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Federal

Oct 29, 2010

Generation gap over Twiggy's indigenous jobs campaign

Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest's GenerationOne movement is a "pernicious smokescreen" which will not further the rights of Aboriginal people, says an anti-NT intervention group opposed to the campaign.

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Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest’s GenerationOne movement is a “pernicious smokescreen” which won’t further the rights of Aboriginal people, say indigenous rights activists opposed to the campaign.

Supported by corporate heavyweights Kerry Stokes, James Packer, The Lowy family and Lindsay Fox, GenerationOne aims to “end the disparity between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians”. It’s linked to Forrest’s Australian Employment Covenant which is seeking to create 50,000 jobs for Aboriginal people by next year. The campaign launched its television advertising campaign on Sunday evening to an estimated audience of six million.

Noted indigenous rights campaigner Robbie Thorpe will speak at a rally in Melbourne today as part of a national day of protest against the federal government’s Northern Territory intervention policy. He says there are more important matters than Forrest’s campaign that need to be addressed.

“We need our fundamental human rights recognised instead of this working for the man sh-t,” Thorpe told Crikey. “[Forrest] is raping the land for billions of dollars, where’s he been previously?”

Sharon Firebrace, spokeperson for the Melbourne Anti-Intervention Collective, agrees. GenerationOne has been a “failure in the past” and it’s time for Aboriginal people to start speaking out on the issue, she says.

“Jobs for Aboriginal people will be delivered through fighting against the interests of the people like Andrew Forrest and challenging this government,” Firebrace told Crikey.”The launch of this campaign, with the support of Adam Bandt, Aboriginal elders, and unions, is a challenge to business and this government.”

According to the campaign website, GenerationOne aims to promote organisations that are “doing good work” in the areas of education, training, mentoring and employment.

The Australian Employment Covenant, also set up by Forrest, encourages employers to pledge jobs for indigenous people by registering on a website. Currently, the AEC website boasts it represent 170 employers in more than 15 industry sectors.

Freshly-elected MP Adam Bandt will also speak at the event in Melbourne. He says that while GenerationOne may not be the silver bullet that solves indigenous disadvantage, it remains a worthwhile campaign.

“We support the motives and intention of the GenerationOne campaign — and commend any campaign which draws attention to the issue of closing the gap,” he told Crikey. “It’s important to make sure that measures to reduce the gap tackle the real underlying cause of disadvantage.”

But according to Firebrace, the GenerationOne website fails to mention land rights, dispossession, racism and the “ongoing genocide that lies at the heart of Aboriginal disadvantage”.

“These issues need to be discussed seriously, well before Aboriginal people commit to Fortescue’s ‘brave new world’ solution,” she said. “We need to have Aboriginal people discussing this and the implications of it.”

Furthermore, Firebrace says the NT intervention, introduced by the Howard government in 2007 in response to the Little Children are Sacred report, has failed to deliver jobs for Aboriginal communities.

The group is angry over cuts to the Community Development Employment Program (CDEP), which they say has led to the loss of thousands of jobs, and the implementation of a quarantine on Centrelink payments in some indigenous communities. Last week workers at the small townships of Kalkaringi and Dagaragu in the Victoria River district of the Northern Territory went on strike over pay and conditions, claiming the federal government had not provided enough jobs to replace cuts to the CDEP.

Bandt told Crikey the Greens will seek reform of the intervention, in particular the full reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act: “Senator Rachel Siewert has introduced into the Senate the Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Restoration of Racial Discrimination Act) Bill 2010 and we hope to progress that through the parliament.”

Firebrace says the creation of jobs and employment is not the be all and end all for Aboriginal people: “It is not the answer and the solution for Aboriginal people in remote communities. Andrew Forrest’s GenerationOne project has been a failure in the past. And it will continue to be the pernicious smokescreen it was set out to be.”

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64 thoughts on “Generation gap over Twiggy’s indigenous jobs campaign

  1. Dajopa

    “Jobs for Aboriginal people will be delivered through fighting against the interests of the people like Andrew Forrest and challenging this government” – How? where’s the evidence? what is the alternate plan? Forrest doesn’t have to do this. He could just ingnore indigenous people and carry on regardless. I don’t understand how tearing this down will achieve anything. The people quoted seem more intent on venting their anger than helping anyone. The reason the convenant failed the first time was that it was devised in boom times, right before the GFC. Following that it would have been hard to create that amount of jobs anywhere, let alone in mining. CDEP was just welfare in disguise and it was a Labor government that decided it best that real jobs were of greater benefit. Then again what would they know, it’s the Brunswick St crowd that are really clued into life in the NT.

  2. Awesome Pete

    The problem with campaigns to “help” Indigenous Australians is that they assume mainstream Australian society is “right” and the “poor” Indigenous Australians have to be “helped” so they too can live the empty materialistic lives that the average Australian leads. The “problem” with Indigenous Australians isn’t really THEIR problem. The problem lies in the empty materialistic consumerist secular Australian “society”. Traditional Indigenous Australians lived spiritual, communitarian lives in harmony with nature. I think it’s mainstream Australia (e.g. the materialistic money hungry Forrests, Packers & Lowys of this world) who need “help” to learn to live a deeper more meaningful life, a life more in harmony with our spiritual nature, our environment and community!

  3. Bob Durnan

    A bit of dissembling going on there, Tom.
    The capitalists simply making a “pernicious smokescreen”? I don’t think so.

    Of course Twiggy’s campaign “won’t further the rights of Aboriginal people” in the general sense: it doesn’t claim to do so.

    GenerationOne is obviously designed to focus specifically on advancing a particular right – the right to work. It’s good to see Twiggy taking up pursuit of this old leftwing demand.

    The GenerationOne campaign shouldn’t be dismissed just because its aims and methods fail to conform with Trotskyite dogma.

  4. Dajopa

    @AWESOME PETE – Indigenous Australians aren’t museum exhibits. They live in the real world. the majority within our urban sprawl. Dying earlier, spending more time in hospital or prison than the non-indignous pop. isn’t an indication of a ‘meaningful’ life. It’s usually an indication of a pretty crappy one. If someone wants to change that, they shouldn’t be pissed on, despite their motives; without a viable alternative.

  5. Edwin McLean

    I have no problem with people critising a proposition, but they have to have some sort of alternative. I guess working is only one solution to a multitude of issues, but the ethic of working on the issues to deliver a personal outcome, whether it be a normal job or some other more spiritual pursuit, is the sort of ethic that can be encompased with in the pursuit of “work”. Just get started on it the answers will come.

  6. Oscar Jones

    Firebrace is spot on.
    Twiggy not only reaps the profits off indigenous Australians but all of the inhabitants of this land.

