The preselection of Warren Mundine and Jacinta Price is a reward for their advocacy of “old white fella” policies.
They have chosen the comfort and support that comes from aligning yourself with those who hold and wield the power whilst seemingly blaming Aboriginal people for their own oppression.
Whilst they might speak about issues affecting Aboriginal communities like domestic violence and unemployment, I have yet to hear either of them offer any recognition of how the past has influenced the present let alone any positive suggestions on how to create change for the future.
Warren Mundine’s CV is really long with an eye-watering array of boards and committees and appointments – the Australian Indigenous Chamber of Commerce, the NSW Local Government Aboriginal Network, the National Native Title Council, the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation, the Indigenous Advisory Committee of the Australian Law Reform Commission, NAISDA and the Redfern Arts & Film Festival Foundation to name but a few.
Mundine was also appointed as chair of Tony Abbott’s Indigenous Advisory Council, a group that was described as “an amorphous body without clout or a clear purpose.”
As Linda Burney MP put it: “Leadership in an Aboriginal cultural context is not given or measured by how much media you get or if you earn big money. True Aboriginal leadership does not come from high-level appointments or board membership. It doesn’t come from and cannot be given by white constructs. Leadership is earned; it is given when you have proven you can deal with responsibility and you understand that responsibility’.”
Aboriginal people are not one homogenous mob and we must listen to different ideas but ignoring root causes and suggesting that Aboriginal culture itself is to blame is a cop out.
Marcia Langton described Ms Price as a political naif.
“Jacinta Price is useful to politicians. She legitimises racist views by speaking them against her own people. When she walks through Alice Springs and Tennant Creek with the prime minister, she waves a flag for the increasingly normal brand of race politics coming from Canberra.”
A collective of Aboriginal women from the central Australian region presented a statement to the first Alice Springs Town Council meeting for 2018 that called for an end to lateral violence, racial profiling, discrimination and constant vilification. “[…] it is hurtful, it is divisive, it is unnecessary. It fuels tension in our community and incites bullying and racism towards us” claims the collective’s statement.
Trisha Morton Thomas said it was equally about a unified approach to dealing with our shared past and a reconciled future.
“It was the Arrernte women leading the charge and rightfully so. It is their country. The statement was a response but the women decided to address the nonsense in a constructive way, which was to highlight that leadership in Aboriginal communities is decided by the people and not by media or governments. They also wanted to address comments about Alice not being a racist town by stating that they have been at the brunt of racism their whole lives.”
Both Mundine and Price say that Aboriginals should just get a job and are avid supporters of Twiggy Forest’s cashless welfare card.
Economic engagement and achievement, whilst important, is only one measure of developmental success. This punitive patriarchal approach doesn’t consider social cohesion, cultural enrichment and preservation. It doesn’t recognise and respect Aboriginal knowledge or instil pride. It doesn’t foster self-determination and community-based solutions.
As Chris Sarra put it, when recognising and addressing our failings, the goal should be “high-expectations relationships that honour the humanity of Aboriginal people, and in so doing acknowledges their strengths, capacity and human right to emancipatory opportunity.”
In order to work, programs designed to address Indigenous disadvantage must be culturally specific. They must overcome mistrust of institutions and authority and, most importantly, they must involve the community.
Jumping on board the old white fella’s gravy train is not the way to earn respect or make change.
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