Victorian land dreaming

Graham Ring has an article in today’s Age where he bemoans the lack of success of Victorian Aboriginal claimants in either prosecuting native title claims or negotiating successful outcomes with governments.

It’s entirely understandable that an activist associated with the lobby group Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation should regard this failure as “sad”. Indeed I agree that it’s sad that over two centuries of European settlement, often involving violent oppression, have resulted in many if not most Aboriginal people in places like Victoria almost completely losing their customary law and traditional connection to their land.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for governments to gift productive rural land to Australians with some Aboriginal blood out of some misplaced sense of guilt. As a clear majority of the High Court endorsed in Members of the Yorta Yorta Aboriginal Community v Victoria (Justices Gaudron and Kirby dissenting):

The facts in this case lead inevitably to the conclusion that before the end of the 19th century the ancestors through whom the claimants claim title had ceased to occupy their traditional lands in accordance with their traditional laws and customs. The tide of history has indeed washed away any real acknowledgment of their traditional laws and any real observance of their traditional customs. The foundation of the claim to native title in relation to the land previously occupied by those ancestors having disappeared, the native title rights and interests previously enjoyed are not capable of revival. This conclusion effectively resolves the application for a determination of native title.”

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all Victorian native title claimants will be in the position of the Yorta Yorta people, but it’s a fair bet that most are. And once the tide of history has washed away any claim to land title in customary law, surely we need to assess any demand for land not according to notions of customary law title as of right (which by definition has ceased to exist), but according to ordinary social justice principles. Are the claimants more disadvantaged than most others in their region? Usually but not necessarily that will be the case, but it’s a question whose answer can’t simply be assumed, as Graham Ring does:

Native Title Services Victoria has recently produced a discussion paper that points the way forward towards non-litigated settlement. This document proposes a statewide land justice settlement to break the deadlock and actually produce some substantial benefits for many indigenous Victorians. Not before time.

The millions of dollars spent on native title processes in Victoria could have bought some pretty substantial chunks of land in freehold to be returned to indigenous ownership.

Is purchasing rural land and gifting it to Aboriginal claimants the most effective use of taxpayers’ funds in social justice terms? It might be, if the claimants have pastoral or farming skills and can reasonably be expected to build productive enterprises on that land if given half a chance. But in other situations, giving land to claimants would simply be a recipe for waste, despair and futility. Indeed, one would suspect that in most cases purchase of land would be a wasteful and pointless use of public funds where native title has been washed away by the “tide of history”. Spending the money on health, education and development of employment skills and enterprises will usually be preferable. Of course, the trouble is that federal and state governments frequently treat such arguments in practice as an excuse not to spend the money at all.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Nicholas Gruen
2021 years ago

My sentiments entirely Ken. So much aboriginal policy seems to revolve around a fantasm in white minds, not the reality of the lives of the people it is supposed to address. Rousseau lives.

David Tiley
2021 years ago

The Victorian example is interesting because it is not based on a frozen notion of tribal people living a pre-invasion lifestyle in a kind of zoo. In fact, the Aborigines of Victoria who survived first contact, smallpox, gunshot and degradation adapted successfully to a farming lifestyle. At least some of the reserves were run as viable farms. Here is a piece of the history of Coranderrk:

“Initially Coranderrk started with a population of around 40 people, by 1865 the population of Coranderrk numbered 105 making it Victoria’s largest reserve at the time.
Within four years the mission’s residents had cleared much of the property to develop the competitive farming community. Coranderrk residents had also established a bakery, butcher, numerous houses and a schoolhouse under the direction of the Superintendent of Coranderrk, John Green.

By 1874 the Aborigines Protection Board (APB) were looking to move the residents off Coranderrk due to their successful farming of the land. There was a push from the general community that the land was too valuable for Aboriginal people. The people of Coranderrk, with the support of Mr Green, protested this move, and it was during this decade that many of the residents walked the 40 miles into Melbourne’s Victorian Parliament to personally deliver protests to the proposed closure. Mr Green was eventually forced, in 1874, by the APB to resign due to his continued support for the residents. Coranderrk remained operating as an Aboriginal station until it’s closure in 1924, but during this time there were protests by the residents regarding payment for their work, which the APB refused to do, but instead continued to provide rations for their labour.”