    Giving back just a bit after his disgraceful campaign and scare-mongering during the great mining tax ‘debate’ should never be forgotten. ‘Smokescreen’ is the right word.

  7. Observation

    Its the same old story. But with all the discussions, different policies and interventions no body can tell us what is really needed. Not even the Aborigines. Even they argue amongst themselves on what they really want. Maybe it is not one answer but many. They are not one nation with one voice and each of their sub groups put forward different solutions, usually on the same topic.

    How do these guys want to become self sufficient and not rely on hand outs as the catch cry goes? Well like all the rest of us they need to work….don’t they, or is it because of their spiritual culture they should only occupy themselves in story telling from the dream time? Or do they only work in the tourism industry because then they can truly express their heritage. Or should we treat them like everyone else in the country? Or do we already? Do we give them land to be managed and run by their local elder group to mine, run stock or make into a tourist park? You have city guys who are lawyers and doctors right through to guys out in the bush rarely seeing any form of our western society, but even though one has all the perks of the modern amenities, which one is happier and what would each one recommend to better their life?

  8. Liz45

    @OBSERVATION – Do we give them land to be managed and run by their local elder group to mine, run stock or make into a tourist park?

    Don’t you mean, ‘do we give them land that was theirs in the first place’? There has been studies done(Henry Reynolds) that nowhere did indigenous people give their land to the invaders. This land is and has always been aboriginal land. They had to fight hard to get the ‘bits’ back – now they’re being forced to sign their land over with some con job of a house? that may or may not come off. Nobody else has to sign over their land for 5 yrs?(probably for mining purposes? a link to ‘Twiggy’ perhaps?)in order to gain basic standards of living that the rest of us accept as our right. Nowhere else do people have to send their kids to school each day that involves a distance of 120 klms? Then there’s the recent policy, that the native language of students is not to be spoken at school any more! This is in spite of those who know, that in order to teach a child to read, it’s more productive to teach them in their own language first. But govt beaurecrats know better it seems!

    I hope that these offers of employment are in consultation with indigenous people, not just another example of paternalistic and patronising doing what’s ‘best for them’? More talking down – talking at people, instead of engaging with them! I think it’s called respect!

    The Labor Govt has only exaccerbated the racist policies of the Howard Intervention. The removal of CDEP (so that the Racial Discrimination Act could be repealed) changed a positive situation, where people had their unemployment benefits topped up, so that they received about $1000 per fortnight while they learned skills that they could use in the future. Now they only receive about $115 in cash and the same on their Basics Card(read RACIST card) where it can only be used in certain stores for certain things – there’s a separate queue in said supermarkets for those with the RACIST card. This is just another racist and humiliating method of decades ago, when in those times indigenous workers received beef, tea and sugar etc. The indigenous people have no choice – either work as slave labour($4-$11 per hour?) or don’t receive any benefits at all! Some can be working side by side with non-indigenous workers, who are in receipt of the award wage! How can this be OK?

    I have been to the Sydney Rally today, and recently, went to a local rally and heard a man from the NT tell a horrific story of being sacked because he allegedly refused to empty septic refuse into an area that was not far from a primary school. Such things would bring immediate howls of protest almost anywhere else- there’d be ‘mass removals’ to avoid disease, and very strong disinfectant would be sprayed post haste. Not in the NT? After all, if you don’t consider them to be human beings like ‘us’, it doesn’t really matter does it? If this is the attitude of govts or councils up there, I hate to think what might be the agreements re employment for indigenous people in this instance. If you don’t do as you’re told, even though it’s illegal, then you lose your job!

    Are they going to receive proper training? Are they going to receive proper award wages? Are they going to enjoy the same rights as the rest of the country re superannuation and workers compensation and paid sick leave? An aboriginal man in the NT was working on a construction site. He broke his arm, it was in plaster, but he was told he had to work or not receive any money? No workers comp or sick leave there apparently. But, it’s so far away, and the racist media isn’t interested in justice for indigenous people, so, who cares? Sickening!

    I don’t have much faith in this process. After the way ‘Twiggy’ carried on over the mining profits tax, why should we have any hope re this project. I’ll wait until some indigenous people have looked it over, see what the response is, and then make up my mind. I hope my scepticism is unwarranted, but???

    Aboriginal people are justifiably very angry, and there is growing support by the Union movement and concerned and angry citizens like myself – we are sick to death of the racist and genocidal policies. Enough is enough! When I voted “yes” in the Referendum of 1967, I didn’t think this sort of disgraceful situation would be taking place in 2010. The Apology filled us with a false hope – and now reality is really confronting, unjust and sickening in its effects on peoples’ health – physical and emotional. No wonder they die too early – the rest of us cause that to happen, particularly racist govts! I feel ashamed!

  9. Iain Hall

    You could all get something from reading this piece about a speech by Bess Price she very clearly points out just why attempts like “Generation one” to fix the indigenous social problems are bound to fail.

  10. freecountry

    Oscar Jones,

    If Forrest did not “reap the benefits” he would not be able to do the thing and there would be no benefits to reap. That’s why he is able to make a serious stab at creating 50,000 indigenous jobs, while I’m hard pressed to create even one job for anybody. Think about it.

  11. freecountry

    Observation,

    Don’t judge a whole category of peoples just on the loud complaints of a few self appointed spokespeople. By the same yardstick, white people could sound like a bunch of whingers and beggars too. While some are talking, others are working.

  12. Elan

    Spot on Awesome Pete! (Dajopa: it’s a mystery how they coped before the White man came here to show them how…)
    _____________

    “If Forrest did not “reap the benefits” he would not be able to do the thing and there would be no benefits to reap. That’s why he is able to make a serious stab at creating 50,000 indigenous jobs, while I’m hard pressed to create even one job for anybody. ”

    Vintage FREEKER!

    …………………you DO realise that this statement has a double edge don’t you?

    Think about it.
    ______________

    Off to read that speech, Iain Hall.

  13. Elan

    FGS!! What is offending the auto-mod THIS time???

  14. Elan

    IAIN HALL:

    How easy to say ‘what an excellent speech’! It sounds so condescending.

    What I gain from it, is what I said above.

    White settlement has torn the Indigenous Australian community apart in more ways than one.

    They have to live in both worlds. They cannot live by blackfella law;-and have no option but to live by whitefella law.

    They have learned to take from White society what benefits them. And I don’t blame them for that one bit. But what they have taken has destroyed them;- and marginalised them.

    And then we blame them for that. And WE come in with the best solutions for THEM.

    So Forrest wants to assist them? How kind. God knows, they have given him good value for money over the years.

    Forrest is not giving at all. He is giving back some of what he took.
    ________________________

    We did this to them. Then we blame them.

  15. Elan

    Is it ‘blackfella’ that offended you this time, auto-mod?

