Promising the Impossible: Blinken’s Out of Tune Performance…

Things are looking dire for the Ukrainian war effort. Promises of victory…

Opposition Budget in Reply: Peter Dutton has no…

Solutions for Climate Australia Media Release National advocacy group Solutions for Climate Australia…

Understanding the risk

It's often claimed the major supermarkets would prefer to see tonnes of…

A Brutal Punishment: The Sentencing of David McBride

Sometimes, it’s best not to leave the issue of justice to the…

Climate pollution and petrol bills coming down as…

Climate Council Media Release AUSTRALIA IS OFF AND RACING on the road to…


It’s time we reckoned with what it means to become a corporatocracy.…

Plan B

By James Moore Every time there is a release of a New York…

Australian federal budget falls flat in tackling inequality:…

In response to the 2024 federal budget, Oxfam Australia Interim Director of…


That ‘stuck in the past’ comment

By Cally Jetta

If every blackfulla in this country received a dollar each time someone said to them ‘stop living in the past’ or ‘you get better treatment than other Australians and you still complain’ we would all be very wealthy people.

That’s it in a nutshell. The two main attitudes and beliefs that fuel so much of the racism and resentment directed at our people. The belief that we are somehow stuck in a time warp if we advocate for our rights or educate others on their nation’s full history; and that we receive special treatment that more than makes up for the fact that our people, land, culture, languages and children have all been taken from us in the recent past.

The frustrating part is, I can spend half an hour explaining to someone why these views are so misinformed. But there will be 2 more people that say the exact same thing the next day, and the next and the next. We need our non-Aboriginal allies to help us change the current acceptance of racism in this country around so that it is no longer the person that speaks out against racism that is seen as the outcast, but the racist themselves.

It is far too acceptable for racism and the myths and stereotypes that inform it to go unchallenged here. It’s even seen as justified … ‘well if you’d seen what I have you’d say the same’ or ‘it’s the bad ones who give that name to them all’ or ‘why should we pay for what our ancestors did?’

We are well aware that you are not 200+ years old and directly responsible for the massacre of our people. We just want you to give a damn, to listen and show some compassion for the pain, the loss and the trauma our people suffered and are currently still trying to heal from. I don’t blame you, but while you are happy condemning all my people for the problems we face and refusing to acknowledge how the recent past and your origin in this country has created them- then I do see you as part of the issue.

Since when has racially vilifying and ridiculing a group of people endeared them to want to find a place in the society that sneers them?

Since when has completely dismissing a person’s history and current experience been helpful in reconciliation and bringing about better understanding?

Since when has repeating stereotypes and myths based on hear-say helped people to overcome and rise above them?

What do these people fear they will lose if they show a bit of empathy and understanding? What terrible outcomes do they imagine are waiting if they stop kicking us while we’re down and offer us a hand up?

You see wanting to be acknowledged and respected in the present is not living in the past, it’s wanting the record set straight so that we can move forward together. Why shouldn’t we want and fight for a country that observes a national day of mourning for our fallen; idolises Jandamarra the way it does Ned Kelly and gives us equal footing in the media and government?

It absolutely astounds me that Aboriginal Australians have among the highest incarceration and suicide rates in the world; lower life expectancies; discrimination to overcome in education and employment; a community still trying to heal; and racism and stereotypes to face everyday – and people still complain about the special treatment and easy ride they think we get. They go on and on about benefits – many that Aboriginal people have never even heard of and completely dismiss the reasons and government motivation behind close the gap initiatives. Do you blame senior citizens for pension cuts? How in all honesty can you be angry at a people for the government strategies introduced to alleviate disadvantage caused by previous governments?

What good do these people think they are achieving by attacking us? By devaluing and dismissing our history, feelings, perspectives and ongoing activism?

Stop being so defensive and realise we are not blaming you for the past – we are just tired of being blamed for the present by those who foolishly think the past, present and future are somehow disconnected and unrelated.


Login here Register here
  1. diannaart

    If you are an indigenous person wanting acknowledgement AND equality, you are told you are stuck in the past. If you are white Anglo-Saxon your past is a tradition above any reproach – Christian prayer before parliament, anything ‘Royal’, religious tax exemptions and so on.