The mission station on Yorta Yorta country was Cummeragunja:

“Cummeragunja was established in 1881 on 1,800 acres of land on the New South Wales side of the Murray River. Many of the original residents moved there from Maloga Mission, five kilometres down river, where they had grown tired of the strict religious lifestyle. At Cummeragunja Station they established a farm with the aim of communal self-sufficiency. When Maloga eventually closed the remaining residents were forced to move to Cummeragunja.
The residents of Cummeragunja quickly shaped most of the land into a thriving farm, producing wheat, wool and dairy products.

In 1915 the New South Wales Protection Board took greater control of Cummeragunja and its residents. The farm’s committee of management was disbanded, and residents were subjected to confining and restrictive conditions.
All the funds raised from the farm went to the Board who chose to ‘reward’ workers by doling-out inadequate and unhealthy rations.”…

And so on. With hindsight we can see that the loss of these viable Aboriginal farming communities was a desperate tragedy, which leads (among other things) to a much more monoscopic view of Indigenous options today.

The accounts come from an ABC website called Mission Voices:
http://abc.net.au/missionvoices/default.htm

Che Tibby
2021 years ago

the main reason coranderrk was so successful was that it wasn’t selected specifically because the soil was poor or marginal, as was lake tyers for example.

the real tragedy of the aboriginal communities in victoria stems form the use of legislation and the protection boards to classify creole as ‘non-aboriginal’, meaning that successful communities like coranderrk were gradually undermined and ‘dispersed’ into the mainstream community. the result was that residual aboriginality was irrevocably lost, unintentionally precluding the C20th native title act.

the abstract continuity to policy regarding remote and regional aboriginal communities is palapable.

as for victorian history, the best (well, only) source is M. F. Christie, Aborigines in Colonial Victoria. It’s required reading for anyone working in this area, closely followed by Bain Attwood. the victorian policies were used as templates for virtually all subsequent aboriginal-oriented legislation throughout australia.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Thanks for that material, David and Che. Fleshing out the history of dispossession and misguided policy is interesting, and understanding of it may well have some relevance in formulating present day policy.

But it doesn’t of itself seem to suggest a real prospect of farming success given that these ventures were so long ago and the skills are undoubtedly long gone. But if people continue to live in rural areas (because of residual customary connections), it may be in some cases that attempting to reconstruct farming communities might make some sense, especially by comparison with becoming (or remaining) as fringe dwellers in rural towns or gradually gravitating to the cities without any of the skills needed to make a living.

But it isn’t 1915 anymore, and small-scale farming ventures aren’t likely to succeed, nor are viable large-scale ones going to create much employment (that’s exactly what makes them successful). Any such venture would require a willingness to learn modern agribusiness skills, a good business plan and access to capital. There doesn’t appear to be any sign of consciousness of those needs in Graham Ring’s article.

Che Tibby
2021 years ago

ken, i get the feeling that you’re wandering into the collective vs. individual title argument there, which wasn’t really an issue in yorta yorta (as far as i’m aware).

my recollection puts the YY claim over the barmah state forest, which was where the people went to live after they walked off Cummeragunja because of extreme Protection Board controls. so, although they had an ‘abiding attachment’ to barmah, it wasn’t continuous from colonisation. hence, no ability to claim under the native title act, and the need for negotiated settlements.

the real issue is the emasculation of aboriginal claimants by the native title act, in relation to the south-eastern states. the social justice approach can’t really handle these questions because there are too many issues surrounding relative economic status (do we also gift land to disadvantaged whites/chinese?). the core of the problem is really reparative justice for aboriginal families driven into poverty by colonial and state policies.

we are after all talking about people forced to live on rubbish tips as recently as 1959 (because they didn’t qualify for state assistance).

buying land and returning it to them is really a symbolic act that would go a long way to addressing victoria’s woeful history, in as much as a ‘sorry’ over reconciliation would have done the same.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2021 years ago

“buying land and returning it to them is really a symbolic act that would go a long way to addressing victoria’s woeful history, in as much as a ‘sorry’ over reconciliation would have done the same”

Crikey. Truly, you have to laugh. It’s better; more polite; less unpleasant, than telling them what you really think.

I have moved on from conspicuous indignation and am cruising through my period of patronising arrogance.

blank
blank
2021 years ago

“the real tragedy of the aboriginal communities in victoria stems form the use of legislation and the protection boards to classify creole as ‘non-aboriginal’, meaning that successful communities like coranderrk were gradually undermined and ‘dispersed’ into the mainstream community. the result was that residual aboriginality was irrevocably lost”

I’d say that ‘dispersal’ into the mainstream was precisely what was anticipated – and it was seen as a desirable outcome, and to the benefit of all concerned.