  16. Cynic

    I don’t know whether GenerationOne will do Aborigines any good or not. One thing I am damn sure about is Andrew Forrest cannot and should not be trusted. As a school kid he used to brag about fighting with the local aboriginal kids where he grew up. He is a fraudster of the highest degree and a consumate liar. The only reason he would be doing any of this is to make out he is some sort of a “philanthropist” – which he definitely isn’t. Just ask the shareholder who lost hundreds of millions on his Anaconda venture in the 90s. His current venture is no more than a billion dollar scam where he has managed to con investors into pouring money into the mining tenements that nobody else wants (because the ore is such poor grade) and then ramping up the share price by exagerating the contracts he has with chinese steel producers. Just remember he has put almost none of his own money into either the mining venture or into providing any jobs.

  17. Tom McLoughlin

    jobs for Aboriginal Australians is a good idea. he seesms sincere. no doubt there is some self interest. it’s never been a perfect world. he can’t heal the past, but raw anger is unlikely to be an answer either.

  18. Iain Hall

    Elan

    How easy to say ‘what an excellent speech’! It sounds so condescending.

    Well you misread my meaning if you see my comment as condescending. I have genuine admiration for what is being said in that speech purely because I think she get to the real crux of the problem, namely that indigenous culture and values are ill suited for living in a modern world with money and individual ownership of property. This is the wombat in the room that so many activists and Lefties just can’t seem to recognise let alone deal with.

    White settlement has torn the Indigenous Australian community apart in more ways than one.

    Sure but you can’t unscramble the omelette now so attributing blame does nothing towards making a future for indigenous people now does it?

    They have to live in both worlds. They cannot live by blackfella law;-and have no option but to live by whitefella law.

    Agreed so the sooner they get with the program and embrace modernity the sooner they will build better lives for themselves and their children.

    They have learned to take from White society what benefits them. And I don’t blame them for that one bit. But what they have taken has destroyed them;- and marginalised them.

    So perhaps you should not be so keen to excuse their bad choices, As Bess suggests the old ways worked when they lived that life but they don’t work now .

    And then we blame them for that. And WE come in with the best solutions for THEM.

    Perhaps you need to disable your guilt chip and look at the situation in an entirely pragmatic way.

  19. Liz45

    @CYNIC – I agree with you. I don’t like him, never have and I don’t trust him either. I wonder how many indigenous people he’s walked over due to his mining activities. I was disgusted during the fiasco over the proposed tax on resources profits, when he dressed as one of the workers? What an actor?

    @TOM – The indigenous people have a right to “raw anger” over what the last 200+ years have done to them – and how much change has the 21st century brought? They’re back where they were prior to winning some hard fought legal cases in order to get some of THEIR land back – now they’re losing it all over again. Only for five yrs I hear you say. the fact is, that if after 5 yrs they find themselves in Court again, trying to make whatever govt is in power to keep their promise, some white racist judge will say, ‘you’ve lived without being involved with your land for 5 yrs, prove the relationship between you and the land’? Or words to that effect. That was what they had to prove yrs ago – some lost due to lack of ‘documented evidence’ of their relationship with that particular area.

    When I see people being discriminated against due to the colour of their skin, I must speak out against it. Regardless of the times or circumstances, there’s no excuse for racism. In this country every child is entitled to an education, decent housing, sanitation etc. We don’t tell the parents of a child living in a remote area, that their child has to travel over 100 klms per day to school, and then be forced to sit in a tin shed rail, hail or shine? There’d be an outcry, and rightly so – but we accept it for indigenous people. the same applies to all vital areas of living – we accept it, and people like me who take a stand are often accused of being a ‘bleeding heart’ or a ‘do gooder’ or a white person with a guilt complex etc.

    Howard had no less than a dozen inquiries into indigenous disadvantage during his almost 12 yrs, but did nothing. Then, when the applications for mining revved up, he needed to get aboriginal people out of the way – and Rudd/Gillard have now taken over! It’s disgusting! The applications went from approximately 180 – to over 400 in a short time.
    How many aboriginal men have even been charged with sexual abuse of kids? How many kids have been abused? During the early days of the Intervention, many indigenous kids were found to be suffering from serious ear infections, how many of those kids have been to an ENT specialist, to date? It goes on – how many houses have been repaired, how many new ones, how many people have garbage disposed of, etc etc. We wouldn’t put up with half of what’s going on up there, why should they?

    If after over 200 yrs, all we can do is more of the same, what does it say about us. Nobody is denying, that there are complex problems, but there are smart people who can solve those issues, but they have to want to – and govts have to stop their paternalistic behaviour – it’s demoralising!
    There’s 50 aboriginal people studying medicine – I find that really exciting. I think there’s at least 20 indigenous doctors in Australia now – when these 50 join them, things must improve???
    There’s probably budding doctors among those kids who don’t have access to a decent education. We’re a rich country, there’s no excuse for what’s happening now. Money is being spent, but there’s too much on beaurecrats, 4 wheel drives and homes for them, but not enough for those who really need it! Shame!

  20. SBH

    Free country (and others) I don’t think Forrest is dishonest and I think he want’s to do something positive. Unfortunately the AEC isn’t doing it. Even on their figures it will take 50 years to get close to the 50,000.

    At a recent CEDA conference AEC CEO Mal James said that the 17-20,000 job ‘pledges’ had so far resulted in about 700 jobs. Further analysis showed this was about 500 people employed, presumably due to what HR people call ‘churn’. The AEC (and generation one) doesn’t find people jobs, it just registers businesses that say they want to employ Aboriginal people. It doesn’t help those businesses and it doesn’t match jobs to people. It does complain loudly about bureaucratic inability but doesn’t have a lot of credibility with Aboriginal people or business. This is a dismal performance and a direct result of the model.

    To flesh out Awsome pete’s point, inherent in the AEC model is the view that Aboriginal people must change to fit the job or business, not that the business should adapt to benefit from the intrinsic worth Aboriginal employees bring to a workplace or business. The kind of change needed is similar to the changes made to the workplace that arise from our recognition that women and disabled people should have the same opportunities as the rest of the labour pool.

    And while all the Forrest fuss is going on the Brumby government continues to tip very substantial political, human and financial resources into resolving chronic Aboriginal disadvantage. It deserves much more exposure and credit in this debte.

  21. zimmerman

    Thank god there are still people willing to speak out against that nasty Mr Forrest (he is a miner after all). I know the usual naysayers on Crikey would have a sterling record of Aboriginal job creation, probably numbering in the high zeros. If it was a scheme touted by Bob Brown or David Suzuki or Al Gore it would be so much more worthy.
    Let’s all walk over the Harbour Bridge – that’s much nicer…………..

