Australian politics

Jul 7, 2009

Branding the blacks – a “community of thieves” and the tyranny of terminology

Until we give back to the black man just a bit of land that was his and give it back without provisos, without strings to snatch it back, without anything but complete generosity of spirit in concession for the evil we have done him - until we do that, we shall remain what we have always been so far: a community of thieves - Xavier Herbert, Poor Fellow My Country.

Bob Gosford — Likes birds and people, not necessarily in that order.

Bob Gosford

Likes birds and people, not necessarily in that order.

A guest post by S. J. Stanton

The term “indigenous“, as it is used in relation to “the Intervention” and all that is associated with that term – is not about people, and its not even about paedophilia. Instead it is about programs, policies, power, politics and (personal) promotion and profit.

It is also about exploitation, abuse and failure.

Exploitation, abuse and failures at the hands of successive governments as each pursues its ‘politics of disadvantage‘, or should it be named ‘politics of incompetence‘?

Maybe government could get a few pointers from Peter Sutton’s Politics of Suffering. Whatever politics it is, it has been hurting and disadvantaging Aboriginal people for a couple of centuries now and has,  moat recently thanks to the Northern Territory Emergency Response (the Intervention), hit a new high under the new brand name “indigenous“.

Perhaps “the politics of profit” or indeed “the prophets of profit” might be good titles to consider as well.

Once upon a time I criticised the term Aboriginal – and the imposition of that stylised identity by the colonisers as a collective identity for mainland Aboriginal Australians. And while the terms ‘Aborigine’ and ‘Aboriginal‘ are still among the most disputed in contemporary Australian language, the all-encompassing term “indigenous” and its current use is not only unsuitable but inappropriate and extremely misleading.

From where I sit and listen and observe, “indigenous” does not relay a true sense of the meaning as is embraced and understood by Aboriginal or Indigenous peoples themselves.

The real meaning of the term indigenous is best expressed by Chris Cuneen and Terry Libesman:

Indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies…consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing in those territories…They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples. In accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal systems. (Cuneen & Libesman, Indigenous People and the Law in Australia, (1995)

The emphasis should be on the latter part of the definition and the term should not be used simply as a brand name for a government product.

While the terms “Aboriginal Australian” and “Australian Aboriginal” are wholly consumptive terms by which Anglo/Other Australia goes about integrating a range of different aspects of diverse Aboriginal clans, their ideals, aspirations, philosophies, knowledges, politics, religious and cultural tenets and ceremonial practices, I believe the term holds far more credibility than the term “indigenous” right now.

Admittedly both terms are colonial constructs of what westerners decided are appropriate identity markers or classifiers of the Other, and Aboriginal people have had to face a never-ending re-defining of Aboriginality almost since the term was first adopted – now they are being forced to re-define that again, under the new name and category of “indigenous”.

A while ago Marcia Langton stated that:

“Aboriginality…is a field of intersubjectivity in that it is remade over and over again in a process of dialogue, imagination, of representation and interpretation – [and that] Both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people create “Aboriginalities”… in the infinite array of intercultural experiences…” (Langton, Representations and Indigenous Images, Global Diversity Conference, Sydney, 1995.

I cannot imagine that even she would believe that this same type of dynamic is taking place in the current western construction of “indigenous“.

The current practice and use of “indigenous” which has been adopted as yet another Australian way of grouping together of Aboriginal people they know and understand little about, simply so as to accommodate their limited understandings and out of their laziness and disinterest, speaks loudly of continuing paternalism (and maternalism) and of expediency and the continuing government knee-jerk reactions of band aiding instead of fixing.

Australians may have got away with the pan-Aboriginal identity thing in the past but the pan-indigenous identity categorisation of peoples leaves a broad and wide-open scope for almost anyone to take advantage of. Yes, it is true there were huge problems with the previous government and ATSIC definitions of Aboriginality, but they were much clearer to understand and negotiate in comparison to the catch-all use of the term “indigenous“.

