Your Disapproved Skin – a poem by Paul Vincent Cannon

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples need to know there is an image that displays deceased people.


“Australia Day” January 26 marks the anniversary of the arrival of the first fleet at Port Jackson in 1788. For most indigenous people this is known as invasion day. Their treatment to this day has been brutal and in the least one of denial and rejection. It is a hard history to read and on the part of the colonial architects, even to this day, a very shameful history. I am one of many Australians who would rather move the celebration to a new date in conjunction with a dialogue with indigenous peoples as to how to achieve that. But then I believe that nationalism and patriotism are poisonous, as history and our nightly news shows, so maybe no day is needed.



Photo: Australian National University: Aboriginal men in chains in the Kimberly, date unknown.


“Obviously colonial arrogance is a long time dying.”  Alain Badiou

Your Disapproved Skin

We dug our wealth from under your feet,
and we housed ourselves in your delicate bones,
scarifying your disapproved skin
with our tribal markings,
chaining your bodies but never your hearts,
we hunted a perception of you
and caricatured our values as superior;
as a weak parent blames their child
we laid a burden of blame upon you,
a fiction of conscience,
a trick of justification,
that had no purpose other than
to exploit the very breath of you,
surely our sorry must be
the very breath of us.

©Paul Vincent Cannon



Image: The Australian Aboriginal Flag – Formally recognised in 1995 as an official flag, was designed by Harold Thomas, a Luritja man in 1970 and first displayed at the National Aboriginal Day in Adelaide in 1971. The design is significant: the colours represent the Aboriginal peoples of Australia, the red ochre of the earth and a spiritual connection to the sun the giver of life and protector (as stated by Harold Thomas).


Filed under Free Verse, history, life, Native Title, poem, quote, Restorative Justice, Stolen Generation

57 responses to “Your Disapproved Skin – a poem by Paul Vincent Cannon

  1. Congratulations afterwards! Yes, one must never forget the origin of a country with such a great, rich tradition. Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Living overseas with my Australian Hubby, we actually celebrated Australia Day (as a fund raiser for bushfires) but it was something, he would have not done in Australia ever …

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This speaks to me in so many ways. This is the same sentiment that has been brimming for some years regarding the Columbus day. How can we ever celebrate a day which marks as evasion and brutal violation of human rights?

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Reblogged this on Megha's World and commented:
    How can we ever celebrate a day which marks as evasion and brutal violation of human rights?
    Very fitting and moving poetry from Paul Cannon.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I am going to share this with an Australian indigenous woman I have met on instagram.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Sadly, Australia is not alone in carrying this legacy of shame.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Exceptional post, Paul. The truth of this is angering. I hope one-day humanity will realize that the color of someone’s skin should not give an individual permission to judge, abuse or dishonor.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. The saddest part is the colonial mindset continues.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. You know this resounds very deeply with me! One charmer yesterday told me it was probably better when they were classified as “flora and fauna” as they were for centuries. The missionaries told them not to steal yet we took their land and slaughtered them …

    I have for decades campaigned that we remove the union jack from the corner of our flag and insert the above flag there with the southern cross! I used to have a bumper sticker with that flag on it and boy did it arouse extreme emotional responses. About time we split from the UK like Harry and Megan, we need to mature and make our own flag embracing the Traditional Land Owners 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  10. This poem really cuts to the heart of this huge and widespread issue, Paul. It’s beautifully expressed.
    Just as you say in one of the comments: everywhere the ‘civilized’ Europeans went they left a legacy of oppression, none worse than here in South Africa, the most unequal country in the world.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Reblogged this on I Write Her and commented:
    Another post that has HIT HOME. I believe this piece will grip you as it did me. I applaud Paul for writing these truths as well as he did.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. And perhaps, even then, not broad enough. Well done.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Reblogged this on The Mix and BIG ISMS and commented:
    we are all related… across this globe

    Liked by 1 person

  14. A powerful poem indeed, and right to the heart of the issue.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. This poem is quite possibly my favorite of all time, Paul.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. lync56

    Here Here!! A sad remind of our shameful history and yes a day change would be one step towards acknowledgement


    Liked by 2 people

  17. This is so powerful and here in the US it is “black history month” I don’t think there should be a month at all to recognize a WHOLE RACE. A whole race of flesh and blood only given one month of importance vs celebrating everyone all the time seems absurd to me just as “Australia Day” does to you. This poem applies to so many people and cultures around the world. Good for your poem however sad that this is our past and present.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, I so agree with you, we should be celebrating everyone every day in my view, Yes Australia Day does do that, awful really. So many thanks for your response and thoughts.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you for putting together such a great post. It took me a second to figure out what I wanted to comment because it gave me a lot of food for thought.

        As well as here in the US most people glorify Australia and think it’s an untouched wonderland because of UGGS and Koalas but many people should know more about the History of the continent because it’s so much more than boots and bears.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Our history is appalling, yes, I so agree, it should be made known.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. How unfortunate there was so much needless suffering.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. This is a very great poem. Touched every depth of me.


  20. Max

    Such a truthful and moving poem. You set the context so concisely. The debate about reconciliation should never fall into cliché, it is too impactful on too many lives. That so many have commented is a tribute to the effectiveness of your work.
    So important to give voice to truth, to acknowledge.
    That’s why I don’t want to see the Australia Day date moved. Every time that date comes around we must acknowledge the truth and meaning of the complexity of Australia. The positive truths celebrated on that day should not be unwound from that other darker disturbing truth. For me to change the date is a variation the terra nullius. A changed date would give many comfort in implied permission to ignore an ugly and disturbing part of our truth.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.