By Kyran O’Dwyer
It seems odd to try and write a piece about our First People, when I hold no qualification to do so. It is, however, entirely acceptable, bearing in mind we, with no more than a few centuries of occupation as qualification, continue to tell our First People how we expect them to live and behave.
Their tens of thousands of years of occupation of this land mass has rendered them voiceless. We not only disallow their voices to be heard, unless it’s through a ‘white’ construct, we deride and ridicule any notion that they might know what they are doing. Let alone any notion they may have any notion of what they need or want.
We have held numerous enquiries and royal commissions, usually when the atrocities against our First People are simply too obvious, too egregious, to ignore. Every single time, the recommendations of the enquiries are held up as some sort of acknowledgement that wrongs were committed, with the promise we will do better. Every single time, the recommendations languish, whilst our leaders exonerate their pathetic inaction by pointing to the enquiry being held, rather than the recommendations being ignored.
The recent Uluru statement was not the issuance of an ultimatum. It was an assertion of fact. How can we continue to prescribe remedies for our First People whilst ignoring their contribution?
We are fast approaching NAIDOC week. It’s one of those feel good times, when we pay lip service to their existence, and their right to existence, whilst ignoring the underlying problem. The elephant in the room. They will be tolerated, but not heard.
NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. Its origins can be traced to the emergence of Aboriginal groups in the 1920′s which sought to increase awareness in the wider community of the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians.
NAIDOC Week is held in the first full week of July. It is a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements and is an opportunity to recognise the contributions that Indigenous Australians make to our country and our society.
We encourage all Australians to participate in the celebrations and activities that take place across the nation during NAIDOC Week.
Dear Uncle Tom, you can have your cabin back.
This is the ten year ‘celebration’ of the intervention. By any definition, a monumental failure. Stan Grant wrote about it, and as with most of his work, he is eloquent, impassioned and sincere.
Whilst in agreement with Mr Grant about the failure of the intervention, Chris Graham on New Matilda suggests a conflict of interest on the part of Mr Grant. Mr Grant, an employee of the ABC, fails to mention that his employer was instrumental in the formation of the intervention policy.
Ah well, that’s all water under the bridge. We have the ‘welfare card’ as our newest ‘innovation’ (to use a talcum’ism, rather than call it what it is, a reincarnation of failure), telling our First People what they need, whilst ignoring what they deserve. Another platitudinous intervention.
We have a federal grant to build lots of houses in the NT for our First People. Yeah, OK, lots of people made money and not many houses were built.
There was the story of the turnaround in the Katherine Hospital outcomes for patients when they actually talked to the patients.
There was the story of a ‘mentoring’ program in Western Sydney, where First People elders mentored youth on traditional medicines. Oddly, unfunded by any government assistance, yet very successful.
There was the story of Mr Voller, who was released from prison – where he was undeniably abused – into the custody of a program, to be mentored. Wanna guess which one was better?
There are many stories about the successes of our First People. They are the ones where we pat ourselves on the back, where we say it’s OK, one of them succeeded. There was an interesting article on the ABC posted by some bloke from the New York Times. It’s a tad brutal, pointing out that incarceration, unemployment, demeaning, belittlement, is the reality for our First People. In that scenario, suicide is a most viable option.
In my opinion, completely and utterly without qualification, the Uluru statement did not go far enough. It should not have been a reasonable request to be heard. It should have been a demand for ‘treaty’. One of the Commonwealth’s richest members (yep, Australia) is the only Commonwealth country that does not have a treaty with its First People.
It seems to me unlikely our leaders will ever grasp that. Not without numerous referendu’s and plebiscites. More platitudinous enquiries.
1922, in Eire, they resuscitated a culture. When they taught the dance, the song, the language, in primary schools. Our leaders will never get that. Perhaps our primary school teachers and principals will show these miserable bastards they are wrong. By inviting our First People to do what they do best. Be themselves. And be bloody proud of it.
“Now two rivers run their course
Separated for so long
I’m dreaming of a brighter day
When the waters will be one.”