  22. SBH

    Zimmerman you don’t answer my central point that the AEC and its associated enterprises is just like the walk over the bridge, worthy, well intentioned and low on actual results like actual jobs, where as places like the Vic Government are actually employing people

  23. SBH

    and just to push home the point, the AEC is currently advertising 554 vacancies on its front page , 263 vacancies are shown when you go to the job adds with 75 ‘active roles’. Regardless of its intentions this is a hopeless effort

  24. peach1

    Well twiggy is only grandstanding. He want to get media exposure.

    The Aborigines know only two words “we want”. They could try five such as “lets do something for ourselves”.

    Even spoon feeding them brings no results.

    One of Darwin’s principal observation reflected in his theory of evolution is that species that can’t adapt to changing circumstances perish.

    Some Aborigines have adapted to the changing circumstances since European settlement and others have refused or are not able to adapt.

    Let evolution take its course. Others have disappeared in its wake and will continue to do so.

  25. SBH

    aah Peach1 – the screaming r*cist in our midst. good work !

  26. jungarrayi

    Megan Stack in her book ‘Every Man in This Village is a Liar’ writes: “…But in Jerusalem I learned that good intentions and lofty ideals are among the most dangerous tools of all in a war, because they blind people to what they’re doing…”
    A more famous book has the following: “…Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)….”

    Here we go again doing things for Aborigines, debating and implementing what we think is best for THEM.
    Jobs and Closing the Gap as a panacea for the guilt of having dispossesed, marginalised, brutalised and disempowered whole societies.

    I agree with those (like LIZ45) that say basic rights (identity, language, land etc.) and respect are in the long term of greater importance than jobs and houses (whilst fully realising that this is easy to say by me that has a job and a house and doesn’t have all and sundry telling me how I should lead my life).

  27. peach1

    @SBH

    I don’t waste my time on being a racist. I apply science to human problems.
    I guess you never heard of the theory of evolution and its evidence that is overwhelming.

    Ever heard of dinosaurs dying out. Or of cromagna man disappearing. Or the people who once lived on Easter Island disappearing.

    The problem with people like you is that reality passes you by. Reality is not necessarily politically correct or pretty.

  28. freecountry

    There’s been an emphasis on preserving identity, language, land rights, traditional art forms, and other outward expressions of Aboriginal culture, for some time now.

    In my view this represents a profound institutional failure of the whole academic discipline of ethnological anthropology. For over a century now these well-meaning but thoroughly harmful academics have been re-adapting their “noble savage” theories to sidestep criticisms of churning out the same old cliches.

    Ironically, when one of their number actually discovered that the outward expressions of a culture are not the basis for preserving it, he was ridiculed by his peers, driven deeper into the depression and drink that his discovery had traumatized him into, and today is regarded in the field of anthropology as an object lesson in unprofessionalism and loss of scientific detachment.

    That man was Colin Turnbull, and his book The Mountain People, the only work I read in two years of anthropology study (against the recommendation of my lecturer, who derided it) that was worth a pinch of shit.

    Turnbull never really recovered from his experiences charting the slow spiral of social collapse into which a Uganda-Kenya hunting-gathering society fell, after their traditional migratory circuits were turned into national parks and they couldn’t hunt there any more. They were sent to a highland ridge on the border, where the Ugandan government gave them some cursory introduction to the process of farming, and then abandoned them.

    It wasn’t the growing poverty or desperation which so upset Turnbull, although these were grim as a drought was underway; it was the gradual breakdown in what we think of as the most basic standards of social morality, to the point where the death of a child from neglect would be shrugged off as one less mouth to feed, and their greatest source of amusement and derision was to see Turnbull give something to another person without receiving anything in return. But he kept coming back, unable to avert his eyes from a people who (contrary to what his Wikipedia entry says) were as dear to him as any humans on earth. There but for the grace of God go we all.

    The lesson of Colin Turnbull’s costly discovery is that human culture is not predicated on its memes–its languages and art forms, its kinship traditions, its gift and reciprocity rituals, and so on. These are the consequent expressions of its underlying cultural drivers, not the antecedents.

    This means you cannot preserve a culture simply by teaching some cross-dialect pidgin of its languages in schools, and selling derivatives of its art in Paddington galleries, and opining sagely that the didgeridoo player at Circular Quay is a really good player.

    All of our cultures derive from our method of securing our own food supply. Which is why urban Australians are so nostalgic about our farming and grazing traditions, and sometimes so baffled by a sense of ennui in the cities, even when these cities seem to offer so much more life and growth than the stale, decaying Australian rural scene of the 21st century. That’s not to say societies can’t adapt; we all once were farmer-traders or herdsmen, or subsistence farmers, and we were hunter gatherers some time before that. But adaptation is a tough thing to force on a people in just a few generations, along with the loss of all sovereignty, loss of all but the most infertile land, infectious diseases, and nothing to fill those spaces but addictive drugs and instant-gratification consumer goods.

    I can attest that there is no correspondence between the downfall of the Ik and the ravages wrought upon outback Aboriginal society by the loss of control of their own food supply. I can still travel through the Kimberleys or the Stony Desert today and expect a higher standard of hospitality and respect from the black folks than I am likely to get from my own white tribe. Which, given the circumstances, is remarkable. The rates of child abuse and domestic violence in some of the regional towns or inner city ghettoes indicates a more advanced state of decay, but at least these behaviours are still considered unacceptable, even if victims prefer to endure in silence than to risk losing their children to social services by calling the police. The fate of the Ik is still a long way off.

    While the cultural traditions of Aboriginal peoples need to be preserved for the time when they can be adapted and related once more to the means of existence, no solution to the destruction of culture will be successful until Aboriginals can regain what we all need: some form of economic control over their own food supply. Not necessarily hunting and gathering–that economy is no longer physically possible–but perhaps their own industries in grazing, fishing, farming, beekeeping, and so on. Economies to which their spiritual traditions can be adapted. And from which their children can branch out, as white folks do, into more urban forms of work and study which we can trade for food .. but always have the farm to return to, when the detachment of urban life becomes too alienating and nostalgia calls us back.

  29. jungarrayi

    “There’s been an emphasis on preserving identity, language, land rights, traditional art forms, and other outward expressions of Aboriginal culture, for some time now.”

    Me and my family have lived on a Warlpiri community for over 3 decades. I cringe every time I hear or see the word “preserve”. It always makes me think of jars of fruit or biological specimens preserved in formaldehyde.

    Not all of us non-Indigenous people that appreciate and celebrate cultural and linguistic diversity think that we somehow “own” Aboriginals and get all dewy eyed about the clicking of boomerangs.
    Two quotes:
    “In Australia, our ways have mostly produced disaster for the Aboriginal people. I suspect that only when their right to be distinctive is accepted, will policy become creative”… Kim Beazley Sr.