Assimmilation (though never called that) is still the desired outcome. Senator Vanstone’s letter to the editor in to-day’s Age talks about indigenous kids staying at school and doing well on benchmarks for reading, writing and numeracy: in other words, becoming more like the mainstream.

Whenever disadvantage is mentioned, the bench mark is the mainstream. Unless outcomes in housing, health, education, employment, income, incarceration, &c &c for aboriginals are the australian average, then the australian community is to blame, and to hang its head in shame.

Evil Pundit
2021 years ago

If, after all the special assistance they have received, Aboriginal communities are still unable to achieve decent outcomes — then it is the Aboriginal community who should hang their heads in shame.

The only long-term solution I can see is assimilation.

David Tiley
2021 years ago

“Assimilation” is surely an outmoded concept. It was a name for a strategy adopted at a particular time when aborigines were in fact not free to leave reserves in many parts of Australia, and needed “dog licenses” to walk the streets of our cities.

What is being proposed? To close bush towns on traditional lands and force Indigenous communities to move to cities? To remove bush kids to boarding schools? Or more subtly to forbid the use of language by Aboriginal kids at school?

I presume no-one is proposing this. Aboriginal communities have a right to exist in their country, and we support this as a means of keeping the landscape inhabited, understood and tended.

I would presume that libertarians would be particularly keen to support these choices. They would surely be outraged by “one size fits all” systems of welfare, in which the people are forced to conform to the administrative needs of government.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

How have we managed to descend so quickly into these caricatured ideological oppositional stances? Surely there are other possible options besides 1920s-style forced assimilation or uncritical acceptance of a large-scale reparative land gifting irrespective of any assessment of need or likely outcomes? Or is it such an emotive issue that strawman opposing arguments are the only ones we can permit ourselves?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

BTW David Tiley makes some very good points. Rural Australia is already very depopulated, and “keeping the landscape inhabited, understood and tended” is a concept well worth exploring (not least to ensure the viability of continuing to provide a reasonably full range of services to people living in country Australia).

But I still think it would require a careful evaluation of a range of issues, from education and training to enterprise funding, capital raising, matching of appropriate land with the skills and aspirations of claimants etc. Simply gifting land on a kneejerk reparative basis (as Che Tibby seems to contemplate) would almost certainly be a recipe for gross waste at least comparable to the disgracefully profligate outstation movement in the Northern Territory in the 1980s and early 90s.

Evil Pundit
2021 years ago

I think Aborigines should be encouraged to be a part of the greater Australian culture, with its attendant standards of education, respect for the law, non-violence, and so on.

This would not require a forced assimilation, but an end to the racist and paternalistic policies of separatism currently in place.

With no incentive being offered (as at present) to continue their current dysfunctional lifestyle, assimilation would be a gradual but inevitable process.

kartiya
kartiya
2021 years ago

james ,you may have plenty to laugh about . however, i suspect most Aboriginal people don,t.
They couldn’t care a rat’s a… about what you or i think, they just want justice and land will help . Che is right . We should balance the ledger .

James Farrell
James Farrell
2021 years ago

‘…we need to assess any demand for land not according to notions of customary law title as of right (which by definition has ceased to exist), but according to ordinary social justice principles.’

Supposing it has ceased to exist (I sure as hell don’t know – my head is spinning after trying to read those judgements) I think there’s something not covered by either of those categories. It has to do with pride and dignity and identity, a need for recognition of the massive injustice of dispossession. It’s not just a question of redistributing wealth to redress economic inequality, but part of the wider question of reconciliation.

Assimilation is inevitable, but if aborigines’ basic material needs are met and they are well educated, they are sure to become enthusiatic custodians of their culture.

With these considerations in mind, I would favour the handover of land as part of a reconciliation package, on the proviso that it be leased out through an open tender process to ensure its continued productive employment. The proceeds could be earmarked as part of the agreement, for scholarships to universities and private boarding schools.

