TO be told “you are too nice to be an Aborigine” would seem like an infuriating comment to indigenous and non-indigenous Australians alike.
But for Braden Hill, it is just another challenge in educating all Australians about the need for reconciliation.
The manager of Murdoch University’s Kulbardi Centre graduated top of his class after being told at school that he should become a mechanic.
“Our system is set up to funnel a lot of indigenous kids to go into a trade,” Braden Hill said.
“My school didn’t encourage me to go to uni and said I should be a mechanic, but I was never going to be a mechanic,” Mr Hill chuckled.
The 2009 Valedictorian has been working on Murdoch University’s Reconciliation Action Plan with other indigenous staff for four years, which was recognised by the Reconciliation Australia recently.
To celebrate the recent milestone and NAIDOC week, the university is enlisting the help of indigenous comedian Steven Oliver to give the celebrations a non-traditional twist.
“The Kulbardi Centre is very keen to represent Aboriginality in a modern way,” Mr Hill said.
“Being able to poke fun at race relations and reconciliation in Australia is a good start.
“We often get caught in the baggage of the past and rely on what has been done before and forget to do things in new ways.
“Our approach to NAIDOC this year is about walking on sacred ground and we are challenging the idea of what is sacred.
“It is about trying something different by having an Aboriginal gay guy poking fun at things, which is a way of being Aboriginal which isn’t often seen,” he said.
Mr Hill said Murdoch University was now seeing more Aboriginal Year 12 students going to university, which he said was a sign the centre and the message of reconciliation is getting somewhere.
“Racism has always been a barrier for indigenous people in terms of achieving,” he said.
“We are now seeing more graduates than ever before – it’s a sign that things are improving.
“The fact there is healthy discourse in the media is important and no there is no longer a silence around racism.
“It was great to see Adam Goodes as Australian of the Year speak out on it, because that wouldn’t happen 20 years ago if people can remember when Cathy Freeman caused outrage by running with both flags.”
Mr Hill’s message to young indigenous Australians is that education is freedom.
“For young indigenous people, what they do at uni it will give back in ways they could not imagine,” he said.