    “Cultural survival is not about preservation, sequestering indigenous peoples in enclaves like some sort of zoological specimens. Change itself does not destroy a culture. All societies are constantly evolving. Indeed a culture survives when it has enough confidence in its past and enough say in its future to maintain its spirit and essence through all the changes it will inevitably undergo……..It is not change that will destroy culture but power.’
    — Wade Davis; Radio National, Big Ideas program; The Massey Lectures, ‘Century of the Wind’, 25-2-2010

    I say amen to that.

  30. SBH

    four words Free country “outward expressions” and “my view” show your premise is fatally flawed

  31. freecountry

    SBH – How so?

    Think again: how many times have you heard the completely banal observation, so sagely offered by intercultural “experts,” that Aboriginal cultures are closely linked to the land? All human cultures are related to the environment from which we get our food. Those that lose that link must soon achieve a transition to some economic equivalent–and must feel ownership of it, not have it imposed on them–or culture becomes unmoored from its basis in survival, and social breakdown follows. We’re really not all that different, black people and white people, we just got to where we are through different histories.

    How many times have you heard the suggestion, as if it were some inspired flash of brilliance, that Aboriginals could be put to work as park rangers? As if driving around in SUVs, picking up tourists’ rubbish, inspecting lookouts and day trails for stones that may trip up some lame sightseer and lead to the NPWS being sued, were somehow equivalent to maintaining a knowledge-based economy and technology for surviving in one’s own homeland.

    Which is not to say that some Aboriginals don’t make excellent park rangers–some do, just as some make excellent mine workers, musicians, teachers, sports stars, doctors, lawyers, or scientists–but having access to pretty scenery alone is not the lifeblood of the tribal traditions. The lifeblood of their traditions is, and always has been, economic, just as it is and always has been for the rest of us. To ignore this is to doom a people into becoming “Hollywood Indian” museum exhibits–helpless, lost, and culturally extinct.

    The 19th century pastoralists observed that Aboriginals made superb horsemen and cattle graziers. The hunting and herding modes of breadwinning, though different, have enough in common for the cultural symbology and lifestyle to adapt and remain intact. That’s why Queensland’s Wild Rivers legislation will be so harmful, exactly as Neol Pearson said, and why supervising forestry for carbon credits will probably not succeed as an economic substitute, though it’s better than nothing.

    To that extent, having jobs in mines is probably not the promised land for cultural salvation and self determination. It’s hard to imagine an “iron ore dreaming” taking up where the living food source dreamings left off. But the money and business experience that could come from those jobs, and the choices that can follow from earning that money, could be a necessary stepping stone for people to discover their own answers and find their own way to self determination.

  32. SBH

    “preserving identity, language, land rights, traditional art forms,” these things are not outward, they are intrinsic.

    Your ‘view’ is from your perspective not an Aboriginal perspective and you allocate values based on your point of view.

    I’m not having a go I’m just pointing out that how someone expresses their culture is their business not yours (or mine)

  33. Liz45

    @PEACH1 – Are you serious? Do you think you can deny over 200 yrs of racist history, and then blame aboriginal people for their own demise or ‘difficulties’? How come they survived OK for at least 60,000 years prior to white invasion and occupation?

    Using your criteria, the Iraqi and Afghani people are also responsible for the fact, that too many kids are orphans, the essential services in Iraq are almost non-functioning; the educational facilities are either bombed to bits or the teachers are dead or in jail or too terrified to be seen!

    You refer to “political correctness”? There’s nothing politically correct about saying ‘no’ to racism. I wish I had the power to put you in the position of a NT indigenous person for a week, and see how you’d feel then? No doubt, you’re a white person with all the trimmings of that life at your disposal. Do you blame the Jews murdered as part of the Holocaust for their deminse too?

  34. freecountry

    The point doesn’t apply only to Aboriginals. How many modern caucasians feel somehow cut off from the source of things and yearn for what they think of as “the simple life”? Our transition from clans to nation-states and from cattle-herding to industrial economies took thousands of years, and many of us still have one foot in the cousin’s or uncle’s farm. For those who don’t, food is a plastic-wrapped cargo cult, not a living thing, but to draw attention to this is to invite ridicule as a sentimentalist so we don’t often see the significance.

  35. MattScudder

    I think Freecountry makes some good points. As does Peach when he says “Let evolution takes its course”. That is not a racist comment, but simply sensible.
    Yes, the way the white invaders treated those already here was horrendous – though judged by the morality of the time, not particularly so. The point is it can’t be undone. (Just as it would be absurd for those living in or descended from the British Isles to sue the Italians for the Roman invasion, for example.)
    It’s great that our legal system recognises that some Indigenous people have rights to certain parts of Australia – but pouring money into remote communities that will never be self-sufficient is a form of apartheid.
    For fairness and a better sociaty with the gap between rich and poor as small as possible, we should provide assistance to all people to have equal opportunities – and that may well mean more assistance to some than others. But so much of the bleeding heart rhetoric seems to suggest we should do so to somehow atone for the misdeeds of our ancestors. Such atonement is neither possible nor desirable, and locks all of society – black, white, brown, pink – into the past.

  36. SBH

    Mattscuder you should read more. Australian governments and officials were routinely criticised for their inhuman treatment of Australia’s first people.

  37. freecountry

    Currently the taxpayer subsidizes the supply of goods to indigenous communities from outside those communities. Such as supermarket goods and motor vehicles. Or the supply of goods to government buying what it has decided indigenous communities need, such as useless consultancy services for pretending to build houses in that atrocious SIHIP program. Sure, people who’ve lost their former economy need assistance for the cost of living and things like education. We don’t want to let people starve.

    But beyond that, further transfers should shift focus from passive welfare to subsidizing the purchase of goods and services produced by designated Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders.

    For example. Suppose a Koori community starts a bee farm. The operators would apply to a specially created federal authority for recognition as an ATSI supplier. Suppose status is granted. The producers would then be licenced to add a special ATSI logo to the labelling on their produce. The honey ends up on a grocery shelf competing with non-ATSI produce. Honey is already not subject to GST (a bad mistake by the Labor Senate when GST was introduced, but anyway …) so the retailer would be able to apply to the authority for a 10% bonus on the end-user price after selling the honey. This price signal would work all the way back through the supply chain to the wholesale farmers’ market, giving the ATSI honey a price advantage.

    A Pitjinjara fashion designer applies successfully for ATSI supplier status. The labels on her clothes would carry the licensed ATSI logo and her clothing would be GST exempt. The same exemption would apply to advertising fees on a Walpiri radio station, houses built by an Arnhem Land builder, and the entire GST take on all sales from a Cape York fishing supplies shop. An ATSI-designated mining enterprise exporting copper applies for the license, and the exporter who buys the copper would receive a 10% rebate on the wholesale price paid. And so on …

    The point being, the subsidy would apply only when a successful sale to an end-user takes place. The licensed ATSI logo would make it clear to buyers exactly why they are getting a discount, and a website would explain to cynics exactly why this is a far better and more efficient subsidy than the old government programs. The subsidy would continue for a number of years until indigenous economies have caught up, and then it could be phased out.