At least the colonists who assisted in the creation of the term Aboriginal and therefore ‘Aboriginal identity’ did so in part to satisfy their own understandings of the Other. Aboriginal Australians, in the most part, accepted this identity too. However, nothing can take away the point that, whether this adoption of new identity was both clearly determined and determining [See: Bain Attwood, The Making of the Aborigines (1989)] the term Aboriginal/Aborigine has dispossessed these peoples of their separate identities.

Placing Aboriginal people now in the neat little homogenous group known as “indigenous” further dispossesses and disadvantages them – regardless of the multiculturalism that supposedly thrives in the broader Australian community, or the “spirit of reconciliation” which supposedly unites Aboriginal and mainstream Australia. Disadvantage, regardless of the flashy new identity of “indigenous” continues.

The term “indigenous” continues to strip, indeed further rob, Aboriginal people of their basic human rights as citizens of Australia and it prevents them from being equal participants in the overall Australian social contract.

I listened to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Darwin TV recently talking about “overcoming indigenous disadvantage“.

PM Rudd, Minister Macklin, NT Chief Minister Henderson et al – including all the same olds (Aboriginal and Other) were sitting at the big round tables with their various “indigenous” hats on, rabbiting on about their “indigenous” solutions and giving their “indigenous” expertise. They all keep missing the main point that disadvantage will only begin to be relieved when all Aboriginal Australians are granted full citizenship rights and privileges. These rights include the right to self-identify and to be in charge of their own futures.

Aboriginal people must have an Aboriginal Minister. Its time!!

It is time too, for Rudd, Macklin et al to realise they are talking to the wrong black “leaders” and that they will always be advised by the wrong white “experts“. It is one thing to talk about Aboriginal dependency and welfare but I don’t hear anybody criticising the co-dependency that exists between “indigenous advisers” and non-indigenous “experts“.

I’m tired of people stating that there is no Aboriginal leadership – there are many strong and good leaders – and I’m not talking about the consultants and advisors and the Australian Government’s “community managers” and other tyrants – or the carpetbaggers and “southern specialists” that have waltzed into the Northern Territory of late – or those who may be the belles and beaus at the NAIDOC ball.

Most Aboriginal people affected by the NT Intervention are disadvantaged, effectively homeless and are refugees within their own country – Australia. They don’t attend NAIDOC balls and other activities and I bet most have not even heard of Reconciliation and probably don’t care if Rudd said “sorry” because it has changed nothing for them.

I bet the majority of them don’t even know they are named “indigenous”.

My suggestion is that government has to address Aboriginal disadvantage the same way such problems are addressed in relation to international refugees and migrants especially in relation to re-settlement, social security, jobs, health, education, equity, restoration of rights and dignity. The levels of support services for  the Aboriginal refugees and disadvantaged, internally-displaced peoples are poles apart from what is offered to international refugees and other new arrivals.

You only need to be standing in a line at Coles and Woolies in Darwin or any other city or town in the NT to hear Australians make awful racist remarks while comparing the two groups of peoples – praise and sympathy for one and abuse and denigration for the other.

The sadder part of that story is to hear international refugees and migrants parrot their Australian counterparts in demonising Aboriginal people. It is a sad state of affairs that Aboriginal people have to compete for space within such a hostile environment. What hope have they got?

Lastly, PM Rudd acts almost shocked to hear about the level of Aboriginal disadvantage – what rock did he live under in Queensland for all those years?

He obviously is not aware of conditions at Palm Island, or has not followed the recent happenings there between Police and residents. If he does not have time to visit a few Aboriginal communities in Queensland perhaps he should spend some time reading about the state of affairs in his home State.

He could start with Rosalind Kidd’s The Way We Civilise: Aboriginal Affairs – The Untold Story (1977). Described as “…one of the most chilling and thorough studies of the governmentality of Indigenous people…[Kidd’s] investigation of previously inaccessible government records reveals the moments of ‘eternal optimism’ and ‘congenital failure’ that fashioned government relations with Aboriginal people in Queensland between 1840 and 1988.”

