You're Never Going To Stop Us Raising Uncomfortable Truths

08/09/2015 9:33 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
Stefan Postles via Getty Images
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 25: Adam Goodes poses for a portrait after being announced as the 2014 Australian of the Year at Parliament House on January 25, 2014 in Canberra, Australia. The annual award recognizes contributions of prominent Australians throughout the previous year. (Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images)

Canadians like to celebrate, and they had one big reason to party last when Ashley Callingbull, a young actress, director and model, became the first Canadian -- and the first Indigenous Canadian no less -- to win the Mrs Universe competition.

As you might expect, beauty pageants place a lot of stock in how you look. But Callingbull is making global headlines for what she says.

Shortly after winning, the 25-year-old Tweeted that Canadians needed to take an active interest in the upcoming elections. But Callingbull didn't quite stop there.

The condemnation was swift, and broad. Here's a beauty queen given national and international prominence, suddenly expressing her political views. Just who does she think she is?

In the course of his prime ministership, Stephen Harper has regularly been accused of harming the interests of First Nations people. Callingbull has also taken aim over a lack of action by government in relation to the disappearance and/or murder of more than 1,100 First Nations women since the 1980s.

Only in 2012, did the Royal Mounted Canadian Police finally complete a national report into the scandal, and more than 100 women still remain unaccounted for.

So you can understand Callingbull's passion. As a First Nations woman, she has a lot to be angry about, she's proud and now she's loud.

Callingbull is by no means the only Indigenous person to be given a platform, only to 'turn on her promoters' and start saying things that the masses might not necessarily want to hear.

In Australia, this has become somewhat of a First Nations tradition. Cathy Freeman did it in 1994 (ironically in Canada) when she performed a victory lap during the Commonwealth games with both the Australian and Aboriginal flags. The act - one of reconciliation, in the mind of Freeman - nearly got her punted from the team.

Before Freeman, Michael Long and Nicky Winmar turned on the AFL over ongoing racism. And today of course, the charge is being led by Adam Goodes, who also took on the AFL -- and in particular AFL crowds -- over the incessant booing every time Goodes got near the ball.

There's not a lot of point revisiting the intricate details of the Goodes saga here -- by now, everyone knows, and you either accept that the booing of Goodes is racially motivated, or you don't.

But a couple of points are worth noting. Some footy fans remain unbowed in their booing and are determined to continue despite Goodes' very public explanation that it was doing him harm.

It's also worth noting that, like Callingbull in Canada, Goodes was given a very public platform, well beyond football. Indeed it doesn't get much more public than 'Australian of the Year', which he won in 2014 precisely because of his stance against racism.

And then Australians are surprised he keeps talking about it? Goodes is still talking about racism because racism is still a problem, for him personally, for me, and for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

The simple fact is, you're never going to stop everyone from objecting to blackfellas who stray from the official script. And in a free country, nor should you. Everyone's entitled to their view, no matter how narrow and uninformed.

But equally, you're never going to stop Aboriginal people from advocating passionately for a better deal. And as more and more of us achieve on the national and international stage, you can expect more and more uncomfortable truths to be raised. And if there's one thing we all have in common, it's that facing uncomfortable truths is, well, uncomfortable, no matter the colour of your skin.

In the cases of Callingbull, Goodes and Freeman, they actually have two things in common. While each was attacked for standing up for their people, they also enjoyed a groundswell of popular support from their less conservative countrymen and women.

The outpouring of support for Goodes and Freeman, and Long and Winmar, and others like Timana Tahu, was strong, and powerful. And the outpouring of support for Callingbull - from all corners of the world - has been equally inspiring.

That's also something worth celebrating, and remembering.

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