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Michael recently retired from the Public Service and is studying law in his retirement. His interests are politics, media, history, and astronomy. Michael holds a BA in Aboriginal Affairs Administration, a BA (Honours) in Aboriginal Studies, and a Diploma of Government. Michael rarely writes articles for The AIMN theses days, but is heavily involved with the admin team.


August 15, 2017: the most important day in the future

They say we can’t predict the future, but I’m damn sure we can do a lot to control the course of it.

When we look back on our own past, our country’s past, or even the world’s past … there will be a hundred signposts that we missed that could have taken us down a better path. Maybe it’s our job to now leave our own signposts. The events of tomorrow can only be guided by the events of today. If we decide to do nothing today then nothing will happen tomorrow.

Let us assume that the straight line we call ‘time’ continues on its merry way, and as we follow it to see what has happened – or not happened – we’ll be able to see that much of the events in the future are not without our influence. August 15, 2017 is a very important date in the future. Probably the most important day, as it is the first day in our future, and every event beyond this tiny 24 hours will be shaped by it.

Shall we follow that line? I’ve found the line here, at Future Timeline and a lot of what awaits us is unpleasant, yet clearly our doing. Can it be undone? Probably not, but we can control the scope of it. Anyway, let’s get moving, there’s lots to see:

2020: Glacier National Park and other regions are becoming ice-free.

2035: The Arctic is becoming ice-free in Summer.

2040: Average global temperatures have risen by two degree.

2045: Major extinctions of animal and plant life.

2050: 45% of the Amazon Rainforest has been destroyed. Air quality and visibility is declining. Bushfires have tripled in some regions. The Dead Sea is drying up.

2060: Global mass migrations of refugees. Flood barriers erected in New York.

2070: Average global temperatures have risen by 4 degrees.

2080: Polar bears face extinction. One in five lizard species are extinct. Deadly heatwaves plague Europe. Traditional agriculture is decimated.

2099: Sea levels are wreaking havoc around the world. 80% of the Amazon rainforest has been lost.

2100: Extreme drought is effecting one-third of the planet. Emperor penguins face extinction.

2190: The West Antarctic ice sheet is starting to disintegrate. This area will later be populated by over 1 million people who settle on the exposed land surface.

2200: Artificial intelligence dominates the planet.

I’ve only selected a handful of the zillions of things that await us in the future, but of those, are they really beyond our control? Can they be changed by whatever happens on August 15, 2017?

They say we can’t predict the future, but I’m damn sure we can do a lot to control the course of it.


We have failed the First Australians

“Her paintings have been exhibited in Paris, London, New York, Tokyo and Milan. But in her old age, renowned Aboriginal artist Kathleen Ngale lives on a mattress outdoors, unable to walk, kept warm during cold desert winter nights by about a dozen dogs who sleep alongside her.” (ABC article; “Utopia: Aboriginal elderly sleeping on ground with dogs amid calls for improved aged care“, by Neda Vanovac).

Isn’t it appalling, saddening, disgraceful that an Australian lives like that? Many do. They might be young or old, from whatever walk of life, or from whatever culture. I do not know who they are. But Kathleen Ngale is an Aboriginal Australian, and I have some understanding of the history that put her where she is today.

I once heard a comment that went something like this: “The aspirations of Aboriginal Australians are expressed through a political system designed, first and foremost, for the white majority.” In my many years in Indigenous affairs and as a student of Indigenous history it was a theme that dominated my public and academic life.

Australian history has left a legacy of Aboriginal inequality and disadvantage. In our self-congratulatory celebration of egalitarianism and the fair go, we conveniently overlooked that fact that our treatment of Aborigines amounted to a contradiction of the very values we claimed to espouse. The inability to regard Aborigines as equals has never really left the ‘white’ consciousness.

There are a number of measures that can be used to establish the degree of inegalitarian treatment accorded to Aborigines: legal equality; political equality; economic equality; equality of opportunity; and equal satisfaction of basic needs. I could broach social injustice, government ineptness and bureaucratic mis-management in emphasising these inequalities.

There are many disadvantages suffered by Aborigines that need remedying, but what needs to be dealt with, and in what order? Is it inadequate housing? Is it the parlous state of Aboriginal health which still results in unacceptably high infant mortality rates as well as a diminished life expectancy? Is it the rapid loss of Aboriginal culture? Or the high rate of Aboriginal unemployment? Undoubtedly the problem is complex, but where do governments start to seek remedies? What are the political solutions?

History illustrates government inability above all else to deliver any remedies, due mainly to the makings of the Australian polity. Federalism stands out, and in particular the complex space that Aboriginal affairs occupies within our political system. In a federation like Australia it can be very difficult to achieve uniformity of power. Why cannot governments that perceive the existence of a regional or national problem, for example Aboriginal health, work constructively to eradicate the problem? Who is to be blamed, Commonwealth or State?

Aboriginal affairs involves many areas of governmental responsibility, including education, health, sanitation, land use and relations with police forces, which are all State government responsibilities. When Commonwealth and State governments disagree in such matters, whose view should prevail? A great deal of essential service delivery falls within the responsibility of State governments, but these governments often fall short of delivering full and satisfactory programs.

However the argument goes much further than being based on pure politics. In a polity like Australia, where the development of the land by both farmer and miner has for so long been described as basic to Australia’s prosperity, it is difficult for governments to ignore claims from such powerful interests. The mining interest has fought particularly strongly against land rights and native title. The propaganda battle is rarely won by the central government. It is easier for a State Premier to claim that the Native Title Act threatens peoples’ backyards than it is for the Commonwealth to explain the complexities of the legislation.

This is but one of the many shortcomings if we focus on program failure or distortion, for it is in these results that many hopes and expectations are deflected, destroyed or frustrated. An analysis of service delivery reveals that the problem is multi-faceted, not only having to do with the nature of modern bureaucracies, but also with the activities of politicians, the attitudes of white Australians, and the perceptions of Aborigines themselves.

In this arena of political and public perceptions, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) used to come under some heavy fire; from politicians, the media, and the wider community. Perhaps there was resentment because ATSIC had given Aboriginal people a voice in the political system.

