How does storytelling fit into your life? Being from the oldest living culture in the world, as a First Nation’s Wotjobaluk woman, storytelling is a part of who my people are and what we represent. Our stories were always orally shared; it’s depicted in our art, song and dance. I am simply continuing this cultural practice so the voices of my people and ancestors can be properly represented and their stories are never forgotten. I do this to provide the stories of my people who are here today, and my own story, knowing that they will become important to our future generations.
What is a highlight in your creative career so far? The biggest highlight in my career is the feedback and community I have experienced since selecting to be a writer. The other part of it is being a part of the Blak Writers group here in Victoria. Because we are given the chance to talk Blak, write Blak and share Blak culture that doesn’t need validation but encourages you to walk beside us, I feel when I share my work it is both respected and welcomed as any other non-Indigenous voice that is presented through and on mainstream platforms. I feel a part of something that is important for our society today in making a difference and re-wiring stereotype perspectives. It makes me stronger as a writer.
Has being an Indigenous woman made it harder (or have there been hurdles) for you in terms of being heard in your field? We live in a man’s world, as they say, so being female is already a barrier that you need to overcome and feminism comes into that. But then when you’re a Blak Woman it adds another layer and what entails is Blak Women Feminism, which encourages that Blak is Beautiful and to embrace your identity. As a Blak woman who writes, leads and is trying to make change for the better, you’re sometimes met with a question mark, as if I am educated enough to write or speak the way I do. The other perception that raises barriers is the fact that if you’re a Blak person who writes you are somewhat the one who will only ever get the labeled roles and jobs. You get marginalised into a little section despite having knowledge in areas that are no different to what any other writer can do or talk about. For example, I can be a part of a writing festival and the only place I will be asked to participate and present will be the Indigenous topics. I can talk Blak any time because I live it 24/7, but I would also like to share my knowledge in horror stories, screenwriting, etc. They are not Indigenous specific, though, so the reaction is usually met with surprise. Let’s not be naïve: I know at the moment the big publishing companies would choose someone non-Indigenous over me to do those topics. The hurdles you have to overcome are difficult because the western education system has white-washed much of who we are as a people and culture, including the representation of Blak Women. We need to change those perspectives; we need to stop labeling things. I ask your readers: why can’t I just be a writer or author like everyone else in this profession? Why do I have to be labeled still in this 21st Century as an Indigenous writer and not be validated enough to still talk outside that identity? This being said, you are torn between that frustration of labels and the idea of educating others, for if I don’t do it then I can’t be sure the information that is put out there is correct. So I write to ensure protocol is met, and true history is represented when communicating Wotjobaluk people, Victorian First Nation perspectives and our culture, despite the barriers.
What is some advice you would give to someone wanting to make a career in writing? Don’t lose your voice. It is okay to get a degree in writing and a lot of what you’re taught on how to construct words and language is vital, but it is also very important that it doesn’t change who you are and the voice you were given. So, write, grow, learn and be bold. Remember that to write is to give voice and to give voice is to give power and identity.
What are some projects you are working on now, or have coming up? Currently, I work for the University of Melbourne part-time. But I am also completing RMIT’s Women Writers in the City Residency and will be a part of the Emerging Writers’ Festival 2017 where I will be speaking and performing at two events:
I am also consulting with a couple of film productions that are in the process of being developed for both Screen Australia and Film Victoria. I’m assisting Footscray Community Arts with their Emerging Cultural Leaders program for 2017. And finally, also for Footscary Community Arts Centre in late June/early July, I will working in collaboration with thismob, a cultural arts collective to curate a culturally safe and creative space for anyone who wishes to visit and just be. You can find out more here.
You can learn more about Kat and follow her on her website here.