His reading list should include:

Richard Broome, Aboriginal Australians: Black Responses to White Dominance 1788-2001 (2002);

Rosemary Neill, White Out: How Politics is Killing Black Australia, (2002);

Michael Meadows, Voices in the Wilderness, (2001).

He obviously has never read C. D. Rowley’s The Destruction of Aboriginal Society (1970) – perhaps Minister Macklin and his government are looking in there for hints and suggestions?

If Rudd read Rowley’s book maybe he might just figure out what is going on and what could and what should be done to halt the current destruction of Aboriginal society.

My final book suggestion for Rudd, Macklin, Henderson, et al is the Australian classic by Xavier Herbert, Poor Fellow My Country (1970). I’m sure even they would appreciate the poignancy of the title – as well they should heed and comprehend Herbert’s message:

Until we give back to the black man just a bit of land that was his and give it back without provisos, without strings to snatch it back, without anything but complete generosity of spirit in concession for the evil we have done him – until we do that, we shall remain what we have always been so far: a community of thieves.

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60 thoughts on “Branding the blacks – a “community of thieves” and the tyranny of terminology

  1. arthur bell

    Stolen Wages.
    There is a Chronic Lack of Input from the people that A.N.T.A.R and supporters claim to speak and to act on behalf of. They continually fail to make this point. Deliberate and Calculated, Misrepresentation by Omission !!!! Deceptive, Selective illustration!!!! And the recent assertions by Tiga, and A.N.T.A.R, that the dearth of claimants was due to people turning their noses up, or treating the previous offers with contempt? Well !!!! Tell us, How many? A couple of thousand? A few thousand? And just who was some of these people???? In other words, Name Some !!!!

    Lies, Dammed Lies and Statistics !!!! A good title????
    What about, No Problem Solved !!!! ???? think i’ll use both !!!!

    A lot of false claimants were, and were not, paid. There is, Absolutely No Doubt about this !!!! You won’t hear about this from A.N.T.A.Rs associates though !!!! They don’t want to, Hear or, Know, About This !!!! Numbers is all they want. And they don’t care how they get them !!!! How many claimants done the same after the 74 floods? A few went to jail with some outrageous claims !!!! One famous ( and true ) story involved a prominent Murri claiming $35,000 for a stud bull !!!! ( he ended up in jail! ) All this stuff is, Public Knowledge !!!!
    Including the Major Fraud perpetrated from within the Commonwealth Bank in 2000 by Many, Mostly, Murris !!!! Including, Administration, Management and Staff, of Numerous A&I Organisations, in inner city Brisbane !!!! All submitting, False and Misleading Information, to secure the $3,000 that was being Offered and Arranged, by a Corrupt Bank Employee !!!! She received $300 ( under the table ) for every application that she processed and gained approval for !!!! And there were Hundreds !!!! You won’t hear the local Leaders and Spokespeople mention this though !!!! or the Crime and Misconduct Commission!!!! ( C.M.C. ) The Blind and Deaf !?!? This is the major damage. Getting money out of the government ( or white fella ) is perceived to be, taking money ( or resources ) away from the enemy !!!! And as they say, ” All’s Fair in Love and War !!!! People play on this sentiment and inherited attitude. (A.V.I.) These people that deliver financial outcomes see themselves and are perceived to be Leaders and even Heroes taking it up to the enemy !!!! And sharing the spoils !!!! But not all the time !!!! (the money!)