The argument on this was compelling. Many Australians watched distrustfully as, under Whitlam’s grandiosity in 1972, large amounts of money were directed to Aboriginal affairs.  As a result there was a great deal of importance placed on the need for ATSIC, in particular, to be accountable for its operations, reflecting no doubt the uncertainties of mainstream Australians concerning the standards of operations of Indigenous institutions. Following accusations of the misuse of money, audits were made of various bodies, again nominally ATSIC, and government funds for many Aboriginal services were reduced, and eventually, ATSIC was wiped from the political and social landscape. Yet claims about ATSIC’s waste of public money usually ignored the difficulties that that body had in delivering any worthwhile services to the Indigenous community. ATSIC had an unbelievable array of demands on its finite budget and was simply not in a position to meet every demand.

Also, political parties are demonstrably divided on Aboriginal issues. The Howard Government, for example,  was less sympathetic to Aboriginal issues – or too cautious in the invocation of Commonwealth power for the benefit of Aborigines – than were the previous Labor Governments of Hawke and Keating. (It was forcefully argued that Howard was indeed influenced by the claims of the more powerful interest groups). Political parties’ views are extremely important in helping explain the place of Aboriginal people in the Australian political system. A series of questions that were asked of a sample of members of parliament* revealed the existence of varying party views that form an important framework to the development of Aboriginal policy. Some of the differences between Labor and Coalition MPs were imposing. It is worth having a look at some of these answers as they clearly identify who did and did not support Aboriginal causes. Consider them as a backdrop to discussions on issues such as Mabo, Wik, Native Title, the Stolen Generation or the more contemporary Northern Territory intervention.

Members of parliament – support for Aborigines

  1. Government has responsibility to grant land rights: ALP 93.2%, LNP 40.8%
  2. Settle land claims before development: ALP 78.2%, LNP 24.2%
  3. Aborigines should have special cultural protection: ALP 76.7%, LNP 43.7%
  4. Approve of treaty recognising Aboriginal rights: ALP 85.6%, LNP 11.2%
  5. Law should allow for Aboriginal customs: ALP 60.0%, 21.4%
  6. Constitution should recognise Aboriginal self-government: ALP 29.0%, LNP 4.6%
  7. Aborigines should not be assimilated: ALP 80.3%, LNP 42.2%

I could attack the media with as much veracity as I do the political interests. Press coverage should help ensure that the area of public policy is kept well and truly on the political agenda, for without it would be very difficult for Aboriginal interests to achieve anything of importance. Perhaps the best example in recent years has been the manner in which the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody disappeared from sight once the report became public. Such a lack of sustained coverage makes it easier for governments to ignore many matters of short-term notoriety. The desire for a story often overrides considerations of accuracy or fairness. Who could argue with this? Drunkenness, rioting and poor living conditions are given more attention than the stories that could show Aborigines playing a positive role in the general community.

It just isn’t good enough.

If you are as appalled as I am about the lack of services to Indigenous Australians, why not let you local member know? They can be contacted here.

*This survey was taken during Howard’s prime ministership and goes a long way in explaining Howard’s commitment to the reduction of government spending in Aboriginal affairs. If it is representative of the Abbott and Turnbull governments, this I could only speculate. Given the apathy and funding cuts since September 2013, perhaps it does.

The window of life

Climate change is one of the hottest topics (pardon the pun) when it comes to discussion on this site but we haven’t published many new climate articles recently so readers, justifiably, have sought out the older articles to continue the exchange of ideas and opinions.

A new article is clearly overdue.

And I have just the thing!

Well, it’s not exactly new. It’s a piece I wrote many years ago for the now defunct Café Whispers, but for want of a ‘new’ article here on climate change … I’ve taken the easy option. Nonetheless, it is just as pertinent today as it was at the time of writing.

I wrote:

Life, whether it be teeming in the universe or just the rarest of miracles, has either way been lucky to find a home on our fertile planet; that small, insignificant rock (in galactic terms) that just happens to be sitting in the right place of our solar system for life to survive.

It’s quite nice here. Apart from the extremities it’s not too hot, not too cold. If we keep it like that then I’m sure our stay here won’t be tenuous.

But just how lucky are we mortal types to have found this nice little spot to populate?

Immeasurably lucky, actually. Paradises like planet Earth are as accidental as the creation of life itself. It is like an oasis amid a burning, scorching desert devoid of surrounding life.

The galactic desert that surrounds us does not welcome life. Even our own sun, without which our planet would be sterile and without life, is miraculously at a safe distance so that life can prevail.

It is worth considering how fortunate we are to be able to exist on this small rock.

The center of the sun is a ‘mere’ 14.5 million degrees Celsius. A piece of it the size of a pinhead would generate enough heat to kill a person from 150 million kilometres away. How wonderful that the outer layers of the sun are much ‘cooler’, thus enabling life to exist on this planet. The coldest places in our solar system can be found at its edges where it is minus 273 degrees. How wonderful that our planet isn’t any further, or closer, to the sun.

Under what temperature extremes could human life survive? I’m guessing somewhere from a chilly minus 40 to a blistering 60. In planet Earth the gods have offered us a very small window of life.

Why then, are we so determined to damage it?

Look at the sludge that this planet has become. Look at the filth in the air, in the water and the earth of western countries and developing countries. It’s beyond belief. We see industries which are happy to choke the land, waterways and air for the sake of more profits.

The planet, obviously, isn’t important any more. Our term here is considered a right, not a privilege.

As it is it is a hostile planet: no-one gets off alive, but it’s still the best home we have.

What was once the solar system’s paradise, is now its rubbish dump. If we keep trashing it, destroying it, polluting it, playing with its climate … how long before we receive our eviction notice? How long before the window of life closes on us?


Ordained genocide

Our article this morning by Kathy Stavrou: ‘Caught in the Act‘ and her subsequent Facebook comment that her article summarised “how successive NSW Governments used legislation as social engineering to extinguish Aboriginal property ownership rights” had me scurrying to an article I wrote many years ago. There was an agenda in both the colonial and early federal governments; that being the extermination of Aborigines. Not only was it the will of ‘man’ that Aborigines be exterminated, but also the will of God. Or so they believed.

I wrote:

Was the total extermination of Australia’s Indigenous people deliberately intended? Of course it was. It was OK to shoot Aborigines. God had no problems with good white Christians killing Aborigines as it was the white man’s belief that God had condemned Aborigines to extinction and the white man was simply hurrying things along for Him. It had His stamp of approval. It was ordained genocide.

