Aboriginal Australians are a problem for our society
By Anthony Andrews
We can’t seem to grasp the fact that our Indigenous brothers and sisters think differently to mainstream Australia. We assume knowledge of them and their beliefs according to our way of thinking.
We judge them by our own experiences of communal living and existence, but by doing this we will never be able to address any of the reasons that full assimilation is almost impossible, although there are always exceptions to the rule.
Aboriginal culture is something we are proud of as a nation. We adopt the concept of them as the First Australians and admire their art, culture and heritage, but only if they act obediently and recognise the fact that without white Australia they would be living in the dark ages.
We want them to be grateful and resent it when they don’t appear to agree. We love Cathy Freeman, but were outraged when she proudly held the Aboriginal flag after winning Commonwealth gold. We admire and respect Tony Mundine, but hate his uppity, outspoken son.
It seems that we can only accept Aboriginal people on our own terms and as long as they don’t step out of line and act just like us, we like them, but they aren’t just like us, they are wired differently, and until we recognise that fact we are doomed to repeat, over and over, the mistakes of the past.
When I say that they aren’t like us, I don’t mean that they are less than any other human, less capable of emotion or feeling than anyone else. That they are not as intelligent as everyone else or that they are not controlled by the same desires as anyone else.
Unfortunately, over the last two hundred or so years we have trained our part of society to believe this to be true.
This is not a coincidence, by the way. It has been a deliberate tactic that freed colonial Australia from assuming any guilt over our hostile takeover of their country.
The Australian Aboriginal has a culture way older than any other Western country, at least sixty thousand years and its arguable that, in many ways, it was superior to ours. I say “was” because in just over two hundred years we have virtually destroyed it.
Bill Bryson illustrates an important point regarding the Indigenous Australian’s long, continuous, cultural heritage. That, if you were to visit the Lascaux caves in France, the ones with the famous cave paintings that were created by prehistoric man, and asked a modern Frenchman what they meant, he wouldn’t have any more insight or understanding than anyone else, but the Aboriginal Australian, fortunate enough to still be connected to their culture, can interpret rock art that is much older, and can provide meaning to the scene presented as easily as a modern art critic can describe the motivations of Monet or Warhol.
No other people in the world have this ability, this connection with the past that even without written language has survived for longer than “civilisation”.
This culture though, was not national in the way we see Australia as one nation. It varied in custom and language, and, just as it would be impossible to consider all Europeans as being from the same background, so it is with the Australian Aboriginal.
A native of the east coast of Australia would be just as lost if placed on the west as we would be if suddenly dropped into the jungles of Peru.
This is why the idea of missions and resettlement based on skin colour has always failed.
We are momentarily outraged about Aboriginal deaths in custody, about the incarceration of Aboriginal youth for petty crimes, about the high rates of suicide and the large gap between the average life expectancy of Aboriginals and the rest of Australia. The outrage however, is always tempered with a “yeah, but”, then we start talking about alcohol and spousal abuse, incest and pedeophila, we call them lazy bludgers and welfare abusers, we ease our discomfort for their plight with the view that it’s just how it is and, though it’s sad, there’s nothing we can do about it, it’s just the way they are …
Why can’t they be more like us?
The truth is, there’s a lot we can do.
We can stop watching them so closely when they enter our stores, afraid they may steal something. Do we think they don’t notice, that it doesn’t have any emotional impact on them or affect their sense of society’s acceptance of them?
We can stop telling ourselves that the injustice of the ‘stolen generation’ were well-intentioned, but poorly executed attempts at social integration because equality and a level footing with white Australia was never part of the plan.
We can stop being outraged about Aboriginal people receiving government support and stop viewing remote communities as needing to be self sustaining, we can choose to embrace their difference and acknowledge that almost ninety per cent of Aboriginal people died within the first few years of European settlement.
We can teach our children real Australian history because, just like ‘the convict stain’ that until fairly recently we didn’t want to admit was in our blood, the atrocities committed against the Aboriginal people of Australia was a very real thing. We hunted them like they were foxes from old England, pests and sexual playthings in a country where white women were few and far between and destroyed them for acting in ways we could not understand.
