Thursday, 14 February 2008

The complicated relationship .....

My granddaughter in front of a painting of grandpa Roy McIver called "Tragedy"

2008-Feb-14 - Untitled Comment
Posted by PD
Wil, your comment about perfectly happy children being taken isn't the whole picture. Only a few indigenous people are denying that in the beginning many children were taken because they were suffering terrible abuses at the hands of their family or extended associates. To a degree this continues today, and there is case after case of glue-sniffing, alcoholism, theft, rape and murder even amongst young people.

A current case being reviewed in court involves nine young indigenous boys and teenagers who pack-raped a ten year-old indigenous girl. Early reports suggested she had also been infected with a sexually-transmitted disease.

We'll never know the truth about the genesis of the policy of removal of children; whether it was meant to genuinely protect them and later ran off the rails or whether from the beginning it was meant to be ethnic cleansing. What we know from direct evidence is that whatever the policy intended it became a form of forced assimilation.

At a practical level I believe it was the public servants rather than the legislators who bastardised the intervention. Give a public servant power and they will use it to destroy what they can.

The indigenous people have had a much more difficult time than just the Stolen Generations. There was a Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (aboriginal men in the 70s and 80s were dying, usually by hanging themselves, at a much higher rate than any other population group). There were the Redfern Riots in Sydney, but to be fair to all it was the indigenous people themselves who turned it into a slum and a no-go area.

There were the fights for land rights which resulted in the Mabo and Wik decisions and the subsequent return of millions and millions of acres of land back into indigenous control.

There was ATSIC (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission) which was managed by indigenous people and squandered many millions of taxpayer dollars on questionable or illegal enterprises such as buying cars for friends and family, operating bars, pubs and stores where essentially everything was free to mates, and so on. The people whom ATSIC was funded for got precious little except a bad reputation by racial association. Their own leaders did them over.

In these few examples we can see that it hasn't all been whites suppressing blacks in some sort of calculated regime. Often, tribal and community in-fighting have caused incredible havoc and hardship for indigenous people. Alcohol, drugs, glue and petrol-sniffing abuses are rampant and this makes control and policing incredibly difficult, whether it's by parents or family or by the police.

Unfortunately, snap polls here are indicating that up to 76% of Australians who respond to polls disagree with the official 'Sorry'. That may reflect more on the type of people who respond to polls than it does on all Australians, and we'll never know how many people inundated phone-in polls with multiple calls.

Importantly, we can't take these polls at face value in terms of them being 'white against black' votes. Australia is populated by people from over 100 countries so I think it's reasonable to assume that some splinter and special-interest groups also voted negatively because they see their own cause as more important or equally worthy.

The main complaint here is: "I, personally, didn't do it so I don't see why I should apologise." Many people just haven't thought it through well because, let's face it, most people are hard-pushed to think about anything outside of their own selfish interests. I think that if we're not prepared to accept some responsibility for the indigenous mistreatment then we shouldn't accept any credit for the military men and women who died in service of their country in all wars. Celebrating the glories of the past while denying the horrors of it is patently stupid. We have a lot of patently stupid people.

'Sorry' is a start. The now-ascendant culture and the indigenous people have made huge errors and miscalculations and I think we should all - including aboriginals - be sorry for the messes we created. It wasn't all done by one racial group to another. That often seems to be forgotten.

My hope from here is that we will find a different and better way to move forward, but my suspicion is that it will just be more of the same and throwing effort and money after foolishness. All sides are too invested in doing what they've always done. Depressing, I know, but unless and until a new approach is forged I can't see any catalyst for change.

I hope this helps.
Permanent Link Edit Delete

2008-Feb-14 - Untitled Comment
Posted by readerwil
Thank you PD for taking the trouble to comment on my post. Your comment is very important for it shows how complicated the relationship of the indigenous Australians and the Australians who arrived in the 19th century and afterwards is. Of course there is also a dark side to either group. Taking away children who are abused is sometimes the only solution. It happens in the Netherlands more often than not, but the parents are allowed to see the children and keep in contact under supervision. These children who were taken away in Australia weren't probably taken away because of abuse, even if they were not all perfectly happy in their communities, many of them felt good with their families. They had an identity, a language, every thing and everybody was familiar.But they were taken away for the wrong reasons.
The main motive was to ‘assimilate’ Aboriginal children into European society over one or two generations by denying and destroying their Aboriginality.
Lime sniffing, alcohol abuse cause the same problems here in Holland. And drugs abuse is the the greatest problem especially in our big cities. Rape,child abuse, moslim girls killed by their father, brother or another male relative to protect the honour of the family, wifebeating, you name it are also our problems. It is not easy at all!! We have over 16 million inhabitants in a country half the size of Tasmania.( The Netherlands 34,000 sq kms, Tasmania 68,331 sq kms) There is no black and white, only good backgrounds and wrong ones. But thank you so much for your comment. I'll send it to my daughter if you don't mind.
2008-Feb-14 - Untitled Comment
Posted by PD
Thank you, Wil. Feel free to send this if you think it might be useful. It's a subject I've been closely attached to for a long time; one of the first friends I made in school was a full-blood Aboriginal and we stayed friends for nearly 40 years. He killed himself last year.