But the massacre of Aborigines was frowned upon by latter Colonial and Federal Governments, however, it did not mean that they were not considered a doomed race. These governments had a sinister role to play in that consideration; that of the evolutionary masters. That of God.

Let us trace this.

The nineteenth European scientific discourse of the Great Chain of Being arranged all living things in a hierarchy, beginning with the simplest creatures, ascending through the primates and to humans. It was also practice to distinguish between different types of humans. Through the hierarchical chain the various human types could be ranked in order of intellect and active powers. The Europeans – being God-fearing and intelligent – were invariably placed on the top, whilst the Aborigines – as perceived savages – occupied the lowest scale of humanity, slightly above the position held by the apes. Such ideas were carried to and widely circulated in the Australian colonies and helped shape attitudes towards the Aborigines. So dominant was the concept that it helped develop the fate of Aboriginal people, even before Australia’s colonisation. The image of the Aborigine simply confirmed prejudices based on this doctrine of evolutionary difference and intellectual inferiority.

In harmony with the Great Chain of Being, the theory of evolution in the social sciences (known as Social Darwinism), was accepted by nineteenth and early twentieth century Australians as further justification for their treatment of the Aborigines. Central to the theory of Social Darwinism was the ideology that the Aborigines, who were considered to be less evolved, faced extinction under the impact of European colonisation and nothing could, or should, be done about it. Government policies reflected these ideologies and provided the validation of oppressive practices towards the Aborigines, founded on the perceptions of racial superiority.

Four of the major policies are those relating to protection; segregation; assimilation; and the integration of Aboriginal people into the wider community.

Protection was influenced by the evolutionary theory that Aborigines would die out as a result of European contact. Subsequently, all that could be done was to feed and protect them until their unavoidable demise. The policy thus took on short term palliative measures that saw enforced concentration of Aborigines in reserves and missions – protected from European contact and abuse (such as hunting parties) to await their closing hour.

This policy was a humane one based on its presumptions, however, nature had not selected Aborigines for extinction. Only the colonisers had. Subsequently, governments eventually and willingly used protection policies as a mechanism for social engineering. The policies of protection changed its fundamental goal to segregation. Their differences are difficult to identify although their purposes are not: Aborigines were a dying race so they were protected from the wider community; the Aboriginal race had failed to die off, so they were segregated from the wider community.

The social theories that legitimised and institutionalised racism were never more evident than in the practices of segregation. Segregation created two social and political worlds in Australia: one white and one black. Whilst the Aboriginal race had ignored extinction, Government policies reflected the attitude that, nonetheless, by the 1940s they had still failed to progress since European contact. Sentiment thus ruled that continued segregation of the Aborigines from the wider community would ensure white racial purity.

Segregation was pervasive in all aspects of public or political life. Church or social organisations discouraged Aboriginal participation, and access to community facilities such as swimming pools or theatres were severely restricted, if not refused altogether. Custom in many business establishments was also refused for fear of offending the white clientele. Perhaps the most damning indicator of this racism, however, was the neglect of medical treatment and health services by white practitioners. Policies of segregation were to degenerate into practises of apartheid when, in South Australia for example, association between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people became a criminal offence under Section 14 of the Police Offences Act 1953.

The policies of protection and segregation were continued even though the Aborigines had not faced their final hour. ‘Full-bloods’ remained on reserves until their demise, yet the problem for the government came in the form of the ‘half-caste’. These people looked increasingly like white people but behaved like ‘Black’ people. The only was this could be countered was to assimilate them into the general population.

Assimilation of the lighter-caste population was still an endeavour to destroy Aboriginality: by absorbing them into the wider community – the breeding out of the colour, the process of genetic change – it was hoped that they would eventually disappear. A radical suggestion that selective mating would breed out the colour was also proposed.

Of the endless record of horrors associated with colonisation and racial supremacy, some of the assimilation policies adopted in the 1950s equal the worst. In particular the taking of children away from their families by the Protection Board – as their legal guardians – and disposing of them as they saw fit. As a prelude to the Reconciliation Convention, the Government reflected on this practice:

Children were taken away under government policies of protection and assimilation aimed at having indigenous people adopt European culture and behaviour to the exclusion of their family and background. The assimilation policy presumed that, over time, indigenous people would die out or be so mixed with the European population they became indistinguishable (The Path to Reconciliation, 1997, p 24).

Yes, I would argue that the total extermination of Australia’s Indigenous people was deliberately intended. If not by the bullet, then by the policies of those governments that saw them as a stain on white purity. God favoured the white man and they set out to do His work.


Telstra’s copper network was almost dead 15 years ago, and they knew it

The internet can be a goldmine of little gems. And dig away, you might strike a little gem or two. Like these:

In October 2013 (then Communications Minister) Malcolm Turnbull announced the appointment of former Tesltra boss Ziggy Switkowski as NBN Co to lead a three-person board overseeing the national broadband network.

In his inaugural appearance at a Senate Estimates hearing, Switkowski said Telstra’s copper network is ‘robust’ and has been well-maintained for decades. Concerns expressed about the network not being up to being the basis for a FttN NBN, he added, were “misinformed”. He stressed that:

The copper network has been in place for a long time. It’s constantly being maintained, remediated, upgraded.

We are all too well aware of the criticism of the government’s NBN which is provided through Telstra’s copper network; an antiquated alternative to Rudd’s NBN.

But it was remarkable to hear Switkowski’s glowing praise of the copper network when compared to what Telstra had to say about it in 2003 while he was chief of the telco:

Telstra will replace its century-old copper wire phone network with new technology within the next 15 years, saying the ageing lines are now at “five minutes to midnight”.

Telstra executives revealed the problem at a Senate inquiry into broadband services on Wednesday.

Go figure.

I guess Malcolm must have changed his mind for him.


Seriously, why would you vote for Pauline Hanson?

“The problem with Hanson is that she moans about what she doesn’t like but never says much about anything else”, wrote Zathras.

Could she be summed up any better than that?

She certainly has history.

When she burst back into the political scene at the last election – as it was in the late 1990s – she won ‘acclaim’ because “she’s not afraid to speak her mind” (or ‘moan’ as Zathras would say), or because “she speaks for me”, or this one: she “stirs things up“. I’ve heard those remarks on countless occasions.

