And the man behind this remarkable – or deadly – achievement is social media guru Dameyon Bonson, who wants people to know that he is a proud gay Indigenous man and just one of many that makes up Australia’s ‘black rainbow’ community.
Aptly called Black Rainbow, Bonson explained to the Star Observer this week that the Facebook page’s mission was to help showcase the wide breadth of experience, intelligence and creativity that is found across the country’s entire Indigenous community – particularly among fellow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who identify as LGBTI and sistergirl or brotherboy.
The 40-year-old social worker said he established Black Rainbow soon after becoming one of many Indigenous LGBTI people who contributed to and signed a letter published in the Koori Mail on November 20 in reponse to homophobic comments made by boxer Anthony Mundine.
Mundine had taken to social media to attack the drama series Redfern Now for “promoting homosexuality”, while insisting being gay “ain’t in our culture” and that “God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve”.
In response, the open letter read: “Our Black Rainbow peoples are making excellent contributions in politics, sports, arts, land rights, health, education, justice, business, science, research, the bureaucracy, healing, community life, family life and most impor- tantly, in cultural survival and restoration… We are your family members, community workers, advo- cates and leaders. We bring strength and love to our communities.”
Bonson said that the positive public response to the letter inspired him to go on and create the dedicated Facebook page for black rainbow people, which has garnered over 3000 fans since it was created on December 14.
“My intention for the page isn’t popularity – it is for access so I don’t go chasing more membership,” he told the Star Observer.
“I did have to do a lot of research around social media for it but everything on the page is planned.
“It’s for sharing… It’s to put information out there that people didn’t have access to or ready access to. In some of the literature that I post it may not be Australian-Aboriginal specific but it has an anthropological space in our histories.”
A resident of Broome in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, Bonson himself is from the Mangarai nation in the Northern Territory as well as Mau- biag Island in the Torres Strait. He also has Caucasian heritage through his mother.
He said he possessed a strong sense of social justice, and he credited that to keeping him motivated on Black Rainbow – as well as his desire to increase the visibility of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples while fighting for true reconciliation and continuing to battle against outdated yet lingering stereotypes.
“I want to challenge the demonisation of Aboriginal men in our communities,” he said.
“My experience up here in the Kimberleys is that Aboriginal men are really interested in their own healthcare, their communities and their children. The way in which they access it however is really difficult as it is not culturally appropriate and it’s not gender specific.”
“As part of my work as a social worker, I’m presenting in Melbourne later this year on how we can work with young, gay Aboriginal males in a remote Aboriginal community and how to support them with their coming out process. Particularly when remote communities have been indoctrinated by the church.
“In my experience, homophobia in remote communities is really quite visible. You can’t see it, it’s more a feeling as the church is so prominent in people’s minds.”
With a busy schedule over the coming 12 months, Bonson will also be travelling to Darwin to sit on a panel on human rights during the 2014 Gay Games as well as to Sydney for the MindOut conference on mental health.
“My ideal is that I would love to see a national conference for black rainbow people that is framed around social and emotional wellbeing, not around HIV or AIDS. It will be an opportunity for a group of people to get together who share our sexual and gender diversity and provide a space for that,” he explained to the Star Observer.
“No AIDS, no HIV, no disease – it’ll be a wellness get-together, not an illness get-together.”
Reflecting on his life thus far, Bonson highlighted two experiences that loomed large in his conscious today and play motivating roles in his activism.
“In 2006 I journeyed to the Healing Our Spirit Worldwide Conference in Edmonton, Canada. As an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander gay male, as an Indigenous-Australian gay male, I went in search of stories to guide me to find my own, to find our own. I did, and as I was then I continued to be inspired and empowered by the Two-Spirit movement that exists throughout North America,” he said.
“It was quite a turning point for me and it really strengthened my resolve around coming back home and looking through that stuff.”
Perhaps an even more influential memory was the role his father played in ensuring that Bonson would always be in touch with his culture, despite his family being forced off their land and prevented from speaking their language.
“We were taken out to Arnhem Land when we were kids,” Bonson recalled.
“Only in my adult years do I really re- flect on how important that was to shape my understanding of what it is to be an Aboriginal person. My father died nine years ago and now I know why my father was so angry. Every day he was fighting racism. He was out there marching for land rights in the 1970s and 80s.
“Now in the 2000s, in the new millennium or whatever we call it there is a lot more of us who are academics or are becoming academics. We know a lot more now and we’re learning the ways of the system.”