Wholesale slaughter of the Aboriginal people was common and rarely punished. Poisoned flour and tea was given to them freely and generously, as deaths from sickness in the Indigenous population was something never investigated by the government.
Should Aboriginal people just forget about it? Forget that until fifty years ago they were considered more akin to livestock than humans according to governmental policy, their existence legislated under the Flora and Fauna Act, instead of the Constitution like the rest of us.
We have forgotten or never accepted the fact that we have created the world they now live in and, though we want them to accept responsibility and fix the problems that exist in their division of society, we refuse to allow them the tools and mechanisms to make this possible.
This won’t fix the problem, but it might help all Australians to look at the social divide a bit more carefully.
We need a new public holiday.
January 26, Australia Day or Invasion day, as its referred to by the earlier arrivals to this continent, does not need its date changed, except perhaps to ‘float’ the day to the nearest weekend, as it was before 1994. It seems like it would be a meaningless gesture that would always remain controversial and drive an even bigger wedge between the two opposing sides of the issue. Ignoring or dismissing the drastic change caused by the arrival of the British is not much help either, but changing the date is not, in my opinion, the solution.
Instead, we need a day that both recognises the original inhabitants and provides a genuine reason for celebration.
A day that we can all be proud of and that, with an understanding of its significance, can contribute in a meaningful way to the improvement of relations between our distinctly seperate cultures.
August 16th or Wave Hill Day.
The end result of the Wave Hill walk-out was the first real stepping stone to equality with white Australia for the Aboriginal people after almost two hundred years of British settlement.
The original inhabitants had only been officially recognised as human beings for eight years – this was itself a victorious event – but as any tangible benefit was inconclusive, recognition of their right to possession of their ancestral lands was a very big deal.
It didn’t come without a struggle though.
Countless attempts were made by government and the wealthy stakeholders to end the sit-in at Wattie Creek, trying to tempt the mob with increased wages (still nowhere near the level of a white man) and housing. These tokens of appeasement failed to move Vincent Langiari and the rest of the Gurindji people. With help from the trade union movement and others, the stand off continued for almost a decade.
It’s worth noting that the big landholders fought against equal wages for Aboriginal people with the same excuse as we still hear today regarding wages for agricultural workers, that it would ruin the economic competitiveness of the industry.
No industry should survive if its business model is reliant on exploitation of the workforce in order to make a profit, and I can already hear the uproar from these same vested interest groups at the thought of another public holiday being added to the calendar.
From 26 August 1966, until they were granted the right to lease their traditional land, nine years later, the passive resistance to the exploitation of their labour and land went on.
This is a reason for celebration.
Although the Land Rights Act was passed by the Fraser government in 1976, the groundwork was laid by Whitlam’s Labor government, so it is fitting that the day of celebration should be on the anniversary of his visit to the Gurindji people and the formal recognition of their rightful claim to be owners of their traditional lands: August 16, 1975.
This date is not intended to applaud or praise any political party or politician, it is appropriate because our First Nation People were given formal commitments by government with all Australians bearing witness.
We need to do more, much more, than just recognise the wrongs done to them by our occupation of ‘terra nullis‘, but giving the people a day on our calendar that is of equal worth to our other days of celebration or remembrance is not unreasonable.
Allowing them more than a token say in government would be better but, you’ve got to start somewhere, and this is a day worth remembering … for all Australians.
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What’s this about ‘us’ not wanting to admit the ‘convict stain was in our blood’? I thought everyone knew that the British used convict labour to establish a settlement here, just as the US used slaves. No convict descendent need be ashamed of this and I was not aware that there was any shame associated. They were political prisoners of the British who imprisoned desperate poor people for merely stealing food to avoid starvation. They treated the Irish just the way they treated the Australian Aborigines. With regard to Aborigines, if we continue to fill up this continent with a bigger and bigger population, then that is just perpetuating and amplifying the invasion insult. We need to take the pressure off and give people a choice about the way they live. The way things work there is this sense that everyone has to live in an agricultural and industrialised society; that living as a hunter-gatherer just isn’t okay. It should be okay. It is the default human way to live.