    It is impossible for anyone to move on or anywhere. With all the benefits, including financial, on offer these days for putting one’s hand up as a victim !!!! Any, or even, All Categories !!!! Money Money Money !!!! And much more still to come !!!! Quote First Contact News, sept. 04 edition. “Old wise man say you keep giving me drink of water I go nowhere. You keep giving me chow I definitely go nowhere. I am Contented!” unquote. Is this relevant? Certified Victims are Popular and Welcome People !!!! Assured Income. Probably in the, Money to Come Category, Knows where to get all the free tucker and food vouchers. All the free meals and clothes. The Coffee Lady. Who’s likely to be Sympathetic ( with a good story ) to Assist with phone, gas and electricity bills, Who’s Not. Even the Hare Krishna. And can legitimately claim to be Homeless! ( doesn’t own a house! ) It’s a Good Lurk and a Good Life !!!! Chad Morgan devoted a song to it !!!! Why Move On !?!? This truly is, The Lucky Country !!!! and we Australians, truly are, The Lucky People !!!!

    The Agenda is pursued, not by The People, but mainly, by a hand-full of misguided moral postures. Including, Aboriginal advisers. Offering no more than eternal victim hood where they can continue to deliver some limited outcomes ( financial, with no problems solved ) to continue and to maintain their personal profile and lifestyle !!!! Promoting the (publics) view of Aboriginal Hypocrites that take money (under the table?) from the people that they criticize and condemn, even on the world stage. All mainly very fair skinned people, that would have had a lot more opportunity and would not have lived under remote communities conditions. **And if they did, would have been candidates to be removed for their own protection. This is where many racists reside! Not the White- Fella! the Yella- Fella! He does all the talking for his Full-Blood Brother !!!! And he don’t even like him !!!! cause he’s, Tooooo Blaaaaak !!!! A case of , You Can’t Choose Your Relations !?!? Check out All the prominent and successful, Aboriginal Leaders, Spokespeople, Academics, Public Servants on the scale of ‘ If you’re White you’re Right If you’re Brown hang round If you’re Black get back! Is this Color Prejudice???? A lot operate ( and receive money ) under the banner of Reconciliation or Christianity, quote Martin Luther King, but pursue Alabama’s George Wallace’s, ‘Segregation now Segregation Tomorrow Segregation Forever’

    **This no reflection on the Character, Good Intention and Dedication of these people. But it was a fact that the mothers of fair skinned offspring were in a lot of instances if not ostracized, derided and condemned for their liaison with a white man
    ( Shaaame! ) The child was an embarresment. And as a consequence suffered through negligence. And was abused and fair game. Especially females. And as Slim Dusty said, It was a relief to all, when he left town! In a sense. ( alb c. 06 unedited )

  2. arthur bell

    This is where the public is being continually misled by these people! For instance, most Aboriginal people have moved on from these experiences considering and accepting as a work and life learning curve, being aware that most cockies and their families, that worked long and hard on them farms and stations never received any wages ! With kids being denied much! Many had to just walk off in the end and leave their life’s work and anything they ever owned. No compo! ( unedited. c. 06 )

  3. arthur bell

    Aboriginal issues have more of an impact on voting results than most pollies realize. A lot of people that pay taxes are aware of the (increasing) financial dependence on the public purse with future probable stolen generations claims, re the precedent set in S.A and Tasmania recently, not to forget the stolen wages campaign. These alone will cost the people untold millions ( billions?) of dollars over generations. And the way the campaign is run, with *Ros Kidd and A.N.T.A.R along with their Indigenous Advisers, these issues can (will?) Never Be Resolved, Ever !!!! With No Problem Solved !!!! ( So, Justice Didn’t Work! What do we do now? Who do we blame ? ) The delivery of an outcome putting 4 and 7 thousand dollars in the hands of four thousand A&I people in Queensland via the state government stolen wages fund a couple of years back is heady stuff ! Now they have the, Bit Between Their Teeth! so to speak! Not to mention, their Heads in the Clouds! ( the Pie in the Sky, or, Cargo Cult Mentality, they Cultivate and Inspire! ) and they will no doubt be urging and coerseing members of the A&I community, talking 100s of thousands of dollars! to apply or mainly, re-apply. *( Typical academic, in their quest for literary fame and immortality. On the Backs of Blacks so to speak? Another Daisy Bates!?!? ) unedited. c. 06