Che Tibby
2021 years ago

well, evil pundit is the exact type of commentator who was forcing aboriginal people into missions in the late 1800s. essentially, the mindset then was that aboriginal people could be redeemed through exposure to ‘higher’ civilisation and westernisation. sorry mate, nothing personal, i’m sure you’re a nice bloke, but your arguments also represent the kind of thought that condoned taking kiddies away from their mothers so that they could escape aboriginal culture.

as for the reparative justice argument, there isn’t enough space here to really get into it. a good book on the nzl circumstance, one that’s well argued and widely accepted academically is Andrew Sharp, Justice and the Maori.

in a nutshell, my take on the debate is that you don’t need to cotton-wool aboriginal culture, but you make sure that your development arguments focus on modernisation, and not westernisation. assimilation basically argues for turning aboriginal people into dark-skinned australians, with the conspicious loss of aboriginality in favour of western culture.

or at least that was hasluck’s perspective on the idea when it was en vogue. in the 1960s that is.

what people who oppose the outstation movement are arguing is that aboriginal people have little hope if they don’t westernise. personally, i see the outstation movement as having collapsed under several decades of mis-funding, racism and extreme paternalism from well-meaning but meddling white people.

take the farming issue for example. when coranderrk and cummerangunja were successful, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, farming was the mainstay of the australian economy. small holdings were common, and a good source of income. by adapting to this circumstance, aboriginal people were modernising their approach.

this success was however crushed by the activities of the protection boards, who explicitly desired the extinction of aboriginal culture and the race. let’s not mince words, here, that was the stated desire of these boards. stated numerous times, both publically and in official documentation (my phd canvasses a large amount of the activities of the victorian boards).

this drive changed however, and more enlightened times came to us by the mid C20th. but, this drive existed because mainstream (white) australia desired the westernisation, and particularly the ‘lightening’ of the aboriginal peoples.

but, these days farming isn’t really a great way to go unless you have large land-holdings, as ken points out. plus, lets face facts, the real mainstay of the australian economy is mining. so the farming equation is a bit of a furphy.

reparative justice through the granting of lands is’t really about throwing around money or property, any system of reparative justice is largely symbolic, but it remains a system. people would have to demonstrate they have been effected by actions of the crown (be it state or commonwealth), demonstrate they aren’t going to squander wealth etc etc. they might then get a bit of the land back, and apology for their ancestors having been incarcerated for the simple reason they were black, and so on.

part of the reason there seems to be a resistance to this kind of idea is the widespread perception that aboriginal people are a hopeless cause. naturally, this is the ‘6 o’clock’ news approach that only sees aboriginal failures. in my own research i uncovered numerous instances of successful aboriginal people, modern people, who were more than capable.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2021 years ago

“and land will help”

No, it won’t.

“We should balance the ledger”

Whose ledger?

My opinion on this matter follows Ken’s pretty much. The community has now rejected the concept of “kneejerk reparation”, if it ever embraced it. My point is that even though we have much more work to do to assist disadvantaged Australians and David’s point about one size fits all solutions is well made, this talk of “woeful history” and “balancing the ledger” is counterproductive. It is a rejected moral stance.

Evil Pundit
2021 years ago

“… your arguments also represent the kind of thought that condoned taking kiddies away from their mothers so that they could escape aboriginal culture.”

Yes, though I would favour more sophisticated methods than those of past centuries.

A stone-age culture just isn’t going to make it past the 21st Century. It’s time we recognised that, and took it into account in making policies.

Che Tibby
2021 years ago

yeah, pundit, you’re making the common mistake of confusing ‘culture’ and ‘technology’. technology is things, and culture is how you use/talk about them (in a nutshell).

the david tiley’s post way back when pointed out that aboriginal people adapted pretty quickly to western technology in the form of farming, but remained culturally aboriginal. you see the difference?

there’s also a quote from some film i saw that said, ‘a stone-age technology doesn’t mean a stone-age brain’.

as another example, you’re use japanese and american technology right now, but you aren’t culturally either (i assume). so what you’re really denying aboriginal people is the ability to continue to grow their culture in the modern world.

no one credible is arguing that aboriginal people are goingto continue to want to live in humpies and hunt roo. but policy has to take into account that aboriginal culture is flexible enough to accomodate new technology, as history proves.

and james: the decision to deny reparative justice to aboriginal people is a particular stingyness the current administration bears. the public seemed to embrace reconciliation for example. sure, maybe not everyone, but not everyone embraced invading iraq to look for wmds, the administration went for it anyhow.

again, i’m not in favour of doling out land willy-nilly. but if an effective means can be implemented, as it has in new zealand, then it should be considered viable.

