Saturday, August 23, 2008

Dodson's indigenous reform call

In a major speech at Notre Dame University in Broome, Pat Dodson has said some contradictory things.

Mr Dodson said the nation would be enhanced "by the full and proper recognition and protection of its indigenous cultures" and argued for a "courageous" dialogue on constitutional recognition beyond changes to the preamble.

..."We can bicker for another century as to whether Nugget Coombs was right or Sir Paul Hasluck really had the solutions to the health and wellbeing of indigenous people," Mr Dodson said in the Nulungu Lecture at Notre Dame on Thursday.

"But this futile battle of ideologies will not improve the life of one single Aboriginal child, will not lower the percentages of Aboriginal people residing in our nation's jails and quite frankly will not assist Twiggy Forrest find 50,000 jobs."

I can't see how mentioning indigenes in the constitution, having some sort of "treaty" (are we at war?), and participating in empty symbolic gestures are going to help Aboriginal people at all.

He seems to be calling for apartheid with these two points:

Mr Dodson said there needed to be "a new platform of principles crafted for challenges beyond the traditional discourse based upon our mutual prejudices".

But he warned that "the constant mantra of assimilation" had the potential to lead Aboriginal people to become "a mutant white man" while Australia presided over "the extinction of the oldest living culture on earth".

...He also backed an indigenous bill of rights, and said Australia's failure to ratify the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights had left Australia as a "pariah on the world stage".

He said customary law should be an admissible legal defence, although he told The Weekend Australian last night this did not mean customary law should be an absolute defence. He said the rights and responsibilities of indigenous people should be enshrined in laws to prevent governments overriding statutes such as the Racial Discrimination Act.
Read more in The Weekend Australian.

In another article on the same dead tree page Nicolas Rothwell analyses Dodson's idea. He says that the speech moves Dodson closer to Pearson... I'm quite sure that Pearson doesn't want apartheid, he can see that the way out of the situation now for Aboriginal people is to assimilate, to get an education and to become part of Australian society.

There are a whole lot of Aboriginal stories here.

I wonder if Mr Dodson would be so kind as to outline Aboriginal culture which should be kept and promoted. From what I've seen of the poor excuses for illegal and amoral activities in some communities I don't think it's a cultural thing which should be held on to.


Skeeter said...

It is very apparent that those folk who have allowed themselves to be assimilated into Australian culture are more successful and happier than those that cling to their tribal heritage lifestyles.
This is true, not just for aborigines, but also for migrants from different cultures. It is not a race thing, and is nothing to do with skin colour or genetics.

The effects are so obvious. Why do so many people on both sides of the cultural divide still cling to failed policies of multiculturalism and preservation of tribal values?

I have personal experience of two contrasting stories. Forgive me if I have already written about them, but they are again topical.

I recently had to write a six-figure cheque to pay a private-enterprise contractor for some road-works. We enjoyed a cup of coffee with him in our kitchen while we wrote the cheque at the end of a happy business relationship.
The contractor is not in the big league, but he owns a lot of very expensive equipment and he pays significant wages to his employees.
He is an aboriginal.
He told us that he had been reared in an assimilated family in a white community. He had been brought up to be aware of his aboriginality, but he considered himself to be part of that white community and had no problems with it.
In his late teens, a friend told him about all the aboriginal welfare he was entitled to, including a university education.
That night, he told his mum that he was going to apply for some of these benefits.
His Mum responded, "Fine, do that if you wish. But don't ever set foot in this house again. We have brought you up to make your own way in the world."
He took her advice and has never regretted it.

Story number two: I became involved in helping a local aboriginal community to set up an aboriginal tourist venue. The plan was to demonstrate tribal arts, crafts, boomerang-throwing and the like. It was to provide worthwhile employment and extra income for the community, as well as an educational destination for the tourists.
There was much enthusiasm and all went well.
One early setback was that none of the aborigines could throw a boomerang.
Fortunately, the driving force for this venture was a young woman (non-aboriginal) who had grown up near the Mudgeeraba boomerang factory. She quickly taught the aborigines to throw boomerangs and they were the highlight at the shows.
The venture thrived for about 3 months. It then fell apart when members of the community realised that it was going to interfere too much with their freedoms. The real problem was that everyone had to attend, and be ready to perform, at the time when the coach-load of tourists turned up.
They could not achieve this with any consistency. It was not because they were lazy. It was because the subsistence living embodied in their cultural heritage had never been modified by assimilation. Instead, it had been reinforced by regular welfare payments of "sit-down" money.

kae said...

Manny years ago I worked for Telecom. There were three ATSI people working in an open office with many of us (it was the late 80s). Of the two women and one man, I knew I could rely on the man - he always came to work and when given a task he would complete it, if he had problems he would ask questions, the women, on the other hand, rarely attended work and it was said that this was permitted because their employment was subisidised by the government. If I recall correctly the women didn't stay around for long, it annoyed us all to have to sort out any work which they started (and usually never completed), and it was important for the work to be completed to provide customer service, and revenue for work completed.
I had no time for the women (hey, they were hardly ever at work), however the man was great to work with.
I have a friend in WA who worked for an Aboriginal mob which placed Aboriginal people in jobs, some of these people had learning difficulties, were autistic, had just got out of gaol. She loved her work and got great satisfaction from helping these people move on. She was not terribly complimentary of ATSIC and other bodies set up to help, many of their members or higher ranked employees were unqualified to carry out the work and had just got there because of their Aboriginality. I think she's now working for Centrelink - she's not impressed with them, either. I think she's finally finished her degree.

She's a lefty, too.
And Aboriginal.

kae said...

who is manny?

Skeeter said...

How does that song go...?

We are manny, but we are..
Nah. That's not it.

Caz said...

while Australia presided over "the extinction of the oldest living culture on earth".

Err, some - like me - would unhesitatingly suggest that it's a culture only by the most base definition of such, and one that none of us would wish on anyone.

Skeeter - ... than those that cling to their tribal heritage lifestyles ...

If they were clinging to tribal heritage lifestyles that would be fine and dandy, in fact, very, very dandy.

Perpetual binge drinking, drug abuse, refusal to accept education, or work, rape of babies and children, bashing and murdering each other. Nuh, I'm pretty sure that's not anyones idea of a heritage or of a lifestyle.

Boy on a bike said...

Assimilation vs happiness.

One small story.

J's parents are Croatian. They moved to a country town to get away from the suffocating "croatian-ness" of their siblings, who arrived around the same time. All their friends are "Australians". Their kids attended normal schools like everyone else, and did normal "Australian" activities.

Her parents are happy as larry. Where they live, there is not another croatian for 100 miles in any direction.

Her uncle wallows in all things Croatian. He setup a company that only employed other croats, so they all spoke croatian at work. They attend a croatian-language church. They only socialise with other croatians. Their kids attended croatian school after hours, and only socialised with other croatian kids (and they all married other croatians). They can go most of the year without speaking English.

He is a miserable git.