  4. frogmatt

    So much anger Arthur – It’s not that I don’t empathise with you. It is the channelling of that energy. I get angry too, though I try to confine it’s expression to private quarters. So many people have been hurt through the past and into the present. So much pain. So much healing yet to go through. But until a Treaty is signed with every Aboriginal Nation that is in this country, we are under siege. It is a war being waged upon all the people, as unconventional as it may be. The corruption, greed, and deception goes on and on with little challenge. If there are corrupt Aboriginal brothers and sisters involved, they are only victims to the same con most other Australians have swallowed. This is no longer a struggle between black and white (if it ever was). It is a struggle between rich and poor. It is a struggle between the corporate body and the people. If you work for the system, know that your time is limited. The community no longer requires your services. The Australian government has shown clearly that it is grossly incapable to properly administer the land and her people, and by inference can no longer be taken seriously. There is no other argument any more. There is only one objective. An equal and free society – one that properly reflects our maturity and the overall good will of all peoples. And all that angry energy can be converted into positive input into one of the many solutions outlined and required by the various Aboriginal nations. All you need to do is listen carefully and act. We are grown up enough to realise who it is we should play with, and who it isn’t good to play with. So don’t play with the bullies. And remember – there is a place for every body in this world, it is just a matter of finding it. My warmest regards and hopes for the future…

  5. arthur bell

    Extract from the Koori Mail. Reproduced and published by A.L.B. ( with authors permission )

    I am a full-blood Torres Strait Islander and very proud of my race. I left Thursday Island many years ago and I lived in Cairns for a few years before moving to Darwin. About four years ago my two daughters and I moved to Singleton, New South Wales. It has been quite a learning experience for my children and I. Since being here I have seen a lot of division amongst our indigenous race, which is sad. We all need to work together as the two indigenous races of Australia to better ourselves as people and to help our young ones. I have found that not only is there division in the two races, but that there is division in the Aboriginal organisations in different towns. For example, in our small town, the three Aboriginal organisations ( that I know of ) don’t all get on. We need to put aside all our differences and greediness and work together to better ourselves as the two important races of this Country. Being negative to one another is not good at all. It’s like we have to put up with racism, ignorance and put-downs from our white brothers and sisters and the division from our own Indigenous race. I’m sure that if we as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people walk together, we can show the world that we are the fair dinkum, true blue Aussies. Yvonne Dunn. Singleton, N.S.W. ( A frustrated Indigenous woman )….

  6. arthur bell

    Stephen, you and other Aboriginal academics quote and have quoted Martin Luther King. As I understand, He fought for Integration. Integration into the existing education system. They wanted an Equal Opportunity via what was already established. And it could may well be argued, that they succeeded. And it served them well ! From an initial, American Civil Rights influence, our stated leaders, these days mostly Aboriginal academics, have steered the focus and direction to Victim Hood. Stephen, as an academic and researcher, where did our mob lose association, contact and direction from or with the Afro American civil rights mob? Why did we move away? Could we be as successful? Why is Segregation in Education a focus and agenda? Was Cultural Appropriatness ever an Issue in Education, with the descendants of slaves? Could it be, you academics have it Arse about Face?!?! You and others need to consider this as our youth seek inspiration from over the ocean. Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and of course, the multi millionaire Hip Hoppers! They are sick and tired of, and don’t want to be Victims, and hence, Losers !! any more. They want to be Winners! Just like their Idols, the Afro Americans. The Supreme Black Achievers. And a big Thanks, to the misguided leaders including out of touch Aboriginal academics like you, we may well have lost them. ( a comment to Stephen Hagan’s Offering Educational Opportunities. 21/2/08, Online Opinion. ) alb. ….