David Tiley
2021 years ago

I take the point about Ken’s call for practicalities; one of the problems with this is that most of us just don’t know the kind of detail that needs to be deployed.

When I had a tiny bit of contact with outstations in Arnhem Land in 1987, for instance, people seemed to be startlingly healthy and optimistic. I would have said this was the beginning of something great. But it clearly didn’t happen, and any analysis depends on experience rather than moral or political posture.

Chico is reminding us that as soon as we start to delve into the issue – to ask what piece of land, what kind of connection, what proposed future – our positions start to shift. If we are open to it, our knowledge of these issues makes a difference to our world view.

I am agin what Ken calls a “misplaced sense of guilt”. But at the same time, the practical solutions call for an acknowledgement of past events. Sense of country is very deep for all of us as we reach out to the different narratives in a landscape.

None of us experience the Stony Rises in Western Victoria in the way of the tribespeople in it before the invasion. I see it through the lens of pioneer stories, while the current Indigenous custodians see it through the complex connections of their heritage. As an Australian now, I want all those meanings to remain in our knowledge of the landscape.

To do it, we have to accept and institutionalise both sets of claims. Not for justice – though that is part of it – but to preserve a certain kind of riches. I want to be the kind of Australian who takes on these meanings.

I want us to be the kind of nation that acknowledges that people were hunted to their deaths through the Stony Rises, and they remained unpunished. But at the same time, there were people who fought against it, who believed in a justice that applied then to White and Black. And there were some people who accepted that Aborigines were entitled to explore farming on good land, and others who stopped them when it worked.

Not guilt but the complex truths of history. A history that depends on a connection to place.

Evil Pundit
2021 years ago

Che Tibby, it is you who has confused culture and technology.

You are writing as if I accused the Aborigines of having a stone-age technology. I did not.

I said they have a stone-age culture. They have manifestly failed to adapt their culture to new realities.

You should read what people say more carefully.

David, we should also be a nation that acknowledges that Aborigines had a very violent and primitive lifestyle before the invasion, and that many of them have a very violent and primitive lifestyle right now. We should also acknowledge that what may have happened to the ancestors of Aborigines in the past do not excuse the destructive behaviour of their descendants today.

David Tiley
2021 years ago

Well Evil, I have a very limited urge to sit in judgement on someone else’s culture, particularly when we are talking about the past.

I don’t want to romanticise a traditional lifestyle – the concept of living with sorcery, for instance, horrifies me.

Nor do I want to demonise the British way of life when the invaders arrived.

But I think a martian looking objectively from her seven eyestalks would find it hard to say that the Aboriginal way of life in 1788 was any more savage than that of the British. After all, the life expectancy of Aboriginal people was apparently higher than that of the colonists. We after all brought baby farming, floggings, solitary confinement, inherited wealth, systemic corruption, public executions and formal warfare by large armies.

If our Martian could take any of us back in time to live in those societies, I imagine we would beg to be returned to the present day.

But I make the comparison only to say that these particular labels are stupid.

Evil Pundit
2021 years ago

I’m willing to accept that the cultures of Aborigines and Europeans were both pretty bad in the 18th century.

I don’t accept viewpoints that claim everything was an idyllic paradise until the evil whiteys arrived.

jen
jen
2021 years ago

the concept of living with sorcery horrifies me

why?

Our feelings and beliefs and sense of security and community are connected to our sense of well or bad being.

The initial shattering psychological and consequent physical deterioration that sorcery
relies upon in order to be effective is present here in my culture, in my life. We don’t call it sorcery we call it rejection, bullying, torture, guilt etc

I am very melodramatic admittedly, but I can feel what would happen to me if my whole world ostracised me. I would/have becaome sick and then I would die.

Christian religions say that hopelessness is a sin. Wonder why.

toostupidforsure
toostupidforsure
2021 years ago

and also aborigines are a lot like the left and right positions in the blogosphere. Huh? ….which is kind of interesting because conflict always is, and any communication embeds hybrid cultures even further into our present. (even huntin’and killin’)

People kill each other all the time – and guess what, it happened here too. And guess what else, no-one is proud of it and no-one wants to pay.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

I’m more one of those plodding linear logic types TSFS. I don’t think claims about the moral superiority of either White anglo or Aboriginal culture, either in 1788 or now, are very useful.

