Singer Kira Puru has sparked controversy by wearing a "Change the D8" choker while performing at the Australian of the Year awards.
The awards ceremony was held at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday night and broadcast live on ABC TV. Puru performed a medley of Australian classics "Great southern land" and "You're the voice" alongside Urthboy and the Hard Knocks choir.
She told BuzzFeed News it was originally meant to be a subtle statement and she's received way more attention than she expected.
"I didn't really realise it'd cause a fuss," she said. "But we need to talk more about how this country still celebrates genocide."
The soul singer from Newcastle in NSW considered wearing an Aboriginal flag dress or t-shirt but settled on a black outfit and "Change the D8" choker because she didn't want to distract from the performance. Puru bought the velvet choker days before the event and visual artist Madeleine Dawes embroidered "Change the D8" on it.
"I knew I'd be in a room with a bunch of probbo white people and I wanted to make it clear where I stood on the issue of Jan 26 and I thought a message like that could be a way of communicating that without diverting attention away from the other performers I was sharing the stage with," she said.
Puru said only fellow singer Urthboy knew she was going to wear the choker on live TV and she was terrified when she saw prime minister Malcolm Turnbull backstage.
"[Turnbull] cruised backstage for a moment just before I went on and said 'hi' but I was too busy shitting myself about someone seeing it, and stopping me from going on, to say anything to him," she told BuzzFeed News.
Puru said she avoided telling people because she didn't want to get anyone in trouble.
She's received some negative criticism online, with some calling her a hypocrite for singing at the event. She expects she'll cop more hate throughout the day.
In hindsight she wishes she had more conversations with her indigenous mates before going ahead.
"I'm kinda just waiting to see what sort of shit I'm in today," she said.
Puru says she doesn't have an opinion on when Australia Day should be moved to because "changing the date is less important than changing the system".
Puru is from the Ngati Mahuta, Tainui people from the Waikato area in New Zealand but grew up in Newcastle and now lives in Melbourne.
She told BuzzFeed News she's not doing anything on Australia Day this year because she's not "heaps up for celebrating invasion and slaughter".
"I don't do anything and I never really have actually," she said.
"It's not necessarily always a political choice but I want to make the conscious decision to avoid working on Jan 26, 'cuz I don't want to put my energy and time into events that celebrate that loaded date."
"Of course, I realise performing at last night's event maybe contradicts that statement a bit but visibility is really important for me and my community."
"I wish I could've seen someone who looked like me on the TV when I was a kid."
Puru has a message for anyone celebrating Australia day.
Centre indigenous people and listen to them.
Don't be afraid to consider your privilege.
Get better at being called out.
This always was and always will be Aboriginal land
And in the words of Hot Brown Honey: Decolonize, moisturise.
Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.
Contact Alice Workman at email@example.com.
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