  7. arthur bell

    Black, one,eyed academics, that is, those with a declared intention
    To attain academic qualifications To offer opposition to established non indigenous anthropological and archaeological views and even ongoing legal battles and accept that commission via the established government education system. The danger in this of course is that we end up with academics that have only a one dimensional perspective and misguided agendas. ( alb.c. 6/07 unedited )

  8. arthur bell

    Forever Victims !!!!
    It is extremely doubtful that the rest of the world including the, Black Societies, could ever take us seriously. (not that they ever have) Our perceived focus and acceptance of an existence as Victims. Courtesy, and now, the Responsibility of the Entrenched and seemingly, Overwhelming, Aboriginal Victim Industry. Racism, Color Prejeduce, Stolen Wages, Stolen Generations, Native Title, Over Representation in the Criminal Justice System, (including jails) in the Children s Welfare Courts In the Health System, No Employment , No C.D.E.P. and if thats not enough, Those of us that drink, do so to drown out and to insulate ourselves from the social environment and circumstances that have been forced upon us. And to anesthetize ourselves
    against the results of Colonization and Dispossession. And we have become alcoholics because of this. According to the A.V.I. In other words, we are, Totally Fucked !!!! (this an upcoming title. Stay tuned)….to be continued (a.l.b.)

    These People think and would have us believe and behave as though the present conflict is of the old ‘Dad and Dave’ or ‘Jacky Jacky and the Boss’ era. These people in their ignorance. Someone should reveal and tell them that we, in fact, have moved on from there.
    Victims?!?! We could never be anything else!! People would not expect us as Forever Victims, to have a comprehension or understanding of world affairs. Not only now, but in the foreseeable future.

    And how they impact on the present, And how these present events and happenings will affect our great great great grandchildren. As it will obviously be for many years and generations,

    Locked Bolted and Cemented to the Past. Why we can’t move on. Why they don’t want us to !!!!

    And I suppose the rest of the Country and the World, will be quite happy with that Situation !!!!
    (alb.c. 6/07. undited )

  9. arthur bell

    If an Aboriginal accepted the commission of an academic education or qualification in the name and in the cause of ” Helping My People” to combat and to oppose the dominance of the enemy, the ‘White academic’ or ‘ Dominant society ‘ Even in the face of irrefutable opposing evidence, would the Aboriginal academic deliberately mislead if they represent Aboriginals against a mining company? Would they refuse and risk being denounced by the people ? If so, what would be their Value if they are prepared to Mislead? People may ask, what’s the point of having or Educating them? Role Models!!!! Would a One Eyed Aboriginal academic be capable of delivering or presenting fair and true input into an emotional issue! With all that false Aboriginal history conditioning and the emotional traumas they had to endure, as is no secret ( they will no doubt verify this ) throughout their education. Years!!!! Moral destroying!!!! They should be given medals!!!! ( will money do? literary immortality ?) Should, Could, they be expected to Lead the Team? DEFINITELY NOT!!!! ( where would their heads be!!!! ) They are Victims Too!!!! Welcome to the fascinating world of Government Funding! Where dreams can come true and to fruition via the Gubament Grant! ( The kids will love this! ) Exaggeration and Overstating will fast-track a financial outcome !!!! ( read Government Funds and Funding Submission Experts !!!! ) With all their degrees! ( even from America! ) and their, ra ra ra’s, we’ll fix the problems. We just need Money and, More Money!!!! Bringing Nothing New to the debate and offering no more than Eternal Victim Hood. Including senior public servants that so readily accept the mantle of Authorities and Spokespeople on our behalf.
    ( alb. c. 6/07. unedited )

  10. arthur bell

    Academics (3)
    What if one NativeTitle claimant hired an Aboriginal Anthropologist and their opposing cousins or mining company hired a White one ( presuming they got their degrees to “Help Our People” these Aboriginal Anthropologists and Arceologists ) Are they obligated to mislead to support or to secure a favorable outcome? Could there be objectivity and impartiality in what could be a very emotional issue? And If this was the case, ( misleading ) would one have to bring in another Aboriginal Anthro ( or Arco? ) ( is that right ? arco!?!? ) and go through the same? Or get a White-fella to make a decision? If this has to occur, what then would be the point of the Aboriginal Anthro’s? or Arco’s, Good P.R.???? Have any of these Aboriginal Anthropologists or Arceologists made any significant difference or contribution in Native Title claims? Any discoveries? ( c.9/7