    I agree Kally, we can’t progress alone, we must work together.

    I suspect for many non-Aboriginal people admitting to any fault, even if it is just a nagging sense of responsibility is too much for many. Too difficult, too scary. Better to run away and hope things will get better all by themselves.

    Of course prejudice does not disappear all by itself. We must keep on – talking discussion and telling the awful truth, even if is scary and shameful.

    I am wondering if any other AIMers have had the experience of someone apologising to them for an unnamed transgression – I have and I have felt the person apologising either didn’t know what they were apologising for or did not care enough to admit it. I have been left feeling there was no actual apology.

    If we are denied talking about the past how can we make amends?

  2. Warrawong

    Those of us Anglo’s who do speak up and acknowledge the wrongs of the past and the affect it has on the present are labled, “bleeding hearts” “do gooders” “the extreme left” “lefty activists” by the MSM and the far right. That’s ok with me, but many people shy away from those labels and stay quiet.

  3. townsvilleblog

    I think of myself as a ‘lefty activist’ on many issues, I acknowledge the brutal treatment of Aboriginal Australians and believe we owe ever living Aboriginal Australian a debt of huge proportions. They provided a huge continent that is now inhabited by most nationalities on Earth. We live in relative peace, at their cost. We murdered them poisoned them to death made slaves of them, and personally I believe that every Aboriginal Australian deserves to be raised to at least the living standards of an average Australian in health, in education and in opportunities.

    I am in awe of Aboriginal history, their artwork, their culture, their way of life, which is why I’m also in favour of every Australian receiving a basic income, easily provided if we had a federal government with the political balls to tax the corporations who evade tax and force them to pay a surcharge of 15% on their massive incomes. That income should be enough to lift every person out of poverty!

  4. Glenn Barry

    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

  5. Kaye Lee

    I am 60 years old and, when I was born, we lived in a small country town. My family owned the pub. As a child, I did not understand discrimination though I certainly saw it in practice. The traditional owners of the land were made to live in a settlement outside of town. The cinema had a special roped off section down the front for Aboriginals. For the first ten years of my life, Aboriginals were not allowed to enter the pub but that didn’t stop us from selling grog to them out the backdoor. There was a special buzzer for them to ring.

    We had an Aboriginal housekeeper/nanny who we all loved dearly and who helped our family immeasurably in too many ways to list. We kids thought it was a special treat if we were allowed to eat at the kitchen table with Clarice instead of eating at the dining table. I never realised that she wasn’t invited to sit at the dining table.

    I am ashamed that my family was complicit in this. I am ashamed I didn’t understand. I am ashamed I didn’t ask more questions. This isn’t the past. It is my lived experience and I am so sorry I didn’t do more.

    All we can do is tell the truth, recognise that the disadvantage of today was caused by the actions of yesterday (including stealing their wages), and consult with our First People on the best way to move forward.

    Acknowledge the wrong and facilitate self-determination.

  6. Jack Russell

    More like stuck in the present, because of the past, I’d say … and all of us not just some, but worst for far, far too many. Overall, the human species has used it’s evolutionary “gift” poorly. Very poorly indeed.

  7. diannaart

    Kaye Lee

    All we can do is tell the truth, recognise that the disadvantage of today was caused by the actions of yesterday (including stealing their wages), and consult with our First People on the best way to move forward.

    That is, I believe, about the best way towards a fairer world. Consultation is, apparently, anathema to Canberra.

  8. lawrencewinder

    ..and with incompetents like Scullion in a ministerial role we all know where their thinking is at.

  9. johno

    Well said Cally. It seems in the areas of compassion and empathy we humans are stagnated or going backwards.

  10. Barry Thompson.

    Do not be ashamed Kaye, you were a child at that time although you obviously perceived that things were not right.
    It is obvious from your writings that you are a most decent woman. You are not responsible for the way in which your parents behaved. They most likely reflected their parents views. You have risen above that.