Basically, it would seem, people like her because she speaks. Nothing else. Thousands of Australians voted for her for nothing else than she speaks. Wow, how good’s that? A person who practically holds the balance of power in the Senate is there because she talks. But that’s all she’s good at. She chatters away and sends the fact-checkers off into a frenzy (to ultimately discover that not only does she talk a lot, but she talks a lot of rubbish).

It’s not much of a credential.

Think about it. What solutions has she offered on the range of social or economic woes that recent governments have been incapable of addressing? The answer is simple: nothing. ‘Things’ social or economic are beyond her. Her response to any issue contains the same xenophobic rant, which might as well be “let these people in the country and they’ll take our jobs, get public housing, get the dole, wear clothing that offends me or pee in a hole in the ground”. Oh what a deep reservoir of knowledge she is.

She gets the privilege of having her regular moan to the fawning media and then sits snugly and smugly in the Senate voting with the government more often than any other non-Coalition Senator. So much for speaking her mind, speaking for me, or stirring things up.

At the end of her political career we can look back and ask, “What did she achieve?” Outside of Parliament she will be remembered, primarily, as a loud-mouth who through her intolerance of cultural differences fostered fear and hate towards minority groups. And those people who were inspired to elect her into Parliament – hopeful that fear and hate could somehow be codified into our legislation – will have been disappointed as her only ‘achievements’ were to side with a government who had taken the baton to the nation’s underprivileged.

How can she be speaking for you when all she does is rubber stamp whatever the government proposes? How can she be stirring things up while she’s continually siding with the government? How can she be speaking her mind when inside the Senate she just nods in agreement to whatever the Government says?

Seriously, why would you want to vote for a person like that? Why would you want to vote for someone who says everything and does nothing?

Here’s something else to consider:

The Turnbull Government is confident of securing Pauline Hanson’s vote on key ­pieces of legislation after she indicated to senior ministers that she sees Labor as her “enemy”.

Isn’t the Coalition the “enemy” of Labor? What’s the point of an independent politician or a party who is simply going to put the wants of government ahead of his/her/their electorate or the people who voted for them because the opposition is the enemy? Surely as an independent, Pauline Hanson should be voting on legislation and amendments based on merit rather than on her hatred of Labor

So again I ask, “Why would you want to vote for Pauline Hanson?”

“Because she speaks for me”, you might say.

Fine. But here’s the truth of the matter … she’s certainly not speaking for you where it counts.

She has history on that too.


A message from your Chairperson

By James Moylan

Dear Comrades,

The Politically Correct Peoples Association has had a terrific twelve months. I write to thank our all of our thoroughly indoctrinated members for their efforts and also to remind you that we are once again entering the secular holiday season. So it is time to redouble our efforts. Yes we are on the verge of victory; but we are still yet to win in our war against ‘Christmas’. However the fight is ongoing.

First of all I would like to point out that it is obvious that our enemies are on-the-ropes. By any objective measurement it is apparent that we are winning in our battle against the ‘red menace’ (colloquially called ‘Santa’). All you need to do is to walk down the main shopping street in any town across our country to see that nobody dares play ‘Christmas’ propaganda tunes in public anymore. Also most shopkeepers have simply given up trying to promote this insidious ‘festival’ at all. There is barely a piece of tinsel or sprig of holly to be seen!

But nonetheless we must all remain on guard. If we lift our feet from the necks of these ‘Christians’ then they will soon creep back into positions of power and influence. We will once again see members of this cult openly attesting to their beliefs in our parliaments and on our media outlets. We will once again see citizens bandying about gross insults like ‘Ha%$# Chr#$&@^$’ and feeling content to rip our arboreal friends from the sanctity of their quiet forest glades to be stuck into pots and tortured by hanging heavy objects from their quivering limbs. Thank secularism that nobody wastes their time with office parties anymore. At least our commercial sector seems to have totally abandoned the practice of celebrating these sick bronze-age mythologies.

However despite our overwhelming success in suppressing any mention of ‘Christmas’ in our media or in our shops; there are still actions that you can still take on a daily basis to ensure that our society does not slip backwards. Remember that you must be quick to suppress any mention of this evil cultish celebration wherever and whenever it is encountered. If we are not vigilant then these ‘Christians’ will once again feel free to gather together in their temples and worship their sky-fairy whenever they want. We will once again see millions of garish cult symbols festooning all of our houses and city streets. Our Godless Marxist inspired battle must continue or we will soon be knee-deep in wrapping paper and glazed-eyed children. Unscrupulous traders will be selling truckloads of cheap trinkets designed to spontaneously fall apart after three minutes of handling. Again we will be subject to endless reams of commercial propaganda featuring animated animals shopping at large department stores.

However it is obvious that our final victory is only a few oppressive, intolerant, fanatical, steps away! All due to your hard work. So I would like to thank all of the members of our vast and powerful multinational socialist conspiracy for helping us bring these cultish propagandists to their knees and for helping to banish these magical superstitions and practices from our society. Our success to date is apparent. Our ultimate victory is assured.

So have a happy summer break everyone. I wish you all a quiet and uneventful series of entirely secular public holidays. And also a happy progression into the new calendar year.

Your fanatical Marxist overlord,
James Moylan


No, Pauline, we do not need a debate on Aboriginal identity

In yet another display of pandering to sensationalism, Pauline Hanson wants a debate on Aboriginal identity, lamenting to an enthusiastically agreeable Andrew Bolt that there exists no “set definition to determine whether a person is Aboriginal”.

In essence Hanson wants a debate because she doesn’t know what set of biological or cultural characteristics define a person’s Aboriginality. And I would assume that she wouldn’t be happy with the outcome of the debate unless it packaged and labelled Aborigines into something that fits perfectly into her world view. That would explain why a debate is required over, say, a simple internet search for the answer.

Since 1788 there have been literally hundreds of politicians, anthropologists or other social scientists who have endeavored to piece together the very same question posed by Hanson (without, of course, the need for a political debate manufactured to endorse a shallow world view). Through the work of those ‘others’ – and with of course the benefit of consultation and engagement with Aborigines – we have a very clear picture of what determines whether a person is Aboriginal.

