looked at me quizzically, turned her head to one side, pursed her lips, but took the pillow. I was puzzled that she hadn’t noticed the striking appearance of the woman, and I wondered if there were a lot of babies in row 23.
She came back and checked, “You mean the dark one?”
“Yes”, I said.
I worried for that young woman from the bush who will be trying to make her way in mainstream Australia. It is tempting to try and understand what was going on in the young hostess’s mind. She was clearly a caring and well intentioned young person. I think we need to own the state of the young hostess’s mind as a nation and realise how far we have to go to educate ourselves and embrace our Indigenous peoples and cultures. When it comes down to it, the complex cultures of our ancient forebears define our space in an increasingly global cultural ‘mash-up’. The alternative is that our collective ignorance defines us.