  38. SBH

    If we can’t atone for the misdeeds of our ancestors then we can’t take any pride in their achievements either. Well, I guess you can if you just unapologetically eschew any kind of logic or reason.

    Yes let’s let evolution decide. So all us pale-skinned people will die in a country like this because of skin cancers. In the NT the Aboriginal population will be the majority in not to many years. Will evolution dictate that we hand it back completely? By the way which bits of evolution should we let rip, are you including the bits that modern science and medicine stop or reduce in effect? And finally, would either of you feel quite so comfortable if ‘evolution’ was working against you.

    Your call for ‘evolution’ is not only far from the point of this article but merely a proxy for a r*cist belief that you, being white, are superior to Aborigines. Your use of ‘evolution’ echos the past policies of white supremacist Australian governments which for many years saw their role was to ‘smooth the pillow’ of a dying race.

  39. Germain\'t

    @SBH
    Re. ‘So all us pale-skinned people will die in a country like this because of skin cancers…’ Maybe you should take your own advice and read more too SBH, given that not all people who identify as Aboriginal these days are necessarily all that dark of complexion. You might want to be careful with your language around the whole skin-colour thing – you don’t want to end up being sued alongside Andrew Bolt, I’m sure.

  40. Elan

    IAIN HALL: Thanks for the laugh! I needed cheering up.

    I hope you’ll laugh too when I explain. It is comical how when one comment is misunderstood, ti starts a chain reaction of negative response.

    It was probably my fault! I meant it seemed so condescending –of ME to just say;-what an excellent speech. You know the thing,-the kind of pat on the head stuff!!

    I only skimmed your response to me,-now I’ll go back and have a look at what a low life you think I am.

    Bess’ speech was EXCELLENT!!
    ___________________________

    I’ve read your response in full. Naughty IAIN!! This is not just a problem for the Left. The attitudes that prevail, cross Party lines, so don’t try to make political mileage of it.

    I’ll stick with ‘I don’t blame them one bit’.

    I can’t disable my ..er, guilt chip! I don’t have one. My mum would never allow it.

    (It’s alright poppet. No apology is necessary. I didn’t make myself clear.)

  41. Elan

    A general question: are all your comments going for moderation here,-or is it just me??

    Could someone let me know, please?

  42. freecountry

    Elan – Just you and a few others. You mostly talk about nothing, you always do it in double spacing, you fill up whole screens with your double-spaced stream of consciousness, you make personal comments about other posters without even knowing who they are … so the moderators let the occasional one through, probably more to reinforce relatively good behaviour than for any likelihood that others will be interested in reading it. Nothing personal … none of us even know who each other is, so it’s never personal, it’s just feedback.

  43. Elan

    “…… so the sooner they get with the program and embrace modernity…….”

    Righty ho!!! Simple!

    Get yourself up to an Aboriginal settlement; stand in the main street and tell them to get with the programme (interesting spelling-are you American IH??) and ’embrace modernity’.

    That’ll fix it.

    If only we had realised how simple the solution was!!

    Hummmmm? IH: You liked that speech because you saw it as fitting your political outlook. THEY can’t win can THEY?
    ________________________

    PLEECH/FREEKER/GERMAINTY: Stay as sweet as you are.

    Nice try SCUDDS.
    _____________________

    “Here we go again doing things for Aborigines, debating and implementing what we think is best for THEM.
    Jobs and Closing the Gap as a panacea for the guilt of having dispossessed, marginalised, brutalised and disempowered whole societies.”

    Spot on JUNGA!!

  44. Elan

    Thank-you FREEKER dearest. Given your expert knowledge I shall now seek confirmation.

  45. Germain\'t

    Well said, Freecountry! And thanks for your thoughtful contributions – a good read, looking forward to more.

  46. Elan

    Done.

    FREEKER: how small is your monitor screen?: “you fill up whole screens… “

    I’m so sorry. I heard a rumour about small monitor screens. It relates to the small feet/small hands thing.

    I AM sorry. Really…

  47. Elan

    GERM: you agree with FREEK!!

    I’m shocked. Really…

  48. Germain\'t

    I agree with Freecountry on pulling you up on your behaviour in this forum, and I appreciate the thought that F puts into his/her contributions – I don’t recall saying ‘I heartily endorse everything you’ve said thus far’. One can be polite to a fellow contributor without necessarily agreeing with their opinion. Try it – you’ll see.

  49. Liz45

    @I agree with you JUNGA!

    I suggest, that if people really want to have an insight into the past treatment of aboriginal people, they could read any of Henry Reynold’s books, Peter Carey’s, ‘A Rape of the Soul so Profound’ and Peter Stewart’s excellent and researched book re the Massacre at Myall Creek, called ‘Demons at Dusk’? He researched this book for 20 yrs prior to writing it. I had it in my head for weeks after – not due to the written violence but the whole attitude of the time, includng the blatant racism of the media. It was amazing! I wonder if Andrew Bolt bothers to read these books – probably not!

    @SBH – Aboriginal people can get skin cancers too! Even those from the top end I imagine. Many melanomas don’t ‘come out’ on parts of the body exposed to the sun. That’s why skin cancers are so prevalent and horrific. For instance, when the cancer cells ‘do their thing’ and travel around the body? they can manifest on the belly or buttock or? Secondaries can present in the liver etc. Australia has the highest rate of skin cancers in the world. People with fair skin are more likely to get any of the skin cancers. I’ve got fair skin and have had two of the least dangerous removed. I steer clear of the sun – my Irish ancestry and inhereting my mother’s sensitive and fair skin and hair!

    Years ago, there was a revolting method of ‘defining’ aboriginality – it was obnoxious and offensive. Today, a person is an aboriginal person if they are accepted by others as being so, and if they say so – in other words, fair skinned people or a person with darker skin have the right to be known as an aboriginal. We don’t want to go back to those horrific days of quadrants or 3/4 or? Yuk! How disgusting. When I say I’m Australian, nobody questions me. I get very aprehensive/angry when people start talking about degrees and colours etc?

    The whole reason for the removal of aboriginal children was based on colour. One child in a family of 3, 6 or? could be removed, when they were perceived to be ‘too white’ or not ‘black enough’ to be raised as an aboriginal person. The aim, clearly stated, was to ‘out breed’ the aboriginality of these people, and eventually, to remove the entire aboriginal population from the country’s future. This is called genocide!

