Archive for the ‘Indigenous Affairs’ Category

Talking utter bollocks about Australian Aborigines

March 29, 2013

I’d never had the pleasure until today

Imagine if someone spent a few months in Tibet and came back claiming to have been chosen as the “true” Dalai Lama.

Would anyone take it seriously?

Well, meet Marlo Morgan….


Australian Citizenship Test – hilarious

August 28, 2011

This is roll around on floor laughing your ass off material, this is…


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Book Review: Beyond White Guilt

August 15, 2011

What a disappointment. I really like Sarah Maddison’s work (well, the Activist Wisdom thing, and stuff about feminism and movements), and so thought her take on what practical reconciliation would look like would be worth pondering. Sorry, but the blurb makes promises the book just doesn’t keep. After a promising start (the intro is good),

Letting go of the idea that we might ever achieve ‘moral’ purity – because history does not allow us this luxury – might be a useful starting point. Once we let go of purity, accept our ‘moral stain’ as US legal scholar David Williams describes it, then guilt may no longer be unbearable. If we accept that we are guilty then we can ask the really difficult questions – about sovereignty, about national identity – without constantly having to defend our honour. Acknowledging our collective guilt can be a useful starting point for the hard work that is still to be done.
Page 20-1

it’s kinda all downhill. What can well-meaning non-Indigenous people DO? Should they be denouncing the Intervention? Who to? Should they be educating themselves? If so, what books and resources does Maddison recommend? Should they be practically involved in grass-roots organisations? If so, which ones, and what kind of behaviours should they NOT be undertaking (Maddison is good on not asking for individual absolution because it’s really tiring to the indigenous folks). What are the pros and cons of Constitutional Recognition? What are the dangers and opportunities ahead in the coming five years?

Instead we get history lessons (and not at the level of detail of say Henry Reynolds) and a certain amount of hand-wringing and theorising. Sarah Maddison is way smarter than this, and I hope she takes another bite at the cherry.

Welcoming visitors, but they don’t leave…

June 30, 2011

Oh, I’m sure you could have heard the proverbial pin drop…

At the exhibition opening, amid endless glasses of chenin blanc, the guests were fortunate enough to witness a traditional kaurna smoking. Local elder Uncle Lewis O’Brien then welcomed artists, curators and guests in Kaurna Language to stop (the) gap, an international exhibition of indigenous media arts, before adding a brief footnote in English: “We have been welcoming visitors to our land for thousands of years. The problem is we’ve never told them to go home.” His comment met a general silence.


A similar frankness runs through curator Brenda L Croft’s introductory essay in the exhibition catalogue. In an aggressive and confessional style Croft outlined her infuriation at being Indigenous and intelligent in a place as heart-poundingly and mind-numbingly stupid as mainstream Australia, where even the most elementary reflection on colonisation and the marginalization of Indigenous Australians is consistently and willfully avoided. It was an angry and perhaps reckless decision to share such unrestrained thoughts. For daring to express her outrage in forthright political language, Croft was ruthlessly attacked by the Australian’s Christopher Allen, in a review less concerned with discussing the artworks on display than with celebrating the writer’s tiresomely cynical politicking.

Reel Time 102, page 23
Indigenous media art: complex visions
Tom Redwood

Still unsettled

June 28, 2011

As Steve Dovers from the Australian National University put it recently, after two centuries we still seem to be struggling to settle Australia. We haven’t resolved the first vexing questions presented to us by a unique continent – the original owners, the fragile land, the scarce resources, the capricious climate, remoteness and the insecurities this generates. These first challenges to the settlement project just keep coming back, some of them in ever more frightening forms.
Griffith Review 20
Waking from The Dream
Brendan Gleeson

Anthropology and Politics

April 3, 2011

Arena’s review of Jon Altman and Melinda Hinkson (eds) Culture Crisis: Anthropology and Politics in Aboriginal Australia UNSW Press, Sydney, 2010 starts

The complex domain referred to in shorthand as ‘Indigenous affairs’ has always been contested space. Since colonisation, the dominant response to the original inhabitants of this country has ranged form hostility to fear, and from curiosity to ambivalence, tempered at times by compassion, and eventually governed by frustration. Governments have reflected these changes in public sentiment through policy that has in turn sought to obliterate, assimilate or ‘develop’ Australia’s Indigenous peoples. Understanding this volatile historical background is essential if readers are to fully appreciate this excellent collection of essays and the political and academic context from which it emerged.