Anthony .. I have worked and lived with Aboriginal people over the last 12 years and have learned to not have expectations or be judgemental, a difficult process for a WASP .. your article is the first and in fact the only one that I have seen/read which is the ‘truth’ .. many others have written very good and well meaning articles but you have hit the nail right on the head .. thank you .. James
The sooner the 200+ years of lies are wiped out by truth-telling the better. Once the truth is known then so are the right things to think, the right things to feel, and the right things to do.
As well as restoring real autonomy in full, and to their satisfaction (not our own), we must also cease the utter misrepresentation of our history in our schools. No one should teach lies to children, ever.
Truth is a product of belief. Australians have a history of truth about Aborigines that is reflected in the prejudice and racism of Australians. In my lifetime Aborigines fought hard to not be recognized as Aborigines. They were the people who walked melbourne seen but not recognised by Australian(John Lord revealed that he didn’t’middlesuffered racism and prejudice because there was a great turnover of racist Australians from south. These people continually reinforced the redneck culture that experience sharing with Aborigines and the middle people removed after time.
Thus the truth against Aborigines is easily reinforced and the truth for Aborigines is not actively taught. This is a recipe for prejudice. The manifestation of prejudice is them, they and us, we. Aborigines are not allowed individuality but are thought of as ‘they’. Wow there are hundreds of groups as diverse as the countries of europe hundreds of languages as diverse as gaelic and romansch and hundreds of cultures. The diversity and numbers of people in each society made killing easy and a treaty impossible.
A sentence of this article hit me with a george bernard shaw my fair lady haymaker of equal proportions to the Aboriginal focus.
Neither will reach a solution without positive education and training for teachers, politicians and public servants, to destroy the religious redneck truth of Australians, with constant reinforcement to prevent the return to prejudice.
wam, “Truth is a product of belief.”
How can belief create truth?
Santa Claus, a ‘truth’ created by belief? Really?
Truth – Shakespeare approached truth when he wrote:
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”.
Yet how many ‘embodiments of truth’ (myself included) post comments under an alias?
TREATY – has the MSM placed a travel and publication ban on the word ‘treaty’?
NZ, Canada, the US have made treaties with First Nation people.
It’s possible, so why not here?
Allowing them more than a token say in government….. That’s a bit harsh, I wouldn’t call those currently in the federal parliament token aboriginals.
Ken Wyatt AM, MP for Hasluck (LP), Linda Burney, MP for Barton (ALP), while the Senate includes senators Patrick (Pat) Dodson (ALP), Malarndirri McCarthy (ALP). and until recently,Jacqui Lambie (IND) claimed aboriginal heritage.
All were duly elected and hold their seats on their individual merit as it should be . If you are suggesting that parliamentary seats should be set aside for people of aboriginal heritage – or any other particular ethnic group – you only diminish their stature and the a role that they could play.
Whilst your last sentence is a good start, we could go further. The following from Ms Natalie Cromb was written a while ago, but gains relevance and pertinence by the day.
“The Government’s continued relegation of First Nations people to the helpless or the problematic is strategic. There is no intention to ever negotiate on equal footing and if we continue to waste our grace showing respect to an institution that shows us none we will burn out. We need to stop compromising on what we want and go for what is right. This should not be about what will fly with the masses because, frankly, this is about righting a wrong and if this is going to happen in any substantive sense, the masses need to understand they don’t have a right to dictate the terms.
This country is stolen and each and every non-Indigenous Australian who is here benefits from the theft of this country. The privilege is something afforded to them as a result of the oppression of the First Nations people of this land. You are not in the “lucky country”. You are not part of the “fair go” and you are not being truthful with yourself if you continue telling yourself that what has happened to First Nations people is a matter for the past. The oppression continues — as does your privilege.
If you have a conscience, you need to lend your privilege to those without it. Elevate Black voices and the cause. Contribute in any way you can — by joining us on the streets, social media protests and trends, monetary contributions, letters to Parliament and media outlets. Use your commercial power by demanding better standards from mainstream media.
Stop speaking for us and over us. Stop thinking your opinions matter at all in this battle for what is right. You need to understand that for this all-important fight to right the wrongs of this and every government before it — you need to be support staff. You need to demonstrate that you understand your privilege by checking it at the door and supporting us, standing behind us and silently sending the message to the Turnbull Government that the populace fighting to right the wrongs is not a mere three per cent as they would like to believe — we are many and we are growing.”
