INTERVIEW: Aretha Brown

BY Micah Wednesday, 18 October 2017

At 16 years old, this gay indigenous activist is changing the world.

Aretha Brown is someone

Why’d you bring us to this rooftop?

When I come here it’s just everything in abundance and full of diversity and life. The people are weirder, and I kind of relate to that. I come up to the rooftop and I like to write. Usually it’s just school work and I’ll just read books. It’s my favourite place to work.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m going to Canberra ‘cause there’s an indigenous youth parliament and they want me to say a speech. I’m talking about drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres for indigenous youth and I’m doing that all next week.

I’m also involved in AIMS, an indigenous mentoring services which offers tutoring - I’m being tutored at the moment - and eventually I’ll become the tutor, and it’s a whole cycle which I think is really cool.

Is there something others struggle to understands about you?

People are often taken back by my confidence. I do have all the trappings of a marginalised person, y’know - gay, Aboriginal, woman - and people almost act surprised that I’m so confident. They expect me to be something else which I just want to blow away. I think it comes from a place of assumptions and there’s a lot of bigotry in assumptions; I don’t need to tell the LGBTIQ community that.

What can others do to break those down? 

People are talking about us rather than to us. So in creating allies - and I say this in both indigenous politics and being part of the LGBTIQ community - you just literally have to sit down, shut the f- up, and listen. That’s it. Once we start listening to people from within communities - things like compassion, respect, understanding - that stuff will follow.

On the flip side, what’s pride mean to you?

The term within the Aboriginal community and the LGBTIQ community I feel are two different things but also two very similar things. Both communities have been ostracised and told you’re not allowed to have pride in who you are. Being Aboriginal and also being gay, it’s something for me that doubles up. Sometimes pride can be twice as hard, but at the same time, it can be twice as empowering.  

Where does that all fit in within your own identities?

Identity has always been a big topic for me, especially as an Aboriginal person, because it’s something that I’ve always kind of learned to shun. I honestly think it’s more important to be politically conscious than to have an identity at this point. My identity will catch up with me.

Like who am I? I don’t want to get all philosophical but in the big run the only way that change has ever happened in the world ever is by a movement of people. You can argue that some individuals have sparked it, but at the end of the day it’s by committed groups of people and so while I think identity is important, it’s not defining for me.

Cool outlook, what is it you want to change in the world then?

I need to pass Year 11 Maths first - ha! Okay. I know that I was put on this planet to help my Aboriginal brothers and sisters out and if I can factor in my sexuality and those who identify as being gay and bi and lesbian and trans as well - that would just be the coolest thing ever. I also feel like in these communities that are so used to being at the forefront of discrimination you are either forced to be one of two things. You are made to be a token or you can be an exception (meaning your lifetime trauma is disregarded - and that’s horrible). I want to change that. 

I’m not a prop. I’m not a box to be ticked. I’m just Aretha Brown in the moment.