They like the book, btw, which means I had better read it

This Land is (y)OUR land…

March 19, 2011

Go to pretty much any public event in Australia these days and there’ll be a ritualistic incantation from the balanda (white person) in charge that they acknowledge that the meeting is being held on the land of the local peoples and that… well, I could and shall make a list of the variations, but so far I think they’ve included that the elders of those tribes are revered as sources of wisdom/information about how to live in harmony etc.

I’m not criticising the people for doing it. Doubtless most of them are sincere in what they say. And at least it is a recognition of the historic theft of the land and some of the consequences (though that tends to get soft-pedalled). But I think rather than being the beginning of a discussion of what we all do next, it functions to shut that conversation down.

Here’s a couple of quotes from a recent Arena (issue 108) article called “Ways to claim a country” by Gillian Cowlishaw

… we Australian settler descendants are so confident in our ownership that we readily admit the limits of our historical connections. Indeed, our ability to recognise the deep spiritual connections of Aboriginal people with the land confirms our benign intentions and our legitimacy here. Acknowledging the depth and power of Indigenous spiritual connections with the land enhances our virtue while posing no threat to our mundane political and legal ownership.

And her next point is one I first was challenged on by a white South African during the apartheid years. It’s a valid one…

We Australians plead guilty but feel innocent of the dispossession our forebears perpetrated. When a Jew asks us about oppressed Aborigines today, we are nonplussed; we are building houses for them, not tearing them down! We are expressing admiration and care for ‘our Aborigines’. But the question leads me to wonder, were our white place in our Australia threatened by millions of Aborigines refusing us legitimacy in the land, would ugly emotions arise and overwhelm our desire to recognise their equality and their cultural rights? The answer must be yes, as evident in the secreted seam of fear and hostility that emerged when the High Court of Australia pronounced that Native Title still exists and must be recognised in Australia.

Canning Stock Route- how the West was won

January 29, 2011

This from wikipedia about the Canning Stock Route

“one of the toughest and most remote tracks in the world. It runs to Halls Creek from Wiluna, both in Western Australia. With a total distance of 1781 km (1113 miles) it is also the longest historic stock route in the world. For the first few hundred kilometres it runs concurrent with the Tanami Track.”

And how did Whitey find out where to dig the wells?

Canning’s party constructed the wells with the forced help of Aboriginal people whose land the route traversed, the Mardu. Canning himself found it difficult to locate desert water sources. In order to gain Mardu assistance in locating water along the route, Canning captured several Mardu men, chained them by the neck, forced them to eat salt, and then waited until they got thirsty enough to lead his party to a native well.

Salacious gossip about Nugget Coombs

December 26, 2010

It shows how childish I am that I get to the end of a long and fascinating Wikipedia article about the most important Humphrey Appleby that Australia has ever had (Keynesian growth a-go-go), complete with interests in Indigenous Affairs and the environment and the thing that really sticks in my brain is that he had a 25 year secret affair with the magnificent poet/activist Judith Wright

The story was broken by Fiona Capp in the Monthly, in June 2009.

Douglas Nicholls – that’s pretty cool

December 26, 2010

To my shame, I knew nothing about Douglas Nicholls, who led a pretty interesting and useful kind of life… Here’s the lede of the wikipedia article on him.

Pastor Sir Douglas Ralph “Doug” Nicholls, KCVO, OBE, (9 December 1906 – 4 June 1988[1]), was a prominent Australian Aboriginal from the Yorta Yorta people; a professional athlete; Churches of Christ pastor and church planter; ceremonial officer and a pioneering campaigner for reconciliation.

Nicholls was the first Aboriginal person to be knighted and the first Aboriginal person appointed to vice-regal office, serving as Governor of South Australia from 1 December 1976 until his resignation on 30 April 1977 due to poor health.