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The Forum > Article Comments > Indigenous Affairs: Displacement and integration > Comments

Indigenous Affairs: Displacement and integration : Comments

By Brian Holden, published 31/8/2011

Powerful lobbyists, government paternalism and parental experiences shape the plight of Indigenous Australians.

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Brian, totally agree, and I admire your fortitude in writing what most of Australia think, in the face or accusations which usually accompany any doubting or skepticism of the wisdom of the aboriginal victim industry (AVI).

"It is time to fully integrate." yep, this is what everyone except those in the AVI believe.

The AVI though, want to pick and choose what aboriginals are allowed to have and where they can have it, which has been a total failure and a disaster.

The original inhabitants were evidently nomadic, so I struggle to understand why they are now determined to stay in one place, in one area, and demand housing of a particular standard .. when historically, that was the exact opposite of their "culture"

I guess they have chosen, or had chosen for them, some aspects of western culture and only adapted to what's readily available.

I suspect though, the original inhabitants "adapted" to their surroundings and moved where and when they needed to.

Why can't they adapt now? Surely integration is adapting?

Are they given the choice of adapting? I suspect not. Tribal obligations and such are all recently manufactured inventions, as we are constantly told the original inhabitants were smaller groups who moved around. I know this won't suit those who insist there were "nations", in need of a "treaty", but there were no permanent settlements (towns or villages), nor was there any farming done (no edible grasses).

It seems the real answer is because that would not suit the people most able to profit from them remaining where they are, in the conditions where they attract the most for the profiteers.

So let's have some more meetings and fora with a conference on the side and lashings of sympathy and buffet of wise head nodding, with a desert of finger wagging at everyone who disagrees with continuing the handouts to those best suited to speak on behalf of the poor downtrodden.

Half an hour on the back patting machine for everyone involved.
Posted by Amicus, Wednesday, 31 August 2011 10:27:15 AM
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Thanks Brian for a very incisive article.

But let's remember that only a tiny minority - perhaps 10-15 % ? - of the Indigenous population live in remote settlements (I won't dignify them with the term 'community'), and the great majority of those people would have visited a large town in the last three months, perhaps many times. I suspect that the 2011 Census will show that close to half of the entire Indigenous population now live in metropolitan areas, and most of the rest in large towns and cities, like Cairns and Dubbo and Broome and Port Augusta.

Even so, at least a third of the Indigenous population remain trapped in lifelong welfare-dependence, thanks to forty years of misguided policy.

You make this very interesting observation:

"Around 1950 it was believed by my teachers that only about 10 per cent of the Caucasian race were intellectually capable of gaining a university degree. Now we know that it is over 50 percent of all races. The genetics are much the same...."

In 2009, according to DEEWR data, 3,755 Indigenous people commenced university study at degree-level and above. 2,955 were enrolled at degree-level, most of whom would be enrolling at unis for the first time - let's say 2,700. The median age of Indigenous commencers is about 26 (i.e. born in 1983). There would be about 8,000 Indigenous people in that median age-group across the country.

So the participation rate of Indigenous people at universities in Australia is equivalent to about 35 % of the median age-group (one of the criteria for 'mass tertiary education', by the way). Since 1990, when the proportion would have been under 20 %, this relative participation rate has been rising, particularly since 2005, after the abandonment of an implicit policy of channelling Indigenous students into Indigenous-focussed courses - thankfully, that policy had to be abandonned, if only because standard-entry Indigenous students usually wouldn't touch such courses with a forty-foot (12 m) pole.

Posted by Loudmouth, Wednesday, 31 August 2011 10:55:07 AM
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The Indigenous birth-rate rose rapidly after 1985, 50 % by the mid-nineties, from about 8,000 to 12,000. Those babies will hit tertiary age between now and 2020. So we are still at the beginning of a major boom in Indigenous participation at universities.

Even so, Indigenous commencements in degree-level courses rose by 30 % between 2005 and 2009, close to 7 % p.a. So there is every likelihood that that rate of increase in commencements will continue, as those 1985-1995 babies reach university age.

The proportion of Indigenous secondary students completing Year 12 has been rising rapidly too, 10-15 % p.a., and retention at university is improving as well. Standard-entry students tend to persist in their studies longer than special-entry students, Black or White.