  11. arthur bell

    Academics (2)
    There must be 100s (1000s? ) of Aboriginal academics by now. All from different parts or the Country. Black White and Brindle! ( mainly white and brindle! yes, if you’re black get back, also applies in Aboriginal society! ) All produced by the present education system. Yet they all seem to be trying to change it ! Surely only to deliver some sort of outcome to justify….what?
    You see, once academic status is achieved, They become Them ! Indistinguishable. Authorities on what’s best for us! Though not always at their instigation. But as Lois pointed out (on let’s talk) they get comfortable in them uni’s. Degrees, PhD s, Masters, the more they acquire ( some uni’s have been accused of pushing them over the line! ) the more they are accepted as experts by society and governments! (read money?) If education is the key, is academia the ultimate goal? Or is there only limited room at the top? And the rest of us have to make do with whatever we can get! Is this the reason they want to redesign the education system, these Aboriginal academics? Not One with an original thought or view to offer or to pass on to future generations other than, how to tap into the Mother of All Mother Lodes, the Aboriginal Victim Industry! (c.9/07)

  12. arthur bell

    One Eyed Academics, what, who they are. People with an unbalanced view? The Blind leading the Blind? Why do we have to live and be treated by how they define us! People that done years at uni where they all tell everyone that schools teach false Aboriginal history. Yet they accept as authorities in this area! You will find most of them in the Indigenous Unit at the local uni or T.A.F.E. As they are, unemployable anywhere else! A lot became redundant after the money went out of Native Title!

    My Aunt, an academic, ( very fair, green eyes, ) teaches Aboriginal languages that nobody speaks anymore ! ( uni job of course!!!! and to Aboriginals, of Course!!!! ) With the very high rate of Aboriginal People going to and will be going to hospital ( as I have been ! ) English is Crucial !!!! Or Die !!!! Why encourage languages that doctors don’t understand !!!! These Bloody Aboriginal Academics !!!! They are Dangerous in Their Ignorance !!!! ( and getting well paid !!!! ) As Amanda Vandstone observed, They are more about feeling good than doing good !!!! The Feel Good Industry?
    (c.9/07) extract from “whats happening in this country”

  13. Bob Gosford


    Sorry but I had to edit your comment above – for very good legal reasons there are some things you can say, and others you cannot – not here at least.

    And not being cheeky, but maybe you could check your spelling when you write a long post like that – it makes your comments more credible if you show that you can spell the words you write!

    And I haven’t seen fit to respond to Arthur’s comments – I think it better if we leave him to speak to himself for now!

  14. frogmatt

    Arthur Bell – of those 20 people in the house, a couple of toddlers, four under 12, 6 at high school, and 8 adults. This of course is hypothetical, but has a damn sight more thought in it than your response. Please do some research before you comment. Or do you have a different agenda. There are people here who want to discuss this issue seriously.

  15. frogmatt

    Amazing. Thankyou Bob. Very refreshing. Truth is harsh sometimes. There is one angle that I think is being missed in all of this. Not by Aboriginal people of course, but by those at a distance trying to understand or enforce opinions, self serving or otherwise.

    When I was in Arnhemland, I saw astonishing levels of corruption, not so much from Aboriginal people, but mainly from white “Administrators”. Like the Community Store that claimed that half a million dollars had been shoplifted over a year of operation, and yet they sell foam matresses worth $30 in Melbourne for $180. I saw Chineese tools, the ones you buy for between $2 and $5 dollars, being sold for $12, $18, and even $26 dollars. The Store was supposed to generate income for the community, yet the community sees little of the profit.

    The community I lived in had around 400 white people living and working in it at the time, and the local people, despite showing amazing competance in initiating succesful programs and industries, all systematically destroyed by white administration, were limited for the most part to CDEP. Now they don’t even have that.

