I can explain, with rocks and leaves
When I read the story below, about whether Australia is racist or not, I finished with two questions uppermost in my mind.
Who is Sara Hudson and why is the Sydney Morning Herald using its pages to spread the curse of the ‘Centre for Independent Studies’ upon the reading public?
Other than these questions the only effort I will put into the biased article by Sara Hudson is to comment that her own mathematical understanding might have benefited by the use of rocks and leaves.
Then she might have been able to understand that when a quarter of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people earn above the Australian average wage it statistically means that our people are earning way below it. The analysis of individual earnings requires a much more sophisticated method to determine how the population is faring. For example such statistics should only be examined in the context of what proportion of the population are earning an income, and at some stage the statisticians should reveal that over 50% of the Aboriginal workforce is unemployed. In the face of such information the actual proportion of our people earning a decent wage drops dramatically. Also Sara might take the extra step to explain how many Aboriginals are millionaires or are sharing in the billions of dollars split up amongst Australia’s corporate heads and executives. My daughter is only just turning 21 and three years into employment is already on the average income. That is how low that benchmark sits.
As a last argument to Sara’s facts, I might add that a good mathematician can do a better job of explaining complex number issues with rocks and leaves than with a slide rule or calculator. When I was recently discussing important numbers with wise Aboriginal elders – elders who are without white formal education – I could not help but be highly impressed by their understanding and concepts of numbers and dimensions. Recently I learned that Einstein was unable to solve the mathematical problem verifying the physical existence of other dimensions but – after having listened to the elders’ discussions – I am more ready to be convinced there are indigenous peoples in this world who already conceive and understand these dimensions. To their apparent disadvantage they are unable to explain such mathematics and science to Sara with computers and slide rules. I wonder whether Sara Hudson has had any relevant experience at all for that matter.
The rest of Sara’s ‘facts’ in the article are not worth wasting my time. They were adequately address thirty years ago by many more informed Australians. We have simply run into the next generation of Australia’s perpetual ignorance on the colonised first and indigenous peoples.
I have one more comment to make on an offensive remark in the article. Hudson infers that Aboriginal people suffer when using images of remote community life. She is wrong about our links to those communities. Our links are important and serve a necessary purpose for our survival as peoples. It is part of our fight for self-determination and survival while still under oppression.
I believe I am like many of our people who try to understand indigenous values while I am living and trying to survive in a highly urbanised environment. Just in the last week alone I have received many communications from Aboriginal families fighting racism in the schools, the police, the shops and hospitals and housing. These negative images do not make the papers like in remote areas – it is too hard to capture in a headline and a photograph – but they are daily occurrences for many Aboriginal people. White newspapers and shallow journalism do not make reality, when white journalists, editors and proprietors make the decisions and judgement calls. Ergo, Australia’s racism is highly institutionalised and serves the Australian constitution, political system and economic interests well.
My search for achievement is not for greed or the highest reaches of fiscal income. My goal is to be Aboriginal, to live well in community with others, to share in indigenous values and indigenous goals, and to pass on responsibilities and values to future generations. This ultimately means I want to live by our indigenous laws and in harmony with mother earth. I look to Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal families on the land to see ‘what lies within’. This includes remote communities. How are they coping? What is their solution? What should I be doing to win our battle for survival?
Therefore I read and listen a lot. Sometimes I read the Sydney Morning Herald. If they keep publishing such ignorant goona as the article I just read and if Sara Hudson is as ignorant as her ‘research’ article suggests, it might now be time to give up on the SMH as well. How about it, Editor?
Aborigines hurt by the stereotype of suffering
May 12, 2010
Can Australia be called racist just because a proportion of Australians are? Channel Ten’s 7pm Project recently raised that question, and the presenters concluded – correctly – that while perhaps 10 to 20 per cent of the population is racist, Australia is not.
But while overt racism is confined to a few, stereotyping of minority groups such as Aborigines is common. Take the case last month of an Aboriginal student in Queensland who was given rocks and leaves to learn maths instead of a calculator like his classmates.
This is misguided cultural appropriateness at its worst. I wonder how the child felt about being singled out. Not only would it have been fairer to give rocks and leaves to every child, it also speaks volumes for how some teachers in Queensland view Aboriginal people.
Unfortunately, they are not alone in viewing Aborigines as being straight out of the bush. Familiar with stories of remote, dysfunctional, and welfare-dependent communities, many Australians are unaware that more Aborigines live in urban and regional areas than live in remote communities in the far north.
The perception of the remote Aborigine is enhanced by the virtual absence (or the invisibility) of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders from most suburbs and backyard barbecues. Indigenous Australians make up just 2 per cent of the population, so perhaps part of this invisibility is justified because there aren’t really that many of them.
Ghettos in big cities like Sydney and Brisbane also add to the estrangement between the average urban Australian and their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fellow citizens.
This means that too often the only images of Aborigines many people see are scenes of squalid town-camps in Alice Springs, or welfare- dependent Aboriginal communities such as La Perouse.
A cursory glance at a few government reports also demonstrates just how one dimensional the government’s portrayal of Aborigines is.
Rather than constantly focusing on pockets of despair and disadvantage, the government should do more to highlight the 60 per cent of indigenous Australians who are doing OK.
The government has recently announced a new ”national voice” for indigenous Australians and it is hoped this new body does not repeat the mistakes of the ill-fated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.
Non-Aboriginal people are not only people guilty of focusing too much on Aboriginal disadvantage.
In 2001, a preliminary government study found that a quarter of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders earned more than the ”average” Australian. A follow-up study was planned but ATSIC took exception to the concept and further work was vetoed.
Why would ATSIC, the then governing body responsible for Aboriginal affairs, want to play down the success of some Aboriginal people?
For the new voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to garner more respect and recognition for indigenous Australians, it should do more than ATSIC did to represent and embrace their diversity.
There is hardly any recognition of the average Aboriginal battler who is working hard and trying to do right by his kids. They are the forgotten indigenous Australians.
The tragic consequences of such negative perceptions was highlighted recently in Alice Springs, where an Aboriginal man, Donny Ryder, was killed after five young white men went hooning around the Todd River bed harassing Aboriginal people camping there. At sentencing, the Northern Territory Chief Justice, Brian Martin, said: ”There was a negative attitude towards, and an atmosphere of antagonism towards, Aboriginal people. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the nature and rapidity of the reaction, and the actions of some offenders in kicking and striking the deceased while he was on the ground, were influenced, at least to some degree, by the fact the deceased was an Aboriginal person.”
The majority of indigenous Australians do not need government handouts, but they do deserve some recognition. Acknowledging their success may help counteract the negative perception of Aboriginal people held by too many Australians.
These negative views do not always translate into acts of racism, but they do provide the breeding ground for them.
Sara Hudson is a policy analyst at the Centre for Independent Studies.