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Just being Ernie

Ernie DingoErnie Dingo is an Aboriginal who has embraced and enjoyed the benefits of the white world, but a deep-seated sense of his indigenous culture and customs continue to figure strongly in his life.

Story Paul Myers

What you see isn't necessarily what you get - at least not when you're an Aboriginal television personality with an irreverent, happy-go-lucky, cheeky part-ocker persona on the box. Ernie Dingo readily admits that there's a wide gulf between the public perception of the popular presenter on The Great Outdoors and the proud family man who struggles with the way his Aboriginal upbringing and values clash with his notoriety, the trappings of success and a high-profile career.

"I sit on the cultural fence, and could easily fall either way," he says openly. "If I fall one way, the other half will have to go." Which way will that be? Ernie doesn't let on, probably because he doesn't yet know himself. "I'm still arguing [with myself] today about my culture and what I have to do... there's a lot of stuff going on in my head," he muses.

Externally at least, Ernie has crossed the line into an upwardly mobile white world. But the internal rumblings continue. He says it makes him "feel good" to hear the wisdoms of Noel Pearson and the music of Yothu Yindi, and witness the successes of Cathy Freeman, boxer Anthony Mundine and numerous indigenous AFL football stars. But without directly connecting this with his own self-examination, he adds quickly, "I don't know if I'm really Aboriginal anymore. I find myself trying to come to terms with who I am. Wudjudi [his indigenous language] Yamitji [his tribe] is my nation and Oonda [shield] Mooroo [carving or marking] is who I am. It is how I see myself." Story end

Full story: Issue 34 April/May 2004

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