But we can’t help but conclude that the white anglo culture and economy are dominant now, and it isn’t very likely that any of us are going to “give it back” as that bald git Peter Garrett sang before selling out to the ALP. So surely the questions to ask are:

What sorts of measures will best help Aboriginal people to survive and thrive in the dominant culture?
Does that necessarily mean assimilation?
To what extent is preservation and nurturing of any surviving aspects of taditional Aboriginal culture/customary law consistent with surviving and thriving?
To what extent does transfer of large tracts of land assist? And at what cost?

I remain to be convinced that giving large areas of land to people whose traditional culture has largely been lost is a very useful measure, compared with other possible uses for those funds. That’s why I raisd the issue of the outstation movement earlier. Many/most outstations ended up being slightly glorified holiday/fishing/hunting shacks for well-connected Aboriginal people, occupied for only a few weeks per year at enormous cost while less well-connected people lived (and continue to live) 20 to a house in the larger remote communities like Wadeye.

In the best of all possible worlds (for Aboriginal people) maybe the Australian taxpayer would be able to afford to provide Aboriginal people with both holiday shacks AND enough houses in their normal home communities. But in the real world policy choices have to be made because there isn’t a bottomless pit of money. So why would we spend large amounts of money on buying land for detribalised Aboriginal people in Victoria, when the money could in most cases be spent far mor effectively in other ways that better promote good health, housing, employment and other outcomes.

There may be some exceptions where particular groups could in fact make productive use of land granted to them. And there may well be a few cases like Cummeragunj(?) forest, where the Yorta Yorta people HAVE apparently maintained their traditional connections with the land albeit not continuously. For these people, land purchase may well be appropriate, because there’s a moral claim of right if not a legal one as a result of the High Court’s reasoning in the Yorta Yorta decision. But I suspect that they’re the exception rather than the rule. Symbolic, “reparative” land grants in most other situations in Victoria are likely mostly to be simply expensive empty gestures that waste money which could have been far better spent on effective social justice measures to benefit those people in a real way.

There may well be scope, however, for recognition of historical connections with land in other ways e.g. including local Aboriginal people on all relevant government land management bodies, and respecting their residual traditional connections with and love of the land.

I know it’s not quite sorcery or huntin’ or killin’, but us boring old fart lawyers are like that.

Rob
Rob
2021 years ago

Ken’s right that it’s a pity this debate among all others tends to devolve into another sterile exercise in right-left polarity.

Emotionally, I’m with Che. Aboriginal culture represents probably the closest thing we will ever know to the experience of the first sentient beings to walk the planet – for the Australian Aboriginals are the oldest surviving race of people on earth. Their gift (if that’s the word) to the rest of the world is a still living culture that communicates that first understanding: how it was that a people of an impossibly distant past comprehended and responded to the environment and the wider universe.

Also, David, I don’t think it’s impossible for us (Europeans, Asians, whatever) to understand the world as seen by the indigenous peoples. Here in Alice, in the lee of the east and west MacDonnell ranges, it’s quite easy to believe that spirits walk the land, that the great ranges form the carapace of primordial yeperenye (caterpillars) that still animate the rock in some mysterious way, that the white ghost gums growing from the red rock somehow speak with the voice of ancient ancestors.

Emotionally and even spiritually, that perspective works, at least for me. But what use is it in terms of public policy, at the practical level? The Nugget Coombes- designed consensus of self-determination for Aboriginal communites is keyed to that perspective, yet it seems to have utterly failed in practical terms, and in retrospect looks horribly paternalistic and Rousseauian.

The conundrum is that one’s heart says. ‘Give them back the land we took from them, and let them live on it’. The head says, ‘But it doesn’t work, it can never be as it was before we came, the levels of violence and abuse in the remote communities are horrifying, something else must be done’.

But what? Perhaps only the Aborigines themselves can say. Only they can determine what sort of accommodation needs to be reached with the present. That’s one of the reasons why Noel Pearson is such an important person for the times, IMHO.

Apologies for a muddled and probably not at all helpful comment. I’m still trying to sort out my thoughts on these issues.

Che Tibby
2021 years ago

ahhhh… yeahhh… dunno about the emotive content. my main argument is against the position that aboriginal culture has little to contribute to the modern world.

what the original comment pointed out was that aboriginal culture adapted to contemporary technology pretty quickly in the late 1800s and early 1900s. but, bigots prevented this from proceeding, because of an ideological predisposition to the genocide of the aboriginal.