So, as commencements increase at 6-7 % p.a., graduations will increase at a higher rate, perhaps 8 % p.a. Fifty thousand Indigenous graduates by 2020, one in every six adults, is very much on the cards. The great majority of these graduates will spend their working lives in the cities, in Australia's open society.

Meanwhile, back in the 'communities' .........

Joe Lane
Posted by Loudmouth, Wednesday, 31 August 2011 11:01:02 AM
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The Aboriginal people who were the original inhabitants were not 'nomadic' in the technical sense; they were hunter-gatherer family groups, usually 30-70 people in the dryer regions, who lived, foraged and hunted at a number of places on clearly defined 'estates'. Thus they used their family's own land, or estate, in ways not entirely dissimilar to many landholders in feudal and modern agricultural societies, using different parts in appropriate seasons, or when the locally occurring food supplies had replenished. They continually defined, ritually cared for, and physically defended, these estates, and maintained structured relationships with adjoining groups.

This is not to say that relationships with adjoining groups were always easy or harmonious, but on the whole there were processes and ceremonial occasions for the maintenance of viable continuation of the family estate lifestyles and traditions. This was the pattern throughout Australia.

For present day Aboriginal people to wish to stay in one place (i.e. on or near their ancestral estates) is not out of keeping with their history or tradition at all: it is completely within those traditions, as that has been their normal practice through many generations. Living in permanent housing may be seen as a departure from the traditional ways, but staying within their ancestral domains is a very strong tradition which has a strong social, legal and cultural hold on the consciousness and behaviours of many surviving Aboriginal people. Nowadays this is one of the powerful psychological factors which help make it very difficult for contemporary Aboriginal people to adapt to the modern Australian way of life, which is increasingly premised on atomisation of families (the acceptance of complete responsibility for themselves and their actions by the adult individuals); and adaptability of residential and occupational status and the fluidity of family arrangements and identities. That is, hyper 'individualism', which is radically different to Aboriginal traditions and in some ways is painfully contradictory to the behavioural norms and emotional needs of many Aboriginal people even in the present day, despite their having grown up ostensibly surrounded by the new alien socially and culturally dominant ways of being
Posted by Dan Fitzpatrick, Wednesday, 31 August 2011 2:09:06 PM
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Dan, yet aborigines who are taken out of the "estates" and live in cities or elsewhere seem to thrive?

I think you are defining what you would like to think, is the aboriginal psyche and not the reality of how they behave, because in reality, they are the same as the rest of us. Lazy, scheming, corrupt, grateful, happy sad .. they are us, except, they need help to get out from where they are, and we're not helping anyone except the AVI.

It is that desire to see them as different, as special, so they must be pandered to that is the problem most of us see.

They are not unique special species of humans, they are the same, the same race and the same people .. why do we need to try to separate them from the rest of the human race? They are not zoo exhibits.

I'm sure if you wanted to find all the signs within a group of any people, as you describe, you could .. if you start out with that in mind.

You are unfortunately giving justification to why they are OK to stay where they are, dysfunctional, and needing of every type of care in existence.

It's just not right to keep people like that, justified by romantic notions of how different they are and how unusual and so special they are that they must be mollycoddled.

The human condition is to want more, and they do, but there are so many barriers in their way on the settlements, and one of those barriers is the charity and handouts of the rest of society.

You would be correct to justify them staying in the same place, if they behaved and worked at living, in the old ways .. but they don't so your examples and gentle scolding is pointless. Food now comes from shops, there is grog and nothing to do .. idle hands and all that.
Posted by Amicus, Wednesday, 31 August 2011 2:42:52 PM
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(More for Amicus to chew on, continuing from the above)
However, some elements of their family's traditional beliefs, practices, obligations, and customary rights and responsibilities assert great influence over present day Aboriginal people.

When these are combined with the understandable, and completely justified, consideration of their ancestral entitlements to land, stories, status, designs, songs, ritual knowledge and, not least, associated resources and benefits, the powerful influence of these various influences leaves many Aboriginal people now literally dazed and confused by the choices confronting them, and disoriented by the contradictory forces pulling them between the opportunities and enticements of modernity and equally magnetic attractions of their Aboriginal heritage and its legacies.

I believe that many people become paralysed by these conflcting and often seemingly irreconciliable tensions.
Posted by Dan Fitzpatrick, Wednesday, 31 August 2011 2:56:54 PM
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