It is far more complex than Pauline Hanson would ever envisage. I am assuming that she seeks a simple answer (and of course, some googling would provide one with some simple answers) but the complexity of the issue is like one large cultural jigsaw puzzle.

I mentioned the year 1788. Let’s start with that piece of the puzzle.

If we cast ourselves back to 1788 we would embrace an environment where Aboriginality did not exist, but was to soon be invented by the colonising power. The European invaders constructed Aborigines as an ethnic category based on their own notions of culture and saddled Aboriginality on the Indigenous Australians, and European ideology continued to shape European ethnic perceptions. Prominent among the perceptions it was believed that culture was carried in the blood.

Over the next hundred years European ideology continued to shape the whites’ perception of Aborigines. Among these perceptions it was believed that culture was more than simply carried in the blood, but that culture was the external indicator of biological ancestry and culture, and that cultural characteristics, either heredity or unchanging, separated human groups from one another.

Ethnographic evidence indicates that before the arrival of Europeans, numerous distinct groups had occupied the Australian continent. Although these groups shared physical and cultural features and had ties of affinity, trade, and religious cooperation, these societies were distinguished by geography, language, and culture. With the benefit of hindsight, the ethnographic evidence failed to recognise that in determining identity, Aborigines traditionally attributed greater importance to culture and genealogical ties to heredity. Groups were differentiated on the basis of presence or absence of certain beliefs and behaviours, and of spiritual ties between people and land.

Basing their construction of Aboriginality on inadequate theories of culture, early anthropologists defined Aboriginality as constituting a pristine and timeless and cultural condition. Some still saw them as savages, remaining noble, despite constraining nature and unbending adherence to rules; the Aborigines typified a fossilised and primitive stage of social evolution. Ethnocentrism further led to the attribution or projection of negative characteristics. Even to this day many people have a stereotype of Aboriginal people as being very black, standing on one leg with a spear and living in the desert.

Up until recently, the social and cultural practices in Australia rendered Aboriginal people invisible. As a consequence, while Anglo-Australians have continued to ‘know’ about Aborigines they have known them only by report. Even in the rural Australia, local Aboriginal people have been ignored in favour of ‘real Aborigines’, supposedly living in a tribal life in the bush. The public has been largely dependent on representations of Aborigines to be found in the statements of various ‘authorities’, the work of painters and photographers, the printed and recently the electronic media, or even artifacts aimed at the popular and tourist markets.

“Such representations of Aboriginality called into doubt the special status of those who called themselves Aboriginal, but lived in urban settings, practised no traditional arts or ceremonies, and generally failed to ‘look the part’. Such people had constructed their Aboriginality in other modes, primarily by reference to proximate ancestors and living kin. Some have identified it as a major component of what is called ‘the Aboriginal commonality’, implying as it does a continuous network embracing all Aboriginal people throughout the continent” (Jeremy Beckett).

Regardless, under the doctrine of Social Darwinism it was always expected that the Aborigines would not survive alongside the presumed European superiority. However, only Europeans had selected Aborigines for extinction. Nature had not. While Australia was told that Aborigines were not going to die out, it was also given to understand that Aboriginality was doomed. Timeless and unchanging, Aboriginal culture was incapable of coexistence with the modern world: the old Aboriginal cultures were collapsing everywhere under the impact of while settlement, mining exploration, pastoral expansion and the effects of State assimilation policies.

“Managing Aboriginal people under one guise or another, the State has been in a position to influence their public constructions. Not only has it determined who should have access to them, but it has played a major role in the assembling of information about them, has commissioned much of the research conducted by experts on them, and has acted as patron for artistic representations of them” (Myrna Tonkinson).

Consider, for example, the Western Australian interpretation of what constituted an Aboriginal person. Every person who is:

  • an Aboriginal inhabitant of Australia, or
  • a half-caste who lives with an Aboriginal as husband or wife, or
  • a half-caste who, otherwise than as wife or husband habitually lives or associates with Aborigines, or
  • a half-caste child whose age does not apparently exceed sixteen years, shall be deemed an Aboriginal within the meaning of this Act . . . ” (Western Australia Aborigines Act of 1905, Section 3).

Aborigines though are no longer silent objects of study, but increasingly challenge the very terms in which they are written about. However, it is not easy to re-examine the intellectual heritage; a heritage that is a body of knowledge understood by those sharing the same discourse and built into our contemporary consciousness in many intricate and hidden ways. Aborigines are exploring their own Aboriginality and are finding that the white Australia cannot accept their own view of themselves. You can’t define Aboriginality in terms of the colour of their skin or in terms of what genes and chromosomes were inherited. Aboriginal people have a very strong spiritual heritage: above anything else it is the essence of being an Aboriginal.

Consider how different an Aboriginal interpretation of Aboriginality compares with the political or social construction. The emphasis on spiritual and cultural unity is absolute. They identify the following characteristics as common to all Australian Aborigines:

  • descent from the original inhabitants of Australia; a shared historical and cultural experience, particularly that arising from relations with non-Aborigines;
  • the Dreaming, or Aboriginal worldview; intimate familial relationship with the land and the natural world, and knowing the pervading moulding character of these in all matters Aboriginal’;
  • social interaction based predominantly on the mutual obligations of kinship; observance and social importance of mortuary rituals; and
  • bi or multilingualism.

Whilst these elements constitute Aboriginality, Aboriginal values such as reciprocity and individuality could also be included, although these are not unique to Aborigines. However the list provided could be considered typical of cultural inventories: they constitute a coherent set of characteristics that are present and enduring in all Aboriginal people. However, significantly, the operative definition of Aboriginality has shifted from biological to the cultural. The Aboriginal emphasis on kinship and behaviour in determining identity is apparent. Another notable characteristic of Aboriginal social life is the self-conscious identification with notions of sociability and behaviour ascribed to Aboriginality, a world view with definable social values, attitudes and cognitive orientations.

In denying people the right to relate to themselves through their bodies and where notions of kinship are organised around cultural notions of the body is denying Aboriginal a major aspect of their Aboriginality. The dominant theoretical prescription of ideal Aboriginality would act to prevent Aborigines from creating their identities out of the body and out of biology, and would also in effect prevent them talking descent and moreover reinventing their notions of descent.