  11. Winston

    Lets please get the core of this issue.White people have difficulty with the colour of black skin or albino or even if you were green.You are not us; syndrone.That is the problem.Intelligent people can rectfy their prejudices .Most people are sheep and are ignorant. The only answer is very early free education.

  12. Dale

    Kaye lee,I had different experience.Back in the 60s one of my childhood friends was one of the stolen generation taken from his family in Arnhem land, a gentle kid called Richard.Every year he was fostered out of the orphanage to stay with people we knew who had a beach house near ours.Every summer for years Richard spent a lot of time with me and my family at our beach house at Indented Head-strangely, one of the first places that whites met with Aboriginals.So many days at the beach or out fishing, looking for pippies or just wandering in the paddocks and coming home with baby rabbits.When I think of it, I was blessed. I once saw him as he was sitting on the patio suddenly fly side ways and catch a sparrow on the wing and I know I’ll never see that again. If Richard ever found money on the ground he always raced around to our house to give it to me, also if he liked something of mine he just took it, it all balanced out with no grudges.
    We lost contact with Richard when I was a teenager, life happened, but his loss has always haunted me.I heard later that he had gone back to his country and been initiated into his tribe-he was taken as a baby-I also heard that he was killed in a car accident when he was in his twenties after coming back to Melbourne.
    Me and my cousins always tried to protect him from being called names etc but he never wanted any fuss. As for today, all we can do is make indigenous people our friends, but how many of us do?

  13. paul walter

    Very neat article and Diannart’s comment was a good one to kick off the comments section.

  14. Michael Taylor

    Dale, I fixed up your original comment. Somehow there was some coding in it that ‘butchered’ the comment. I’ll thus remove your second comment, given that it is identical.

  15. Dale

    I actually edited the second and took the code out, but thanks mate..

  16. Dale

    Come on mate, not just white people, most of the worlds different peoples have never trusted each other, I`ll tell you a fact, interpersonal violence (murder) amongst and between Australian indigenous tribes was about 15%, today world wide even with all our wars it is .5%.

  17. Michael Taylor

    I`ll tell you a fact, interpersonal violence (murder) amongst and between Australian indigenous tribes was about 15%


  18. jimhaz

    [White people have difficulty with the colour of black skin or albino or even if you were green]

    As it would if the situation was reversed.

    Nietzsche probably felt obliged to say “Human, All Too Human”, when the truth is that we are “Animal, All Too Animal”

    To me what really separates us substantially from apes, what makes us human, is the rational use of the mind, not emotions. Emotions reside in our animal side and as well as having evolved for a mix of survival reasons, they are strongly associated with herd behaviour (group dynamics and status, the need to support ones most known to you). The rational use of the mind includes the rational knowledge of and use of emotions ie they need to be experienced, but managed – or the herd will do so as they see best for its safety.

    From what I can see all peoples have very similar emotional reactions to the equivalent set of circumstances. There is sufficient evidence black people are as naturally “racist” as white people….and by racist I mean they would do the same things, all other things being equal.

    As to this debate, I’m afraid I’m only going to respect aboriginality to the sum of its rewards and losses, assessed relative to any other cultural group. The same scenario applies to individuals. Seeing successful westernised aboriginals will continue to feel the most rewarding, as it is my view that everyone linked deeply with the technological world cannot be exempt from adaptation to it and its consequences. It’s not a matter of needs or desires, but simply because its outcomes and our huge world population can only intrude upon cultures more and more.

    There are other kinds of rewards provided by the aboriginal culture, but in terms of personal value, they are mostly related to the other end of the dynamic, and values differ wildly from person to person. Those who live most traditionally with the least external support are also valued highly for the interest that form of life evokes. As most people, rightfully, do not accept blame for the actions of the past, or for supporting their own culture, those other traditional cultural interests rewards only have so much weight against the broad set of negative statistics they see, or in some cases the personal negative behaviour their closest group may have experienced.

    I think there might be enough recognition nowadays and don’t want to see the further “legal codification’ of any entitlements that might lead other cultures or groups to expect the same over the long term. For example, teaching aboriginal history or accomplishments should not be mandatory, but it is fine to try and push governments or principals to promote it.

