Categorisation of outback whitefellas


Or, more specifically, outback whitefellas who have regular dealings with aboriginals and who weren’t born and bred in said outback.

Really interesting correspondence from Julie James Bailey in the back of Quarterly Essay 31, a couple of excerpts of which I clip here

For nine years I have worked in seven different remote communities and visited many more. I am a self-funded volunteer retiree living in my campervan. I do not feel qualified to talk about the Aboriginal people, but I do feel I can make some comment about the calibre of the white service providers. Who are they?
I place them into four broad categories: professionals, administrators, store/enterprise managers and ferals. They all seem to work within the confines of their own bureaucracies, professions or chosen lifestyles.
The professionals are the teachers, health workers, police, nurses and doctors, many of whom are committed to their work but have limited resources. They are seldom trained to work in remote communities, let alone to work with people for whom English is a second, third or fourth language. It seems also that they receive little or no training in applying effective community development principles of capacity building and skills transfer, which allow people to share power and take responsibility for their own lives….

she talks more about professionals, then administrators and store/enterprise managers.

The last group of whitefellas I have observed are what I call the ferals. Remote communities attract white no-hopers, usually men, but some women, who would not get a job anywhere else. Some of them ingratiate themselves with the community and because of their better understanding of English and Western ways, they develop a power base in the community. They pick up jobs because they are prepared to live in rough conditions. Paul Toohey, in his book The Killer Within, describes this breed of men who roam the outback: “They are tattooed, white, like to appear as if they work and indeed, take on the appearance of working men but may only very occasionally lift a spanner or sledgehammer… They usually rely on sickness benefits. They get themselves pensioned off in their forties, with some concocted or grossly exaggerated illness… They occupy little outposts in small outback towns. They are the associates of outlaw gangs and provide resting points for colleagues moving amphetamines and cannabis around the ever-enthusiastic drug-fuelled nation.” The permit system fails to keep them out and they are often the conduit for alcohol into dry communities.

This gels with my (limited and not-recent) experience of aid work. There were plenty of unemployable-in-the-West folks bobbing along, picking up scraps of work here and there.



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