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The Forum > Article Comments > Re-imagining an Aboralian future > Comments

Re-imagining an Aboralian future : Comments

By Maggie Walter, published 9/6/2010

We need a dramatic revision in how we think about Australia, the country and its people.

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I find this a incredibly racist article.
Dividing Australians between indigenous and non-indigenous is as bad as dividing people into groups by their eye colour.
I am an earthling who happened to be born in Australia by parents who found refuge here after the second world war.
I also happen to live outside of urban Australia by choice because I found country that sang to my heart.
Even though I am not a scientist through self education I know the mood's and goings on of my particular patch of country as well as anyone.
There are disadvantaged everywhere who need a hand up to achieve their best potential but it is up to the individual to accept that hand of help and take on the responsibility not to waste the help offered, non-indigenous and indigenous alike.
Posted by Little Brother, Wednesday, 9 June 2010 11:15:40 AM
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I don't see what exactly this article is intended to achieve, if the central premise is to imagine, then it is going to be about as much use as some ephemeral "sorry"... Such things provide nothing whatever of value to those in the Communities, they simply provide a sop to the conscience of those who have suddenly realised there is a problem.

From my perspective, such are meaningless and worse than useless... Yeah, "Sorry Day" raised awareness of the fact that, shock horror, we actually have indigenous people in 3rd world conditions... Did it remove a single 12 year old girl from a "traditional marriage" to a much older man? Did it remove a single can of petrol from around the neck of anyone in the communities? Did it magically cause housing to materialise within these communities, or for the absolutely non-existent economy within them to appear, thus allowing them to become economically viable?

No, it did all that it was ever going to do... Provide a politically expedient outlet for those with ill-considered, poorly thought out schemes (unless you have been there, on the ground, and seen the "politics" within the communities, you will never understand the problems any "idea" will face), it also allowed for the expiation of our national shame... (Christ knows what shame, or to what purpose, but it was expiated accordingly).

I am not responsible for the sins of my ancestors, no-one is... I am responsible for the acts and omissions I allow TODAY, as we all are. Imagination and saying sorry do nothing for anybody, ACTION is what is needed and it just never happens. Murray time? It's still better than Canberra time mate.

Like I have said elsewhere, the Army is striving to build strong, functioning communities which are economically viable in Afghanistan, despite the hardships caused by logistics, isolation, communication and the problems caused by Racial, Cultural and Language barriers... I'd be amazed if they pull it off, considering we've yet to do so in our own Country.
Posted by Custard, Wednesday, 9 June 2010 12:25:20 PM
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Dr Walter is a lecturer in sociology and it shows. The article is long in generalities dressed up in fine language and short on specifics.
A large part of the problem is that conventional aid to indigenous groups as we would understand the term seems to be counter-productive. I am quite happy for the government to "do" something about aboriginal communities, as is the bulk of the electorate, but what can they do that would be effective? What can be done to counter the corruption and waste that seems to occur, with honourable exceptions, in indigenous governing bodies?
As for being a red neck (who give a rats what Robin Williams thinks) I can hardly discriminate against indigenous people because I don't know any, and don't recall encountering any at all during my private or professional life. I see them play in the AFL, but there I care nothing for their skin cover (barely notice it in fact) and everything for the color of the football jumper they wear.
Perhaps Dr Walter could rethink her approach to these matters..
Posted by Curmudgeon, Wednesday, 9 June 2010 12:43:26 PM
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Dr Walter is perhaps more right than even she thinks about the need for a change in thinking about what it is to be Australian: the image of Aboriginal people, especially on the once-Left, is that (a) they live in poverty (b) out in the sticks, (c) simultaneously impoverished yet living an idyllic, neo-traditional life, (d) unwilling to move either into towns and cities or (e) into the 21st century.

Wrong on all counts.