  19. Kaye Lee


    What if none of us aimed for domination, or assimilation, or integration?

    What if our goal was respectful and supportive co-existence?

  20. Chris

    Thank you, Cally, well said. And, also to those that have taken the trouble to comment and share their experiences.

    Those of us who are not indigenous haven’t experienced your disadvantage and your regret for being passive and welcoming all those years ago. But they like you passive and here we are.

    Realise that we are all under the pump here in a land that worships money more than people. You’re not too far removed from a lot of the poor in this country.

    And, I’m glad you didn’t bring up invasion day; it’s a distraction, another opportunity to divide the lower classes and stop us focusing on the goal of a having government that works for the people whatever their colour or background. Better we join arm in arm next week and stop all that silly re-enactment stuff, that’s really in your face, many of us understand that…

    The donations (cough, the bribes) have to be stopped. It’s time we started turning our backs on our politicians when we see them. None of them deserve our attention, bullshitters the lot

  21. Dale

    Michael Taylor
    Lets not get too philosophical Michael, Do you deny that archaeologists and forensic scientists can tell from a skeleton how someone died? Parry wounds on arms and legs, killing wounds to sculls and vertebrata. These figures that you doubt are currently accepted by many Anthropologists today and indeed many law courts worldwide, look at the murders that are still prevalent in highland New Guinea, mostly over women stealing and unexplained diseases thought to be caused by witch craft and, by the way Indigenous Australians were no different, but I AM NOT JUDGING THEM..
    Further reading for people who obviously don’t want to know something unsavory about people, not that long ago white people were no different !!!
    “Troubled times:Violence and warfare in the past”
    “The fatal shore”
    “Guns germs and steel”
    “The better angels of our nature”
    By the way mate, if you just want to debate the definition of the word fact, we cant be friends…

  22. Dale

    Are you sabotaging my legitimate comment?, please explain this difficulty

  23. Kaye Lee

    The difficulty was that your apostrophes were appearing as some sort of code which tried to do a quote. I have fixed it. Michael doesn’t play silly games. Settle.

  24. Michael Taylor

    Dale, I know a fair bit about Aboriginal history and culture. The reason I said “Fact?” was because my studies reveal otherwise.

    And how did I sabotage your comment, pray tell?

  25. paul walter

    These cryptic codes, they turn up after smoking stuff? Sounds like an apostrophe in the making. The loss of even a colon could be a disaster, no vowels…poor old grammar.

    Seriously, get you clause into this: pay your syntax and no adjectives need issue forth.

  26. wam

    Racism is a learned trait which is taught at home and reinforced at school. in the media, on the screens by use of short easily learned stereotypes which fix prejudice as the norm. The Australian society denies that we are racist. Remember Adam Goodes those who booed at him did so confident that they were not displaying a racist attitude?
    The stereotypes of Aborigines are false and may be unlearned.
    The unlearning needs to strike at the top.
    All parliaments, public service and universities need to unteach the racism of society by recognising and removing their own racism.

    Do not be ashamed of being normal, Kaye.
    A Tiwi friend called in to my place when my dad was visiting from Adelaide. We were chatting away when out of the blue my dad said ‘Don’t worry, Bernard, you were once white like us.’ bernard blinked, I said ‘dad’ and shame welled in me but not in Bernie he just moved on to a new topic and stories of the weather. At work I apologised and he said ‘old men say funny things.’

  27. Jim B

    @ wam, true, racism is learned at home and in society at large.
    Yesterday, the Courier Mail published a cartoon (page 78) that came over as racist in my books. The cartoon (by Lethbridge) was titled “Angry Anthony Mundine” (the word ‘Angry’ and the letters ‘Ant’ in ‘Anthony’ were in red characters). The cartoon depicted Jeff Horn as a human and Anthony Mundine as an insect. The caption bubble for Horn read “Why yes, we do have unusually noxious and annoying pests in Australia” as he spoke to the USA Media. Racism is alive and well in the mainstream media. The words ‘degradation’ and ‘MSM’ look different, but

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 2 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here

Return to home page