I am not an Aboriginal Australian. I do not have that honour. But like many Australians I have a deep respect for the ancient culture that possessed this land for tens of thousands of years before the arrival of the First Fleet. I had the privilege of being in the House of Representatives on 13 February 2008 when Kevin Rudd apologised to Australia’s Indigenous peoples.
I saw first hand the incredible outpouring of emotions and am keenly aware of the power of symbolism to assist healing and reconciliation. It has been suggested that moving Australia Day from 26 January will be a similar gesture of respect and goodwill between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. While I understand the argument, I fear it would have the opposite effect.
The most articulate call to change the date of Australia Day was made in 2009 by Professor Mick Dodson. Having won the prestigious Australian of the Year award, Dodson, expressed the view that Australia can ‘do better’ noting that, ‘many of our people call it invasion day’.
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So Prime Minister Julia Gillard has shoehorned Nova Peris onto the ALP Senate ticket, thus illustrating that her cackhandedness is no passing fad.
The former Olympian will be set to become the first Federal indigenous Labor representative, and the first indigenous female Federal pollie. About bloody time.
It is shameful it has taken this long – and it’s also a shame that it will be a tainted appointment.
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Racism is particularly horrendous and shocking when it comes from within.
You’d put Anthony Mundine’s questioning of Daniel Geale’s Aboriginality down to some weird sort of self loathing if you thought there was a speck of self awareness about the man.
Geale is an Aboriginal boxer from Tassie, and Mundine’s opponent. Mundine, in a trash talking barrage, said Geale didn’t deserve to sport an Aboriginal flag, that there ought to be some sort of “cut off” for Aboriginal people after which they’re presumably declared white, and said:
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During the negotiation stage after the 2010 election, one demand from the Greens was a referendum to incorporate indigenous people in the Constitution before the 2013 election. Julia Gillard signed up.
Now she has stated that the referendum will not be held, as she feels the people are not yet sufficiently in support. Whose fault is that? In essence, it is the task of a government which is seeking to change the Constitution to devote resources necessary to convince the public.
It is no easy task to get enough support to satisfy the requirement of a double majority. Only eight of the 44 referendums put to the people since 1901 have passed. Obviously, the voters need to be convinced. Apparently they haven’t been, so the promised referendum is postponed.
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I almost wish I hadn’t written this column last week. I argued that Adelaide recruiter Matthew Rendell should not have been forced to resign over his warning that AFL clubs could get to a point where they only recruited Aboriginal players with one white parent.
Rendell was pretty convincing when he argued he wasn’t suggesting this should be a policy; rather warning that this dire situation could come to pass. It was all about the context.
With the gloriousness of hindsight I would have written it differently because the AFL community engagement manager Rendell made the comments to – Jason Mifsud – has a slightly different account of the conversation that makes it sound less like a pie-in-the-sky throwaway line and more part of an ongoing stereotyping within the AFL.
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Hands up anyone who has never said something that could sound racist. A joke, an anecdote, an off-the-cuff comment. Something that, printed in black and white, would sound much worse than its intention.
If your hand is up you’re probably lying. Or you think that because you prefaced it with “I’m not racist, but…” you magicked the racism right out of it.
A man’s career is over because of a self-confessed silly, throwaway line about Aboriginal AFL recruits. But is that fair, and will it make AFL a less racist place?
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I don’t think anyone is that shocked to discover former Carlton president John Elliott is a bigot and no doubt Can of Worms let his comment air because of the publicity, but sadly it seems the sentiment behind his recent racial slur is echoed by a cross-section of Australians.
Some comments on the story included:
“Aussie is OK as an abbreviation, but Abo isn’t? I never knew that Abo was offensive?”, and “Why can’t we use the word ‘abo’ it is just an abbreviation.”
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Yesterday I was reminded of one of the most amazing and moving moments I have ever experienced. It was in 2006 and I was listening to the national anthems being sung at the Lone Pine memorial service on Anzac day. Surprisingly, what moved me was not the roar of over 10,000 Australians singing our own national anthem, but hearing the thousands of Kiwi pilgrims belting out theirs.
I wasn’t moved at the thought of God defending our mates over the ditch (as the anthem goes), rather it was the first ever time I had heard New Zealanders sing the first Maori verse of their anthem, and it was sung with such gusto and pride.
I was astonished not only that they had been taught the Maori words, but that they were proud enough to sing it so loudly and passionately. I was jealous of their historic and cultural pride that day.
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When my parents arrived in the 1950s as ’10 pound Poms’, Australia was a brave new world. Their street in Melbourne’s Glen Waverley bustled with fellow European migrants eager to create a life for their families.
But while our neighbourhood was a snapshot of multicultural Europe there wasn’t a lot of mixing. My parents socialised with others from the old country while their Italian and Greek neighbours went to their own churches and started their own small businesses.
The ‘poms’ and ‘wogs’ in the street lived together quite happily, but separately.
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True story: At an important function a while back an Aboriginal elder gave a traditional welcome to country. The audience looked suitably solemn, if a little glazed.
The elder said: When you give me my country back, then I’ll welcome you to my country.
Oblivious to the subversion, a succession of politicians and dignitaries took to the microphone and thanked them for the welcome.
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Are you feeling offended? Put out? Insulted? You’re not alone.
He Who Almost Always Offends, Andrew Bolt, offended some people a while back. Then their lawyer offended him. Then one of the offended turned around and offended a third party, who offended her right back. Youch.
Surely it’s time to start building some bridges – of the reconciliatory, conciliatory, and the ‘get over it’ kind.
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Australia’s reconciliation situation is worse than that of post-apartheid South Africa.
As we celebrate National Close the Gap day, it is time we focus on the real gap that needs to be closed - the gap in trust between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. For this is one gap that we can all take responsibility for closing once and for all.
When we hear the Close the Gap catch cry we immediately think of the shocking news headline statistics:
- An Aboriginal man is expected to live 11.5 years less than the Australian average.
- An Aboriginal baby is twice as likely to die before their first birthday.
- An Aboriginal girl is 32 per cent less likely to finish her high school education.
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It took courage back in 2007 for then Prime Minister John Howard and Indigenous Minister Mal Brough to announce what was known as the intervention in Aboriginal communities across the Northern Territory. It was a rapid response to the Little Children are Sacred report, which revealed the terrifying reality of child abuse, health and social degradation within remote indigenous communities.
The intervention was necessarily swift, as large numbers of police and army personnel moved in to communities in crisis.
Alcohol restrictions were put in place, medical examinations were carried out on indigenous children and school attendance was enforced, while 50 per cent of individuals’ financial welfare payments were quarantined for food and life essentials. While controversial at the time, the intervention had dramatic results, improving the health and welfare of children and reduced alcohol abuse in many indigenous communities.
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When the good ship Generation One stormed home to victory on Sydney Harbour in the Australia Day Ferrython it was a quietly dignified affair.
A bunch of Aboriginal boys to my left banged on the hull and cheered uncontrollably, I gave the black power salute while wearing a T-shirt on my head and to my right the former Upper House President Meredith Burgmann gave the second place-getters the finger.
And just to add to the solemn gravitas the whole boat was fitted out to look like a giant purple whale.
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Home ownership is the great Australian dream. A place to call your own and where your heart is.
My parents are both proudly Aboriginal. As a young bloke, I remember their pride when they bought their first home, a little house on the edge of town.
Growing up I watched them struggle to pay the mortgage, through good and bad times. Extensions, cars, funerals and even my university education were all paid for via refinancing the family home. I’m sure it’s a story that would be familiar to many Australians.
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