‘The assertion of Aboriginality is part of a political process’, wrote Tonkinson, further noting that:

Although the legal and social status of Aborigines has changed significantly, they are by no means equal participants in Australian society. They still suffer severe social disadvantage and defacto discrimination; in the eyes of many whites, being Aboriginal is still a social stigma. Against this background, many Aborigines are consciously and actively working to establish positive images of themselves and their cultures. This involves the rejection or reversal of dominant European definitions; the promotion of colour as a desirable feature rather than a taint; and the revival, invention, or adoption of distinctively Aboriginal cultural behaviours and symbols . . . the construction of a new identity in which all Aboriginal people can share.

So no, Pauline, we don’t need another debate on Aboriginal identity. We simply need to respect that they exist. Debate over.

About the author: Michael Taylor recently retired from the Australian Public Service, which included a decade in Aboriginal affairs, three years of which were spent visiting remote Aboriginal communities in the Flinders Ranges and the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands. He holds an Arts degree in Aboriginal Affairs Administration and an Honours degree in Aboriginal Studies.


We’ll soon see just how much of a hypocrite Malcolm Turnbull really is

There is overflowing evidence that Malcolm Turnbull is an out and out hypocrite. Since smooching his way to the prime ministership we have watched him backflip on every issue he once stood for and we can only take wild guesses at what he might stand for tomorrow. One has the uneasy feeling that he stands for, unremarkably, whatever the extreme right-wing of his party fancy.

Over the next couple of weeks I expect he will take hypocrisy to a profoundly higher level.

Appalled at Labor’s indication they would block his plebiscite, earlier this week he accused them of ‘not wanting to consult Australians on same-sex marriage‘:

“So if Labor is seriously saying that, they are saying, ‘Don’t consult the Australian people because they won’t give you the answer you want.’”

The PM said he was confident same-sex marriage would be introduced, reiterating that he and his wife Lucy would vote in favour of the legislation.

“The fastest way, the way to guarantee that there is a vote in the Parliament on gay marriage in this Parliament, is to support the plebiscite,” he said.

(I didn’t know his wife could vote in favour of the legislation, but that’s another story).

Given that 57% of Australians support same-sex marriage it appears, on the surface, that Malcolm Turnbull is siding here with the electorate and signals his intention that he will stand and deliver.

There was Malcolm, a self-declared champion for the people.

And now that “the Federal Opposition has announced it is preparing to move a motion to bring on a bill to legalise same-sex marriage in two weeks” he has his chance to prove it.

And given that it was also announced that . . .

Adam Bandt, Andrew Wilkie and Cathy McGowan . . .  too are introducing a “marriage equality bill”.

Mr Bandt says they will introduce a crossparty bill on the issue and are seeking support from Labor.

Ms McGowan says “it’s a wonderful thing” that Labor plans to table a bill, but they need the support of the Coalition.

. . . he really has no better opportunity. The people come first. He has been busy condemning Labor for not honouring that.

But if Malcolm Turnbull has truly listened to the electorate he too will support the bill. If he is ‘owned’ by the extreme right of the party, he will not. In which case he has lied.

Yes, it’s all hypothetical at this point, but my guess is he’ll take hypocrisy to an even higher level. The wishes of the party will remain supreme.

I’ll be watching.


I’m a lot like Jill and Hillary, but not much like Donald

Here’s a surprise for you. If I was eligible to vote in the US elections I wouldn’t be voting for Donald Trump.

It’d be a toss-up between Hillary Clinton and Dr Jill Stein.

“Who the hell is Jill Stein?” you ask.

If you haven’t been following the US election race then there’s a strong chance you’ve never heard of her. Or Darrell Castle. Or Gary Johnson.

You see, it’s not all about Hillary or Donald. There are actually 3rd party candidates:

  • Darrell Castle (Constitution Party)
  • Dr Jill Stein (Green Party)
  • Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party)

And I know nothing about any of them!

But based on what I stand for Jill Stein comes out trumps (though I must admit she tied with Hillary Clinton).

So who would you vote for?

Forget personalities. Forget conspiracy theories. Ignore what you read about the candidates in the media or on Wikileaks. Ignore what you think of them personally. Just focus on their policies and you might be surprised who you would support when it comes to the crunch.

For a bit of fun take the test here on Already over 40 million US voters have taken the test.

It’s fairly lengthy and there’s a lot of clicking to do but after the 5-10 minutes the test takes you might be surprised with your answers. There might just be more Donald Trump in you than you think.

(For the record, I support both Jill Stein and Hillary Clinton on 91% of their policies, while Donald Trump goes it alone without me with a miserable 16%).


The pueriles of Pauline

Richard Ackland’s brilliant article today (‘The defence of free speech is limited for the anti-18C brigade‘ in The Guardian) reminds us of one of Pauline Hanson’s more puerile assertions: that “Aboriginal women ate their babies”. Ackland wrote:

A book published in her name, Pauline Hanson – The Truth, made a number of ludicrous claims, including that Aboriginal women ate their babies. When a racial vilification case was brought against the book, it was defended under the RDA exemption for publishers acting reasonably and in good faith.

Let us leave aside the absurd finding that the publishers were “acting reasonably and in good faith”: absurd in that they must have believed her and that her evidence could not be disputed, and ponder instead how Pauline Hanson could have come to her conclusion of these cannibalistic practices.

I can only assume she read it in a book.

After five years at university studying (among other things) Aboriginal archaeology and anthropology I can confidentially announce that there was no evidence in the archaeological record or oral histories to suggest they did, but yes, it was once ‘confirmed’ in a book. This book reported that:

As a race the aborigine is a savage in the strongest sense of that term. Alike cruel and treacherous, he loses no occasion of wreaking his vengeance on an enemy, and indulges in the most bloodthirsty propensities. The practice of cannibalism is general among the natives: for a long time this was doubted, but it has been proved, beyond the reach of question, and the practice often found accompanied by the most revolting ferocity – as the sacrifice of an infant by its own mother for the mere pleasure of eating its flesh.

The book? David Blair’s History of Australasia, published in 1879. The above paragraph can be found on page 237.

When quoting that paragraph for my Honour’s thesis (A review of the racist ideologies of Social Darwinism and eugenics in colonial Australia in the formative years of Federation, and how these ideologies were applied to purify and secure a White Australia) I introduced it by noting that:

In a period that witnessed Aborigines being hunted like animals, dying in their thousands through imported diseases, and reportedly murdered at the hands of punitive colonials, the emergence of a law which not only justified the extermination of Aborigines but argued that it was beneficial to the human race, was gratefully accepted and enthusiastically endorsed by many sectors of Australian society.