Whilst ‘Wave Day’ or 27th May (when the Constitution was amended to partially recognise our First People) are significant, these are days from white history. Why wouldn’t we ask our First People to nominate a date of significance to their culture? To give it credence and importance, we could hold the annual mea culpa, the close the gap reports, to the same time frame. That would give one national day true importance, as both a catalyst for change and a recognition of what has passed.
The imperfect voice of ATSIC was silenced and never replaced. Our PM has stated unequivocally he will listen to the fool, Scullion, before any of our First People. The Uluru conference allowed our First People a structure. Now we desperately need to give that structure a voice.
Two states are currently negotiating Treaty. The Liberals in both states have said, if they win the state elections, they will shut it down. The Guardian’s report is well worth a look.
As to where we go from here, we don’t need to do a damned thing, as good settlers, other than listen. Senator Patrick Dodson is a man worth listening to, in my opinion.
Whilst Aboriginal Australians are merely a problem for our society, our society has been damn near fatal for theirs.
Thank you Mr Andrews and commenters. Take care
I suggest that the Uluru statement should be the beginning of an understanding between two peoples ATSI and we immigrants, we owe ATSI Australians so much in unpaid debt that we should seriously consider freedom for ATSI people, and raise their living standards to that of at least the average Australian.
There are significant legal issues at play here that most, including the author of this piece omit.
Australia, a federation of wholly owned British Colonies is an illegal squat operating on Aboriginal Lands.
We need to contemplate this reality, before seeking solutions to “fix the Aboriginal Problem”. We are the Aboriginal Problem.
Just as the lie of Terra Nullius deemed all property to become Crown Land with the swish of a pen, it also made the Monarch of Britain the Sovereign over Australia. The High Cout partially overturned the property title aspect of Radical Title, but didn’t want to say anything about the unceded Sovereignty of the First Nations lest the Justices be in contempt of the Court itself.
As a whitefella, all I can do is attempt to educate about this illegal squat I was born into. Until the settler society accepts the truth, the First Nations People will be an “inconvenience”, rather than accepted for their true place, as the Sovereigns of these lands.
I made a half hour radio doco last year, which may assist people in understanding
(to which I hold copyright, not the Community Broadcasting Assoc. Aust. who helped train me to produce it).
I’m sick of this attitudes, we neglect at the complete history of Australia I believe we hhave dug up a body that predates aboriginal habitation of this land,
I have lived around aboriginals most of my 41 years of life m they are nothing but ferals that get so many liberties that I know if we ever fell out of place we would stand at eviction at a drop of a hat though they get 3 warnings in a month type scenario..
I am sick a tired of this rhetoric with putting Aboriginals on a pedistool playing the woh as me card…
It is the time we pulled the wool pout from under them and told them to get on with living and stop living in the blood past and letting shit fester because you can’t handle your shit and can’t sniffing the glue, injecting illegal drugs or smoking pot, and blaming your problems on the government rather than fixing your own problems..
I’m sick of hearing this sorry bullshit, and then whinging you ar still hard done by yet get more than the white man does, gotta make me wonder who”s getting the better end of the stick.
I have to wonder who the aboriginals exterminated when they took over as the dominate population of this country and adding to the fact that aboriginals were a wondering tribe of nomadic people prior to the white man settling on this continent and adding to the fact of the dug up remains that predate aboriginal colonization of australia I can hardly call them a first nations people can you that’s if you look back far enough into their history yet they only seem to bitch about the last 200+ years of which the damage 70-80 years ago, once the missionaries had a foot hold into interior of the continent.. ..
It is easy to blame games and say sorry games, though what are they saying sorry for???
As nobody thinks of what it means in this day and age and sadly it should be the government of the day that introduced such policies rather than the current government trying to pickup on other peoples policies and messes trying to move forward..
Jason, yours was such an uneducated comment that I don’t know where to begin in addressing it.
Oh dear, Mr Howe.
I am sorry to read that you are sick. Your comment is clear evidence of that sickness, for which I can only wish you a speedy recovery.