Anyway, I've had some close contact with communities over the years and even before the apology I believed that we need to fundamentally rethink how we're going to progress.

The Problems:

1. While there are some extremely capable, well-educated and vocal people in and rising through the indigenous ranks there's still not nearly enough of them and they're not well-represented in local, state and federal affairs. We need a lot more.

In some ways the indigenous culture works against the aboriginal in a western society. Even today there's a perception that people will just pack up and go 'walkabout', which is a major disruption to education and progression. This leads to poorer grades and limits the amount of further education indigenous children can qualify for, and impacgts on the type of jobs adults can do (hence, very high unemployment and menial jobs).

2. I believe it's not a matter of money per se but of gearing the money spent into educational and management channels that are respectful of indigenous culture while not pandering to it and using aspects of it as excuses. The indigenous people themselves need to be willing to make some adaptations to their culture because, let's face it, they're heading for extinction if they don't.

3. Politically, I believe the indigenous people should not be pushing for greater self-determination right at this second. We need to build a broad skills-base first, otherwise we'll just be revisiting the problems of the past and the rest of the population will be much less forgiving.

4. I hope people will push for much less intervention and 'assistance' at all levels from the public service. The people who work in the PS have no power to say 'yes' but seem to delight in saying 'no'. I believe most departments wield their power in ways that do not support the average Australian of any colour or race.

The Solutions:

1. Bring in the managers. I suggest people who have a documented track record in free-market administration. They've proven they can get the job done on time and on target. Public servants and politicians don't work under the constraints of those responsibilities.

I'd like to see qualified and tested managers become the interface between the indigenous peoples and the bureaucracy, to ensure as far as possible the fair treatment of indigenous people but also to protect the indigenous people from those amongst themselves who rort the system for their own benefit.

2. Specific education is needed and while I think the ultimate goal is reconciliation ( a balancing of the books ON BOTH SIDES), the practical reality is we're a long way from it.

I'd like to see specific courses for indigenous people to help them complete their general education, and selective courses in teaching, administration, health care, law, accountancy, public works and architecture, to name the most immediately important.

We can't hope to build anything lasting unless there's an influx of indigenous people into the kinds of education that will strengthen their future. Those selected will need to give up their tribal ideal of the semi-nomadic lifestyle, because their race is depending on them.

Indigenous culture should be taught as an integral core subject like reading, writing and arithmetic, and not as a part-time add-on. The songs and stories of the Dream Time should be recorded in total for future generations. In China I saw first hand and read in other places whole tribal languages being lost and thousands of years of local custom dying with the last old person of that group. We need technology's help to ensure the indigenous beliefs continue and thrive; they can no longer be left as an oral tradition.

3. Timing.

I think it will take another two decades before we can begin to see the results of real reconciliation. It'll take a decade for the professional managers to build the intellectual superstructure and physical infrastructure required. In the second decade I hope we could see the gradual handing over of critical management as more indigenous people complete their education. In the third decade I'd hope to see indigenous efforts being operated by and for the benefit of indigenous people who have bridged the culture gap.

Handled well, none of this would lead to a 'one country - two systems' form of apartheid. It simply recognises that there is some catching up to do. We already have resources to help in disaster relief and assistance to new migrants, so setting up special interest structures for the first Australians isn't setting any sort of precedent.

Mostly, I just want it out of the hands of the bureaucracy and the aboriginal people who don't fairly represent the whole group.

This is long, I know. I'll stop now.
Permanent Link Edit Delete

2008-Feb-14 - apology
Posted by Karien
The apology was very well put by Kevin Rudd and though it was well overdue, it has been well received. I certainly feel very happy to have been able to witness this. His speech moved me to tears, and when I saw my children's nanny today and told her this, she said it had had the same effect on her.

PD: the gang rape that was so badly handled in the courts here (the 10 yo girl) is a result of years of abuse that was suffered by these people. Most of the young men who raped this girl, had been raped themselves. Abuse escalates over generations, when it is not dealt with. It is not a cultural thing. Alcoholism is not cultural and it certainly does not discriminate. Hurt people hurt people.

The apology was therefore very important, though only a first step in the healing process. We have a long way to go here, but that does not mean healing can not take place.
Permanent Link Edit Delete

2008-Feb-14 - Untitled Comment
Posted by PD
Karien, agreed. I didn't mean to imply that any of this was cultural. After 220 years of being treated woefully I'm amazed at the resilience of the indigenous people.

Kevin Rudd did what should have been done in apologising for what should never have been done. Now we all need to stay focused, keep calm, and find better ways so this apology isn't only symbolic.

Permanent Link Edit Delete

2008-Feb-14 - Untitled Comment
Posted by readerwil
PD and Karien you two have found each other! Beautiful! Thank you both! I've nothing to add, it's all very valuable what you said and I'm going to put this on Blogspot so that everybody who wants to read it can and must read this!!


Anonymous said...

It is tragic. This story is echoed across the world and has been for ages. Much of it begins when outsiders come into a country and take it away from those already there. It happened in this country and is happening many other places even today. Sad.

Happy Valentine's Day.

reader Wil said...

Happy Valentine's Day! Some newcomers in Holland try to convert us to their religion and we are not allowed to critizise their way of living.