Popular literature of the nineteenth century depicted an image of the Australian Aborigine that reinforced these colonial ideals. We are to assume that the contemporary reader of the following extract [above] from David Blair’s History of Australasia, when published in 1879, foreshadowed, perhaps demanded, the inevitable extinction.

I clearly underestimated Pauline Hanson. She is far more well-read than I ever imagined. One can only assume that she has read David Blair’s repulsive work and as such is well-versed in the Australia of 1879 and is passionate to the cause of the colonials. (Yes, I am being sarcastic). But I really can’t imagine where else she could have read it. I’ve read over a thousand books, journals or articles about Aboriginal Australia and I’ve only seen it as a ‘matter of fact’ in Mr Blair’s book.

If Pauline was truly sincere and wanted to learn about Aborigines I would be more than happy to loan her one of my 80 or so text books that all contain one important element: the truth. In 2016 that’s what we prefer.


I’ll have the boats, please

With the news during the week that a boat with 21 Vietnamese asylum seekers had been shoved back to sea came the solemn warning from Immigration Minister Peter Dutton that:

“People smugglers in Indonesia are watching very closely and they believe if there’s a change of government on July 2, the people smugglers will be back in business and people will be back on boats coming to our country”.

How convenient. In the shadow of an election . . . along comes a boat. All very juicy stuff for Peter Dutton who seized the moment to remind us of the fearful prospect: a Labor Government will not stop the boats.

If Minister Dutton is so eager to inform the electorate of what they will ‘get’ under a Labor Government perhaps he should have mentioned that a Labor Government would also:

  • Provide $570 million in additional support for students with disability and additional learning needs.
  • Increase the Child Care Benefit by 15% for low and middle income families. Every one of the 813,000 families that rely on the Child Care Benefit will be better off – an increase up to $31 per child per week, or up to $1,627 per year.
  • See that an additional $96 million go towards improving outcomes for Indigenous students around Australia over school years 2018 and 2019. In addition, Labor will provide $4.8 million over the forward estimates to fund 100 scholarships per year for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers.
  • Invest $6 million over three years from 2017-18 to continue the Safe Schools program and support the Foundation for Young Australians to keep working with school communities to reduce bullying and discrimination.
  • Restore indexation of the Medicare Benefits Schedule from 1 January 2017.
  • Scrap the Liberals’ cuts to the PBS, ensuring there will be no increase to the co-payments or safety net thresholds on top of regular indexation.
  • Reverse Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts to bulk billing incentives for pathology and diagnostic imaging.
  • Deliver the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
  • Scale up the rollout of fibre-to-the-premises and phase out the rollout of fibre-to-the-node.
  • [To] achieve a target of net zero pollution by 2050, set a target at 2030 for a 45% reduction in carbon pollution on 2005 levels.
  • Will ensure that 50% of the nation’s electricity is sourced from renewable energy by 2030
  • Introduce a domestic emissions trading scheme that will have two distinct phases. The first phase is designed to get Australia’s pollution levels back under control and to establish the architecture for an enduring ETS. The second phase will then drive the long-term transition in our economy.
  • Protect Weekend Penalty Rates.
  • Will shut down loopholes which allow big multinational companies to send profits overseas, ensuring they pay their fair share of tax just like everyone else has to. Labor’s plan has been fully costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office, and will bring at least $7.2 billion back to Australia in tax from big multinationals over the next decade.
  • Reform negative gearing effective from 1 July 2017.
  • Restore CSIRO’s capacity to drive the national science, research and innovation agenda that will grow new industries and build a smarter Australia.
  • Deliver more than $70 million over three years in targeted funding to ensure those suffering from family violence can access critical services when they need them.
  • Commit almost $50 million to frontline legal services, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, to ensure women suffering from family violence get legal support. The aim of this is to ensure, at least, that women facing court have access to appropriate legal services.
  • Make an initial investment of $15 million in Safe at Home grants to help people affected by family violence stay safe in their own home.
  • Will legislate for marriage equality within the first 100 days of the next parliament.
  • Will hold a Royal Commission into misconduct in the banking and financial services industry.
  • Appoint a full-time LGBTI Discrimination Commissioner to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), to ensure the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians are protected, and they are free to live their lives without discrimination.
  • Will renew investment in Australian multiculturalism, with $28.3 million of new funding to support social cohesion and economic inclusion.

Well, no wonder Peter Dutton just wants to talk about boats.

If is this is what we’ll get (plus more) with a Labor Government . . . I’ll have the boats please.


Cathy McGowan on being independent

Australians saw no better example of democracy at work than when Cathy McGowan took the seat of Indi from sitting member Sophie Mirabella in the 2013 federal election.

The electorate took it upon itself to oust Mirabella on the basis that she didn’t appear to be representing anyone but the Liberal Party, and most certainly not her electorate.

How did Cathy McGowan perform what many consider to be a minor miracle, ousting a sitting Liberal Party member at an election where there was a 3.6% swing towards the Abbott led Liberals? Cathy not only achieved this, but with a massive of 9.2% swing against incumbent Sophie Mirabella. Only in Indi did a sitting Liberal member lose their seat.

During 2012, a small group of young people gathered together on the basis of their feelings that they weren’t being represented properly or effectively, and from those few people grew a movement of over 3000 volunteers who basically door knocked the entire electorate.

The result of this grass roots movement, or “Kitchen Table Conversations” emerged a document: ‘Voice for Indi’ with Cathy McGowan, businessperson, farmer and academic agreeing to become that voice.

Perhaps it is the feeling of disenchantment with the major political players, a wish for more personal involvement in the decision making process which is seeing the rise and rise of Independents such as Cathy McGowan. And so it is that Cathy faces another election and once more her main opponent is the controversial and high profile Sophia Mirabella for the Liberal Party.

It was tempting to want to discuss with Cathy the nation’s gaze on Indi: Cathy McGowan versus Sophie Mirabella, but Cathy ensured in her calm but forceful way that any discussion would focus on her beloved electorate, not on herself.

