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The Forum > Article Comments > 'Closing the Gap' Gillard style > Comments

'Closing the Gap' Gillard style : Comments

By Michelle Harris, published 17/2/2011

Gillardís characterisation of the problem is grossly unfair to Aboriginal people and demonstrably inaccurate

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"Are we ready, after 223 years, to enter into a treaty that acknowledges the sovereign nations of this land?"

Seriously, what would be the point of that?

What benefit would this be, apart from the usual idealistic sentiments, like the great "Sorry" discussion and the following apology from PM Rudd.

What did the apology do? Have there been benefits?

We need to focus as the current PM is doing on realistic substantial policy and efforts to do something positive, and stop TALKING endlessly about nations and pride and everything else the aboriginal sorry industry goes on about.

I rarely agree with PM Gillard, but on this I, and most Australians, do.

" And Indigenous people know that when the child starts attending school ... when the drinker stops abusing alcohol ... when the adult takes the job that is there ... then change begins." somewhat cherrypicked by the author, but that's not unusual when reaching for emotive sentiment.

This is the reality of what the vast majority of Australians perceive aboriginal life to be .. whether you like it or not, aboriginals are reputed to clump together and demand all manner of services while wasting their lives.

It may not be the case, but it is certainly the perception .. changing perceptions is not done by signing treaties for some obscure self inflated reason, this is not New Zealand whose Maori fought a war and the treaty ended it .. there was no war, there is no reason for a treaty - it would only provide further reason for not engaging with the rest of Australia.

Reconciliation needs to start with aboriginals recognizing their own position and fixing it and not demanding others do it for them, yet again.

Mind you, it seems that's how the majority of aboriginals want to live, after 223 years, they have resisted all attempts by various governments to change .. perhaps we should withdraw and leave them alone?

I guess the treaty debate you would like to have would be another endless gravy train of travel and meetings, good for some ..eh?
Posted by rpg, Thursday, 17 February 2011 6:38:49 AM
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It is a really complex problem.
I was chatting to a guy in Bachelor near Darwin years ago. He had recently given up work and moved back to the camps to live a more "traditional" lifestyle. The reason? His home was regularly used by drunk relatives as a drop-in centre. His food was taken, furniture trashed and was often embarrassed at work, not to mention his neighbours.
He faced a stark choice: Become fully "white" and face the anger of his people, or abandon the half-way lifestyle.
Despite being qualified and hard-working, he felt that his culture demanded that he was one or the other. He chose his own culture of course even though this meant a simple life with few assets, few opportunities and the need to accept charity (Which he hated and resented, even while knowing it was necessary to live).
We've tried taking children away, we've tried military intervention, and we've tried expulsion to unproductive lands plus charity. (which was no solution). Leaving them alone is not acceptable as the lifestyle involves high infant mortality and a very high chance of disease and death. There is also the fact that the West acquired all the best land and has only allowed limited "traditional ownership" of the marginally productive lands. (If wealth is found then the laws are changed!)
I have no idea what can work.
Posted by Ozandy, Thursday, 17 February 2011 8:43:29 AM
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I wont put forward the pretence that I have all the answers to the 'aboriginal problem'. But decades of liberal guilt has achieved virtually the same results as decades of ignoring them and treating them as 2nd class citizens. Im 53 years old and apart from having the vote, nothing has changed whatsoever. It is pretty obvious that we do not have the capacity or the wisdom to improve the situation. Great men and women have tried and failed miserably and the list of successes is incredibly sparse. It would be simplistic to say that aboriginal people resist our efforts - but not wrong. The vast majority of australians actually WANT a solution, but no one has any idea what it is. It is hard to give jobs to people who cannot read and write because their parents refused to send them to school. It is hard to employ people who live in places where there are no jobs. It is hard to help people who refuse to change.

The solution will never come from white men; it will come from aboriginals themselves. Unfortunately, the few that try are met with apathy and opposition - from their own people.

I am not optimistic about there EVER being a solution to the problem because each generation repeats the mistakes of the previous one and frankly, seems to have an almost undetectable desire to improve themselves.

We can't fix the problem and the only people who can, wont.

As politically incorrect and borderline racist though it may be, it is an incredibly obvious fact that while some cultures thrive and grow and overcome obstacles, some make a virtue out of remaining stone-age. And in every single case they disappear or remain disadvantaged and oppressed. Like it or not, there is no place in the 21st century world for a stone-age culture with a stone-age mentality. The solution is in their own hands and always has been. The trouble is that only 10-20 of them understand that at any one time.

So yes, Im frustrated and Gillard was right.
Posted by longweekend58, Thursday, 17 February 2011 8:43:31 AM
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OZandy: your friend made the wrong choice. This was what I was talking about in my post. He had to choose between success and failure and chose failure. Yes, he had to choose one culture over another, but perhaps that best underlines the real nature of the problem. It is something whispered in the dark in hushed tones that we feel ashamed of saying: that aboriginal culture is a failed one and one that is totally incompatible with life today. As ugly as it sounds perhaps the only solution that exists is total integration. I dont really know. I am just frustrated beyond measure at the absolute failure of any attempt to improve things.
Posted by longweekend58, Thursday, 17 February 2011 8:50:28 AM
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Well said Michele but the PM made the speech - yes ill-briefed - but she made the speech and has to be held to account. The tone and sentiment were very disappointing and reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher and in my view that is pretty low.

You note Paul Keating's Redfern speech. The PM needs to read that especially the bit that goes: "the starting point might be to recognise that the problem starts with us non-Aboriginal Australians".

Gavin Mooney
Posted by guy, Thursday, 17 February 2011 9:13:34 AM
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Thanks Michelle.

Not the first time Gillard has sounded like Maggie Thatcher.

The "Our Generation" movie http://www.ourgeneration.org.au/ makes it pretty clear the motive (or a major motive) behind the intervention was grabbing the land back for the miners. Saving the children had little or nothing to do with it.
Posted by Geoff Davies, Thursday, 17 February 2011 9:35:09 AM
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