When Jim Everett - Puralia Meenamatta, 78, returned to Tasmania, at the age of 16, he didn't really know what it meant to be Aboriginal. His family had fled the island state when he was four hoping to escape the "shame" of being Aboriginal.
"[My family] left here because of the feeling of low self-esteem and the racism in Tasmania was pretty big, so they just decided to get out of it," he said.
"My parents and grandparents ... were conditioned to be ashamed to be Aboriginal, so they wouldn't talk about it and they accepted white people's terminology of being half-caste or quarter-caste. They just wanted to get away from it and hide as if they were non-Aboriginal.
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"They found out that that didn't work of course."
After spending 12 years in South-East Victoria Everett's family made the decision to move back to Tasmania. His father had returned to Flinders Island on a fishing vessel and found that over time things had changed.
Although he didn't return to the islands with his family, it was at that point that Everett understood they were Tasmanian Aboriginal. Since then has tried to learn everything he can about what it means to be Aboriginal.
Everett finally returned to Tasmania and his family in 1965 after a three year stint in the army. He had joined, as a lot of young men did, in search of adventure. But when his mother fell ill and he was unable to take compassionate leave, he decided to discharge himself.
After leaving the army Everett found work as a fisherman and rigger all over the world. He found that racist attitudes followed him everywhere and were still present at his home on Flinders Island.
"There were a lot of patronising and paternalistic people there at the time. You don't get away from that, that's everywhere," Everett said.
In 1978, while Everett was still working as a fisherman and rigger, a chance meeting with fellow Elder Michael Mansell spurred Everett to get involved in political activism. So, a year later when he saw an ad in the paper for a position at the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, he decided to apply.
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"I felt that there was something that I should be doing. Those things hadn't been resolved - the differences we had with government - and I felt that I should be doing something," he said.
About five months later he was appointed as the state liaison officer of Aboriginal Affairs - the first Aboriginal-specific position in the state government. Despite being in government he was still working as an activist. He helped push for land rights and in 1990 was appointed as the first manager of the office of Aboriginal affairs.
Everett left government and activism in 1992 when the Liberal party was elected and switched his focus to academic studies.
"From that time I've been more interested in how do we live our self determination and develop our community," he said. "It is a never-ending job because like all societies if you want to maintain it you have to work at it."
Now Everett is working on a masters degree on Aboriginal philosophy.
"The terminology I am using is that I am doing a contemporary pakana meta-philosophy. Learning to understand is what I call it," he said.
"From the late 80s I have been learning to understand - what is it being Aboriginal? What are the major points of being Aboriginal? Why do we think differently? Because we do, we do think much differently to white people."
Although he is no longer directly involved in activism he still believes there is more work to do.
"I'll go by Australian law. Their law says if you steal something you've got to give it back, simple as that. When they give it back we'll be happy. [But] I think that is a pipe dream. I think that what we need is a very good agreement," Everett said.
"If they want us to be Australians then invite us to be Australians. Hold a formal ceremony to mark it and a strong agreement that we are Australians. But at the moment we've never been made Australians," he said.
"The 1967 referendum didn't do that all it did was include us in the census. It didn't say we were citizens and we hadn't made an agreement under what conditions we would be citizens.
"These are the things we need to do. They are the unfinished business."
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