“That’s all everyone wants to talk about but it’s not what I want to talk about. Cathy McGowan versus Sophie Mirabella isn’t the important issue in this campaign. The needs of the people of Indi is the most important issue, and that is my focus”.

To walk into the McGowan campaign ‘headquarters’ is to take a step back in time, to when consultation plus representation were of prime importance. A time when it wasn’t about winning at all costs, where instead of ‘focus groups’ and highly paid consultants you will find a dedicated team of volunteers engaged in everything from assisting pensioners try to understand the new Senate voting system, to being busily engaged in painting chairs (for the weary to rest at polling stations) and making bunting and posters.

If McGowan is passionate about one particular thing then this is her insistence that her job is to represent. Her own goals? “I want my community to feel stronger, more confident and to know what it wants for itself. My job is to facilitate this”.

Contrast this with the response from any party beholden politician: “I can’t help you with that, it’s not Party policy”. To Cathy McGowan, the people of Indi are her policy with a passionate belief that the people of Indi ” … want a representative who will represent the people and not the Party. And that is my job”. This has brought with it some criticisms, namely that Cathy is too Indi focused to be a federal politician.

But perhaps too this is Cathy’s strength. In days were people fear that they do not have a voice, where their representative does not represent the views of their electorate but is bound by often city-centred focused only major party politicking. This is perhaps greater felt outside the major capital cities where the needs in rural and regional Australia have changed and where issues affect people far more directly: jobs, communication including mobile phone service and the NBN, and health including the notorious Wangaratta hospital (which may or may not have had funding according to Sophie Mirabella) have a direct impact on quality of life.

For Cathy McGown, it is through the Kitchen Table Conversations that the people of Indi continue to have a voice to be heard, where their interests, concerns and ideas can be taken up and pursued via her advocacy in Canberra. “It’s all about consultation and paying attention to what the community wants. My job is to represent them, and as I am not beholden to any party policy their voice is going straight to Canberra. This is doing democracy as it should be done”.

However, one cannot omit from any discussion about the fight for Indi, the onslaught coming from seemingly ‘anonymous’, the most recent being a glossy ‘Fact Sheet’ stating in bold Red and Green that: A vote for Cathy is a vote for the Greens and Labor. Reverse side we read supposed ‘Facts’. This ‘anonymous’ piece of political propaganda contains the name of no politician, the name of no political party, however the address printed ‘small’ at the bottom reveals that it is the address of the Liberal Party of Australia (Victoria Division).

Cathy’s response, quite typical is not to attack the person, but to calmly lay out the facts for consideration:

I am generally happy to support the Government in getting on to the day to day business of governing. But when they make decisions that are bad for the people of Indi, I will always stand up for our electorate. That is why I voted against the Coalition’s devastating cuts to Youth Allowance and Higher Education. I also opposed the GP co-payment.

This is Cathy McGowan representing Indi. This was what the community was saying they wanted. “I want the people of Indi to see themselves when I represent them in Canberra”.

This is Cathy McGowan on being independent.


Why on earth would you want to vote for the LNP?

Give or take a bit, the polls have both parties squared off at 50/50.

So it means that half of the voting population are prepared to re-elect the Turnbull Government.

People, of course, are free to vote for whoever they want, but I am also free to ask why they would bother to cast a vote in favour of the LNP. Why on earth would you want to vote for a government that:

Has been the worst economic managers since Menzies.

Will provide you with one of the worst broadband networks in the world.

Will keep cutting money from education and health.

Will see you paying up to $100,000 for a university degree.

Will in all likelihood sell off Medicare – at your cost.

Will do nothing to address the ravages of climate change.

Will do nothing about housing affordability.

Will look after the well-off at the expense of the poor.

Will continue to lock up asylum seekers.

Will continue to slash services to the poor, the elderly, the homeless and the ill.

Will do nothing to address Indigenous disadvantage.

Will continue to lie and rort.

Will continue to widen the gap between the rich and the poor.

Will do whatever it can to limit wage growth.

Will cut penalty rates.

Will, if the economists are correct, lead us into a recession.

Will not even countenance an investigation into the banking sector.

Will have no policies, only slogans and scare campaigns.

Will only ever continue to make vague promises about marriage equality.

Will continue to say one thing – only to do the other.

Will ignore science and technology.

Will allow our prime agricultural land to be mined.

Will more than likely make further cuts to the ABC.

Will send more jobs offshore.

Will do nothing about negative gearing.

Will continue to offer unnecessary subsidies to the mining industry.

Will ignore human rights.

Will have a prime minister beholden to right-wing extremists.

Why would anybody want to vote for a government that would make themselves, their families, and the majority of Australians worse off? Why would anybody want to vote for a government that is out of step with the rest of the world? Why on earth would you want to vote for a government that is turning Australia into an economic basket case? Why on earth would you want to vote for a government that will not address social or environmental issues?

Oh, I see, they ‘stopped the boats’ and they ‘axed the tax’.

Well in that case – if that’s all you’re interested in – then go ahead and vote for them.


What will Malcolm say now that the NBN is an election issue?

Much has already been written about Malcolm Turnbull’s disastrous NBN plan though I would just like to add just one thing, by way of a simple question.

But first, something from the media archives to give you some background:

Incoming communications minister Malcolm Turnbull is facing a social media backlash after he seemingly brushed aside a snowballing online campaign to save Labor’s national broadband network (NBN).

An internet petition set up by a Liberal-voting student six days ago had more than 200,000 online signatures by 4pm (AEST) on Thursday, making it the largest ever online petition in Australia.

The NBN petition on calls on the incoming coalition government to scrap plans to create a fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) network in place of Labor’s existing fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) approach.

When asked on Twitter to reconsider policy in light of the petition, Mr Turnbull replied: “Wasn’t there an election recently at which nbn policy was a key issue?”

That was a brush off if ever there was one, and with with a touch of condescension.

In fact, it was such a non-issue to a majority of the Liberal Party – the opinion that the Labor NBN was something nobody really wanted or needed – it was announced that:

The Abbott government will break its NBN election promise of giving all Australians access to 25 megabits per second download speeds by 2016, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull admitted in Parliament on Thursday.

So to my question . . .

Now that the NBN is an election issue – as spectacularly demonstrated on last night’s Q&A –  what will Malcolm say now?

What will Malcolm say now that the NBN is an election issue?

(Better still, what will he do?)


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