    One offensive argument used by too many racists, is to question an aboriginal person’s right to have an opinion, as they don’t look aboriginal enough. Nobody says I don’t look Australian ‘enough’! I’m judged on what I do or don’t say(hopefully, without sexism?) not on what colour I am. I don’t feel that there’s a security person following me around a department store, just because of my colour. I hear lots of aboriginal people complaining about that. They’re presumed guilty as soon as they set foot in some stores – worse if you’re a young person I suspect!

    I have always rejected the concept of telling anyone what’s good for them, in particular, aboriginal people – they’ve had and still have too much of that already! It’s still part of the perceived superiority of white people – this doesn’t just happen in this country. Both Hilary Clinton and Julia Gillard are doing it in Vietnam at the moment. Preaching to them about human rights, while one has the PATRIOT Act, Guantanamo Bay, Abu Graib(several of them) and rendition, and we have 700 kids in detention, our own Terrorist Act, water cannon, capsicum spray and taser guns! Hardly in a position to preach! Oh yes, we also had Dr Haneef – a good example of the abuse of human rights! Deaths in jails and detention centres?

  50. Elan

    Don’t be so wet!!

    You and I do not agree.

    You agree with FREEK because he thinks like you philosophically, and he had a shot at me!
    Just have the backbone to say that!

    Take the starch out of your undies, and DON’T attempt to give me lessons on good behaviour.

    What a pair of weaklings.

  51. Germain\'t

    You’re hilarious, Elan 🙂

  52. Elan

    Thank-you sweetiekins.

    I wish you were. 🙂

  53. zerowitz

    I was recently reading that infant Aboriginals knew the cardinal points before they could walk or talk, that pastoralists were astonished at the speedy counting abilities of blacks herding their cattle (some children would count the stars at night as a game), that eyesight was physiologically superior compared to Europeans (before we introduced disease). Aboriginals may have even known the Earth was round before anyone else. Many nations were highly sophisticated (especially socially) and intelligent, and to suggest their demise is part of natural selection is a joke.

  54. Elan

    Thanks ZEROWITZ for bringing the topic back.

    Good post and interesting. I agree with you.

  55. freecountry

    The kind of Darwinism that applies in liberal political theory is survival and propagation (through growth or imitation) of successful economic practices and lifestyle choices that people are attracted to and are capable of supporting. It’s not all about tooth, claw, and vultures circling overhead.

    Liberal thinkers like Hayek etc never suggested taking this competitive neutrality to the extreme of allowing entire nations or peoples to perish. Such logic taken to its conclusions would imply that H1tler should have been left alone like any natural predator.

    We can and should provide economic support to ensure all citizens have the means not only to survive, but to prosper enough to make their own choices. Especially when a group of people have been disadvantaged by numerous debilitating historical forces acting all at once. We can do this support in stupid, counterproductive ways as governments frequently do, or we can do it in smart ways that encourage and boost the growth of self sufficient activities.

  56. freecountry

    To do so properly is actually cheaper than keeping entire populations dependent on welfare, keeping a high proportion of them in prison at any one time, and spending hundreds of millions on housing programs, which hardly build any houses and don’t even give the inhabitants any satisfaction in the few houses that are built.

  57. jungarrayi

    Seeing as quite a few of us have digressed into a Russian doll/Chinese whispers discussion (comments on comments on comments on the original article) I’ll comment on Zerowitz’s:
    ” I was recently reading that infant Aboriginals knew the cardinal points before they could walk or talk….”
    “Culture”(whatever that means exactly), Language and Weltanschauung (world view) and Identity and well-being are all intertwined. Warlpiri children don’t know the cardinal points before they can talk. They learn the cardinal points AS they learn to talk. Cardinal points are continuously used in normal Warlpiri conversation. For example the sentence: “Marliki ka panka” (the dog is running) is not complete without mentioning in which direction the dog is running: “Marliki ka panka kulirra-wana” (the dog is running southward) – apologies for my spelling mistakes.
    Like any language (including English), Warlpiri is fascinating and complex and beautiful. We will all be the poorer for it if it disappears. The current assimilationist (“mainstreaming”) push disguised as concern and compassion isn’t very helpful.
    The misguided destruction of bi-lingual education in the Northern Territory is an example. “Well, they HAVE to learn English if they are to succeed in the REAL world” “If they are to get a REAL job”. What arrogance to think our world is the only REAL one!
    The Gap that needs closing is the Ignorance and Respect Gap
    Son boludos.

  58. SBH

    geez Germain’t you make a habit of missing the point don’t you.

  59. Liz45

    @JUNGARRAY – Hear! Hear! Getting rid of the language is one of the prime requisities to genocide! Aboriginal kids who were taken(stolen) from their parents were bashed and????if they cried for their mother or spoke in their own language. What is happening now in the NT is just a different or more subtle example of that – it’s just that the perpetrators have got a little ‘smarter’ these days?

    I wonder how those who always rabbit on about the need to speak, learn etc in english, if this country was invaded and we were forced to only speak Spanish or Italian or Indonesian or Japanese? If our kids had to stop using their native language at school and speak the language that the invaders dictated.

    Those who sit on a lofty perch and put labels on people who speak out in defence of racist and genocidal practices, should ponder over how they’d feel if this country was invaded; the dams poisoned resulting in thousands of deaths; their land taken from them, illnesses and diseases deliberately spread among the first people, knowing their vulnerability and the probable deaths etc that would transpire – how would they feel in this situation? How angry would these people feel, knowing that they never relinquished ownership of their land. Too simple to say, well, we’ve all moved on now, let’s just forget about all that, and you indigenous people should just stop talking about it and move on! How simple life could be?

  60. Germain\'t

    If ‘assimilation’ is so terrible, I guess that means that any of us of Aboriginal heritage that happen to speak English, have a ‘mainstream’ education, a job, and all the usual aspirations and accoutrements (see?! I’m so edumacated!!) of Australian life are utterly, utterly tragic. Wow! Thanks guys for pointing out how hopeless, empty and uncultured our ‘assimilated’ lives really are! Here I was thinking maybe trying to make something of your life was a worthwhile thing, but now I realise I should have stayed back home on welfare. But gee, I can’t go back to the Centrelink queue now, or (more likely) the pub – I might infect my Aboriginal brethren with my toxic whitefella book-learnin’ and individualistic, enlightenment values. I ‘spose all I can do is remove my tragic, assimilated little self from the picture altogether. Thanks all you lefty numbnuts for showing me the light!

    (Note to self: stop wasting any more time on Crikey discussion pages)

  61. freecountry

    Germain\’t,

    When Jungarrayi referred to the “current assimilationist (‘mainstreaming’) push” I took him to mean a push from outside, telling Aboriginals that assimilation is their only valid choice. There is all the difference between you, or your parents, choosing to live in the modern mainstream–while still identifying as Aboriginal and perhaps still having some access to another layer of life–and simply being told that your heritage is defunct; suitable only for naming a few towns and streets so we can tell tourists the name means “corroborree” in the local language and have no one to contradict us. The key word here is “choice”.