‘assimilation’ was an idea posited inthe mid-c20th by well-meaning white-people who still desired the removal of aboriginal people from the landscape, and would brook no alternative.

coombs represented an attempt to staunch this by using what environmentalists call a ‘conservation’ approach in the outstation movement. and of course it delivered little result. what it was not was a ‘noble savage’ type arrangement, although there were those undertones.

but problematically, now we have a return to the bigots position of ‘assimilation’, and the complete denial of worth of any form of aboriginality, usually based on generalised and negative stereotypes.

if you want my genuine opinion? aboriginal australia suffers from being consistently ‘negated’ by the mainstream. you can be the most well-rounded person imaginable, but if everyone you meet consistently tells you you’re ‘useless’ (or worse), sooner or later you’ll start to believe it.

again. the reparations system in nzl is very successful, and has encouraged maori to participate in the mainstream as maori, and not as brown-skinned white people. of course, implemented this system in the face of mainstream opposition was and still is difficult, but it has inherent worth.

simply denying reparations to aboriginal people does little but confirm suspicions that their culture is intended for extinction by social darwinist white bigots.

tsfs
tsfs
2021 years ago

to what holiday shacks are you referring?

This is a piss ant single example of direct experience, followed by another piss ant hearsay.

1. These shacks are houses in extreme disrepair with no amenities ie no store, unreliable and non-existant electricity and water – abandoned and on occasion populated when the larger centre becomes (untenable for whatever reason) for the residents there.

2 A woman I know says she regularly lived and slept in dirt floor conditions in outstations during the 80’s.

‘holiday shacks’ – not on your Nelly.

tsfs
tsfs
2021 years ago

Aboriginal culture represents probably the closest thing we will ever know to the experience of the first sentient beings to walk the planet.

That’s crap Rob and you know it because you followed it with this.

“Also, David, I don’t think it’s impossible for us (Europeans, Asians, whatever) to understand the world as seen by the indigenous peoples. Here in Alice, in the lee of the east and west MacDonnell ranges, it’s quite easy to believe that spirits walk the land, that the great ranges form the carapace of primordial yeperenye (caterpillars) that still animate the rock in some mysterious way, that the white ghost gums growing from the red rock somehow speak with the voice of ancient ancestors.”

A feeling for place and country is not the ‘property’ of anyone, we are all custodians of our environments. too much is made of the ‘original’. It was too stupid of the likes of Burke and Wills to go dying in country in which people were able to live. They and their ilk could have learned a lot if they’d been open to it. (But that’s easy to say in hindsight – although I would have reckoned that then, but I would also have been committed as a lunatic.)Our culture now would have been richer for it – and closer to what you and Che seem to envision.

blank
blank
2021 years ago

“for the Australian Aboriginals are the oldest surviving race of people on earth.”

What, if anything, does that statement mean?

Is it a fancy way of saying that Australian Aboriginal have learned nothing in 40,000 years?

All races, all families are equally old. There is an unbroken line of descent from parent to child from the Garden of Eden (cradle of evolution).

The majority of people who describe themselves as ‘aboriginal’ have ancestors who were not here in 1788. This is an accelerating trend.

According to a report in The Age (http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/08/14/1029113955081.html?oneclick=true) using data from the 2001 87% of couples with an aboriginal member were intermixed, that is an aboriginal man with a non-aboriginal woman, or an aboriginal woman with a non-aboriginal man. The children of such unions are described as ‘aborigines’.

The number of people who self-identify as aboriginal has grown by 180% since 1986.

blank
blank
2021 years ago

oops! typo!

make that “69% of couples”

tsfs
tsfs
2021 years ago

The number of people who self-identify as aboriginal has grown by 180% since 1986.

thankgoodness!

there are still folks wandering around who claimed any ancestry, BUT an Aboriginal one. That’s the issue that sucks.

Also different cultures have notions about who is what ie is it Jews who are only Jewish if the mum is Jewish?

that aside, the actual quantity of particular race in a person is something white western culture has done pretty much to death by now don’t you think?

kartiya
kartiya
2021 years ago

blank , as one Aboriginal of mixed descent said in his book when asked what made him Aboriginal?, simply replied , ” well, i’m not white am i !!” that will do me .