Not fair, responds Marg Lynn. Aboriginal people have been adapting since 1788
and it’s time for white Australians to meet them half way.
'We are one nation'
By John Cobbledick
IT IS a shame that some people take exception to 26th of January, Australia day. It is a day for Aboriginal, Anglo Saxon, Greek, Chinese, Italian, German and all other Australians of different ancestry to celebrate.
We are, after all, one people, one nation, and we all believe in equality, although there are those that wish to divide us by objecting to a word in our Anthem, a date on a calendar, even a flag.
How can there be TOTAL EQUALITY if only one side gives and keeps giving and the other keeps taking?
It is time for Australians to decide that the Majority rules, so we can became a Democracy again.
Time and Time again past injustices are put forward as excuses for the discontent. LOOK FORWARD NOT BACK!!!!
We have a great Country. Why try to stuff it up with racist attitudes toward everything of White culture?
WOULDN’T it be good if Australia Day were a day that all nationalities and ancestries could happily celebrate together. But the fact is, it isn’t! And if it isn’t, we can’t make it so by demanding it. If we can’t make it so, we need to listen to the reasons.
The Senior Australian of the Year for 2021, Dr Miriam-Rose Ungenmerr Baumann, AM, made the point when she was presented with her award that Aboriginal people have been adapting since 1788, changing to fit our western conditions, but that it has been a one-way street. We white Australians need to meet Aboriginal people half way and walk together.
We cannot do that while we have not officially acknowledged the pain and suffering caused by massacres, dispossession, stolen generations. These are not historic facts from the past only. They have contemporary ramifications through higher rates of illness, poverty, suicides, educational under-achievement, incarceration rates, and child removals.
As the Uluru Statement so rightly says, these are not inherent flaws in Aboriginal people, they are caused by the systems of inequality in Australia.
Yes, you say that we are all equal, but that is not the case. We ought to be. We have a human right to be considered equal and treated equally. But the evidence is, through police and prison statistics, that Aboriginal people are treated worse for the same behaviour than white people; through educational statistics, that Aboriginal children are disadvantaged by culturally distorted education models and low expectations; through health statistics that show, as an example, higher rates of death due to smoking and the shortage of culturally appropriate health education.
I hear you say, why do they need special programs? Because the reasons for smoking behaviours are different. Within living memory, many Aboriginal workers were paid in tobacco. It was associated with survival, relief, camaraderie – deeply ingrained needs that set up behaviour patterns that are difficult to break. Is this “special” treatment?
Aboriginal Australians have inherent rights based on their prior occupation of this land, upholding the longest surviving culture in the world. They are not just one ethnic group amongst many – they have the right to be honoured and respected as the First Australians, of whom we should be very proud.
You say that governments have catered for the demands of the 3.5% minority, and then get further demands. “Demands” for services is hardly radical. We all deserve services. The truth is that the majority of funding that goes to Aboriginal projects and communities is actually spent on bureaucracy, and as often on white as on Aboriginal bureaucrats.
Some of this is for infrastructure, like roads in remote Australia, which is used by black and white Australians. Much of the cost in health and education is required because of the remoteness of communities. Much more is spent per Aboriginal person than on non-Indigenous people on prisons. Why should we load our funding towards the punitive end rather than on the development of happy and health Aboriginal Australians?
Above all, there is an inequality in power. White Australia has the power to dictate the terms for everything, making Aboriginal people’s interests marginal. When Aboriginal people have self-determination, as they do through their National Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Organisations, they excel. Their success rate in keeping COVID numbers down set an example to all of us, with fewer cases and fewer deaths per head of population.
How much more successful could they be in all sectors of life if they had the power to determine their own outcomes?
So, Australia Day. Why should Aboriginal people celebrate the day when the First Fleet sailed into Sydney Cove?
Marg Lynn is secretary of the Bass Coast/South Gippsland Reconciliation Group.