During your convalescence, perhaps you could read the article adjoining this one, written by Dr George Venturini. It’s a tad long, but don’t worry. The next instalment isn’t due till Monday, which will give you plenty of time to digest the facts. Since colonization, we have used our laws selectively, when it suits us. Yet we pay no attention to the principles upon which our laws are based.
I am also sorry to read that you are tired. If I’m not mistaken, our First People have several organic remedies of which you may avail yourself. None of which comprise bullshit, being an introduced specimen with obvious repercussions. Or you can go to the doctor, then the chemist, pay a fortune and get nowhere.
I suspect you are used to long trips to nowhere.
Howe can it be that Aboriginal Australians are a problem for our society?
Take care, Mr Howe. All the best for a speedy recovery.
Terry2 – agree with your comment. I would call the rest of them token politicians though.
Society isn’t the issue here it is politicizing a problem that has yet to be addressed and bandaiding the solutions isn’t fixing the problem..
Funny thing is we all bitch about what the white man has done, yet do we ever consider to what the black man has done..
Why should I say sorry for shit that happened prior to my birth by 100-200+ years..
I don’t know about the rest of the people here I tried to address the artiicle which was a political speech which not address the issues at hand, which the government has been handing out money left , right and center for to many years to count and it still isn’t fixing the problem is it !!
You can’t fix the feral problem until you take the kid gloves off Kyran and Mr. Taylor until you do you will not fix any problem…
Though i am sick and tired of the often political speak in opinion pieces like this it just fuels more hate than cures the problem at hand..
The opinion piece is nothing than bullshit rhetoric that doesn’t fix anything.. And it never will..
It is either round them up and shoot them or sort the problems out either way it will cost money just how is the question of the day, having star pickets and kitchen sinks thrown at me in my younger days I have to wonder whether a lethal outcome might be the cure to come because how much money will be wasted between now and then because i can see trillions being wasted and it do nothing to cure the problems the black man has at this stage and it will likely never be..
Looks to me like Jason has just had the full loss of cabin pressure – he’s advocating extermination as a solution to save money
I’m not going to say what I think Jason should do with himself, but I’ll let everyone use their imaginations as to what they’d say in response to his rant
Jason Howe your comments are evidence of “the problem” which is and has been since 1788
Jason Howe, you’re racist ignorance isn’t welcome here.
We can forgive ignorance. We can’t forgive racism.
i noticed that the author did not mention the fact that aboriginals used to sneak into the camps and kill the women and children while they slept.and in the north they also ate white people……next time try giving stories from both sides and let us make up our minds ourselves , instead of you telling us what we should do and think……
My comment from this article https://theaimn.com/stuck-past-comment/ seems doubly appropriate in the circumstances
I’d like to say we are living in an evolving society, which is existing in the aftermath of one of the most revolting imperialist era’s in recent centuries, the British Empire, with just a few remnants lingering.
However the imperialist attitude of superiority still remains completely intact, and although the flag it flies and the allegiance it feigns has changed, truth be told with the LNP administrations beginning with Howard (Fraser may have been as bad – I just have no specific recollection) we may as well be back in 1788 for all I can see.
Essentially the behaviour of so many remains unrepentant and unchanged
bigspark, those are the sort of myths that encourage racism in this country. The Aboriginal population in Australia consisted of over 200 known nations, more than the number of nations that existed in Europe. Making blanket assertions about all Aboriginal people is just as ridiculous as making assertions about all Europeans.
Jason, express your opinion. Do not allow the “racist” tag put you off.
Wonder who or what the original indigenous people took over, when it all started in “Australia”.
I mean they never invaded the place did they.?
Thank Biamee! Thank Mirrial! Thank Ala! Thank God (All one in the same) and Thank You that most of these comments are written by intelligent people. It gives me hope as a First Nation individual. I hope that ignorance and racism can be wiped from society in my lifetime. Though contrary to a few comments put forth here by people undeserving of a response, education is and always will be a great weapon to use. The unmentioned should go get some.
Greed and mediocrity.
Nothing better to do, than change a day. The ships sinking, and she’s shopping for new curtains for the wardroom.
Equality should have started the first day the white man stood on Australian ground, maybe then handouts wouldn’t have been necessary.