(a) Aboriginal people receive the same welfare payments as other Australians. If they live in the NT, they pay much less tax on their income (as all do in the NT). True/false ?
In many parts of the North, Aboriginal people receive royalty payments for mineral exploitation, as well as rents from leased-out National Parks, $ 14,000 per household per year in the case of Uluru. True/false ?
Recipients of CDEP no-work-for-the-dole payments can also receive unemployment benefits. True/false ?
Recipients of CDEP payments can also receive ABSTUDY payments year after year for enrolling in the same low-level TAFE course. True/false ?
All Australians in remote areas can receive a remote-area allowance for the education of their children, up to $ 24,000 per year for family. This also applies equally to Aboriginal people in remote areas. True/false ?
Thirty-odd years ago, I carried out an income study (totally unethical) as an appendix to some research in an Aboriginal community where we had lived for some years in the seventies. To my horror, I found that the median income there was equal to the Australian median income (this, before CDEP and ABSTUDY). Talk about paradigm-changing ! I threw in my study and applied for a taxi licence. Later, I discussed this with my supervisor and was quietly assured that it was a common experience. I buried my data, having very little courage.

Posted by Loudmouth, Wednesday, 9 June 2010 3:13:15 PM
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(b) the great majority - perhaps 80 % - of the Aboriginal population live in urban areas. Perhaps (we'll see in next year's Census) half live in metropolitan, or at least large city, areas. Incidentally, Aboriginal people have had the right to live in cities for the best part of fifty years now. Get used to it. Cities are where the skills are, the jobs, the opportunities, the innovations, the chance to interact with other people who are not one's relatives, even to marry them.
The shift from communities to towns, and from towns to cities, is around 1 % per year. If women in remote communities especially had language, literacy and work skills, who knows how many would get the hell away, with their kids, and into the towns ? i.e. to start the long process of urbanisation, proper education for their kids, socialisation with their fellow-Australians and inter-marriage ?

(c) This assertion should be given all the attention it deserves:

(d) after the War, in southern communities, regardless of so-called assimilation policies, Aboriginal people got away from communities and found work in small country towns and rural areas. From there, a large proportion moved into the cities from the late fifties to the early seventies. After that, employment opportunities dried up and urban migration slowed down significantly.
In other words, when opportunities are available and when people are literate and English-speaking, i.e. when they have employable skills, they move away from communities. Of course, in the remote communities now, even if every able-bodied person were attracted to outside employment, most of the current population (age-pensioners, single mothers, sick and disabled pensioners) would stay, so there is no danger of communities becoming totally depopulated.

Posted by Loudmouth, Wednesday, 9 June 2010 3:23:43 PM
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(e) As above, the great majority of Aboriginal people now live in urban areas. Nobody forced them - how could they ? The cities have represented opportunity for Aboriginal people just like for anyone else: that's the main reason they have moved there.

25,000 Indigenous people have now graduated from universities around the country, 90 % since 1990. 50,000 Indigenous university graduates by the year 2020 is a real possibility. And bourgeois as it may sound, Indigenous people have halved the gap in home-ownership in barely thirty years - needless to say, overwhelmingly in the towns and cities.

The flow of urban people back to rural areas and communities is very small. Actually, even if Aboriginal graduates wanted to go back to their parents' and grandparents' communities, the scope for their expertise would be minimal, not to mention economies of scale. For example, how could an Aboriginal dentist support herself relying on only the custom of a community of a couple of hundred people ? As well, the internal politics of parochial communities would soon send them back to the cities, never to return.

So those 25,000 Indigenous graduates are overwhelmingly urban and likely to remain so. BTW, around 70,000 Indigenous people have at some time been enrolled at universities - 10,000 are currently studying. From now on, i estimate that about 40-45 % of all young Indigenous people can at some time expect to go to university, and a third of them to go on to post-graduate study. Currently, around 20-25 % of a 26-year-old age-group can expect to graduate. Young Aboriginal people are going to LOVE the 21st century.

Australian cities are all built on Aboriginal land. It's their country too. And they are here to stay. In the cities. Getting educated, finding work, inter-marrying. Yes, Dr Walter, it's time we all got used to it.

Joe Lane
Posted by Loudmouth, Wednesday, 9 June 2010 3:37:06 PM
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