  62. jungarrayi

    Thank you Freecountry, “choice” is indeed the key word.

    At the beginning of the Intervention I saw then Prime Minister Howard on the news during his visit to Ntaria (Hermannsburg) say that “For Aboriginals to have any future at all they’ll have to join the mainstream” …
    Here in Yuendumu we have people on Facebook and teenagers texting (is that how it is spelled?).
    Eastenders was one of the most popular programmes on TV some years ago.
    We have a (unfortunaly small) group of people that went through the height of the bilingual programme that are fully Warlpiri/English biliterate and bilingual and bicultural.

    Presently Warlpiri children are being denied that opportunity. We’ve had two years of a “first four hours of tuition is to be in English only” policy. This follows decades of bureaucratic sabotage and underfunding.

    There is nothing tragic about voluntary assimilation (I prefer integration). I myself wasn’t born in Australia, nor is English my mother tongue. My family came to Australia because we wanted to. We learned English and enjoyed the fruits that this lucky country offered us.
    Why can’t we give those first Australians whose mother tongue is not English the same freedom to choose? Why do we have to see them as a “problem” rather than celebrate their distinctness and include them in our pluralistic society? Why do we insist on running their lives? Why do we Intervene?
    I aplaud those of Aboriginal heritage that against all odds have “made it” and succesfully “assimilated”, as I aplaud those hard working migrants that put their sons and daughters through University. It does not follow that we have the right to force anyone to become more like us, nor does it mean we should deny them the opportunity to become more like us if that is what they wish. The GenerationOne movement does the latter.

  63. freecountry

    Germain\\’t,

    Your reference to “contamination” reminded me of an article by Robert Hodge describing a neocolonial attitude he calls “Aboriginalism” and criticizing the English term “Dreamtime”:

    [Aboriginalism operates through two sets of premises about the dimensions of the Aboriginal mind which distinguish it absolutely from Western forms of thought. One concerns the ‘Aboriginal’ view of history and time. In this view ‘our’ own familiar linear view of time as a passage from past to present to future is merely a construct of Western (European) rationalism. For Aboriginals, it is said, this view is incomprehensible and utterly alien. Instead, for them, past and present intermingle in a multiplicity of patterns. As a result, both history and change or progress are equally unthinkable within Aboriginal thought (or truly Aboriginal thought – only contaminated Aboriginals will reveal the scale of their contamination by entertaining such ideas, which they can only have caught, like an infection, from interaction with Europeans). Along with this difference goes a different sense of reality. These primitive Aboriginals, the Aboriginalist version has it, occupy a mystical otherworld, full of significance though empty of material goods. This nonmaterial otherworld is their most precious, perhaps their only possession. So all other things may be freely taken from them, so long as that is left intact.]

  64. Liz45

    @Germain\’t – I wouldn’t like you to think that I was being demeaning of you in any way – if so, I apologize most definitely. The issue seems to me to be a case, of aboriginal people having the same choices as I did, and my kids and grand kids do. The issue is usually racism, and how this society assesses the rights and privileges of others, particularly when those assessments are based on colour. I didn’t have to get a white woman to try on clothes for me when I was a young woman – due to the fact, that aboriginal women were not served. I didn’t have to sleep on a cold railway platform with my little kids when I was visiting a family member or perhaps a husband in jail – due only to the fact, that aboriginal people were denied a hotel/motel bed; nor did I have to sit out the back of a country/city hospital when pregnant, as only white women could wait in the waiting rooms, or allowed into the labour/maternity wards – aboriginal women were put ‘out the back’. That situation has slowly changed in practice, but all too often, the racist attitudes are still as blatant, revolting and hateful as back then.

    There are many aboriginal people who’ve made terrific lives for themselves via education and work experiences. There are 20 aboriginal doctors for example, and 50 more are training at this time, which I find most exciting and heartening. I love to watch The Deadlys, Message Stick, Living Black etc and learn about all the aboriginal people who are actors, teachers, musicians, writers, dancers, lawyers etc. I’m always amazed by their strength and commitment as I can only imagine how difficult it must be at times, perhaps every day, and yet they keep on, regardless of the ignorance, fear and hatred they come across. Then there’s the thousands that none of us see, who go about their lives with productive or boring jobs, and raise their kids with a commitment to their futures. Please don’t think that I put you down or try and trivialize or ridicule your achievements.

    The attitude to “assimilation’ in years past, was put into practice when the genocidal option ‘failed’? The attitude didn’t come about out of a deeply felt commitment to justice and equality of opportunity, it was of a still patronising and paternalistic attitude, with some pretty awful policies, such as the creation of Palm Island, missionaries, Stolen Generations and black deaths in custody and such like.

    I think many aboriginal people acknowledge the opportunities for their children re education, employment and other attributes that mainstream Australians consider our right – which it should be, for everybody. In NSW over 40% of people were either born overseas or their parents were. My three daughters in law are in this category. The only young woman born here has parents who were born overseas.

    We make more allowances for Italians for example in my local area than indigenous people. Every year there’s a festival in the adjoining city that involves the catholic church and a great festive spirit, which is great, and reinforces all those positive things or sharing and recognition and respect. Do we have the equivalent for indigneous people? Sometimes during NAIDOC week, but sometimes not! The Chinese community in Sydney have a celebration each Chinese New Year. It’s embraced by the whole local community which is great? Again, is there a celebration for indigenous people that receives similar media time? Probably not!

    However, those aboriginal people who choose to live out their lives in the places of their birth should be able to. In the past, there were opportunities for them to be emloyed in a well paid job, but there was a definite program of not employing/training aboriginal people. I refer to Nabalco in Gove as a prime example, and this was stated in the Inquiry into the bauxite mining company.

    Only a few weeks ago I went to a local informative rally, where I learned, that the racist Gillard policies of the NT are also happening here, re CDEP! This is going to result in lots of young indigenous people being denied the opportunity to learn new skills and hopefully be enabled to a rewarding future. Sadly, this is going to be more difficult, until there are enough of us to force the federal govt to stop their unjust practices; stop feeding us bs, and get on with the job they profess to be committed to.

    Will Andrew Forrest ensure that indigenous people receive proper training for skills they can use throughout their working life; with decent wages, access to super, sick leave and workers comp, or will it be similar to the Gillard govts present racist policies re CDEP that is operating now. No Union worth its salt would allow such horrific abuses or its members. Indigenous people shouldn’t have to choose between a decent living and/or being denied any monies. That’s blatant racism, and has nothing to do with justice! The struggle continues!

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