    Sometimes a community gets so sick of an Administrators corruption they chase them out (at times with spears or sticks). That Administrator so often simply goes on to dissrupt the next community he comes to. And I am NOT talking about Government Administrators. I am talking about people who are supposed to be employed to help the community. Shop keepers, non-government Aboriginal Associations, community initiated programs, they all too often get taken over, messed up by people who are so often revered as experts by officials, yet they are the ones siphoning off vast somes of Community money.

    Intervention? Save the Children?


    Imagine, as an aboriginal youth, that you are told to go to a white school to learn their ways so that you could take up administration positions back in your community. You study, despite the difficulties of English (for some a fifth or sixth language), poverty, and racisim, (and I’m sorry but I have witnessed constant racist attacks on Aboriginal people throughout a 13 year period in the Top End) while keeping culture alive. You pass, you go back to your community and get that job. Now the white bloke in charge tells you how it’s gonna be, except the senior traditional owners dont want that. So you protest, then quit. You start your own business. It does well for 2 years. Then the white boss tells you you can’t run that business, and you have to sell it. To his organisation. Then he closes the business. All the while you attend community meetings, hear and contribute to finding solutions to community problems, struggle to see needs met and community decisions adheared to, all heard by the white bosses, who nod and say yes yes, then do nothing at the least, or possibly the worst – destruction of sacred sites. You can’t move forward. The only job for you is CDEP – not much better than the dole, and often menial anyway. Would you turn to alcohol? Or gambling? Or religion? Or go into exile because watching your community strangled in this way is so utterly soul destroying? End up in town. In the city.

    This is hypothetical – mostly.

    And Just to clarify, it seemed to me that the Aboriginal people I spoke to each made it very clear who they were, and if any general tearms were used, they were used specifically so as to generalise. On every meeting I had with people, those men and women described themselves specifically by their Nation and Tribe. They are always very clear about their distinctions from their neighbours. And it is not polite or appropriate to talk about another peoples land. In many cases even the languages are different between not only nations, but tribes as well. As different as Greek to Italian to Spanish. Dialect is the word used to diminish this distinction in White culture.

    There is way too much mis-information getting around. And way too much aggression. I wonder what a person who has never sat with a Tribal Aboriginal has to loose that they so vehemently defend our nations ongoing colonial approach. That is of course if they havn’t got shares in mining.

    Matt Elliott – Australia

  16. arthur bell

    Housing Problem ?
    Twenty people to one house, is this overcrowding? Or is this a combined income of $4,000 a week? Surely some builder would build three (3) houses for $2,000 a week guaranteed? ( think bags of flour and kangaroo) Then after about five (5) years the houses would be owned. That would be five (5) to a house. At four rooms each, extra toilet and shower, a lounge or sleepout for the extra person. Compatibility? everyone keeps changing around until the right combination. And the income is back (with indexation) to about $5000 a week. This model could be passed on. And people to be encouraged to live twenty (20) to a house to start off. The Commonwealth Government to give full support with financial incentive or concession via Centrelink. And State and Local Governments to provide and maintain necessary services. The housing problem will, solve itself !!!!

  17. arthur bell

    ” Unfinished Business in Brisbane ”
    A major problem and impediment to progress is the Black Bureaucracy. That layer of people between us and the Government (read money) the middleman (or woman) Mainly Administration and Management of Aboriginal and Islander and associated organizations. i.e. Legal Services, Health Services, Hostels, Youth Services, Education etc, their Supporters in the Public Services, including the mainly Black, One-Eyed Academics.This is why people like Michael Long and others feel the need to Communicate Directly with heads of Government. To Circumnavigate These People. It is the Failure of These People that led directly to the Loss of A.T.S.I.C. There is Absolutely No Doubt! about this. The Accumulation of Blatant Maladministration, Mismanagement and Gross Incompetence in A&I Organisations in Brisbane for instance, led to the Loss of Musgrave Park Aboriginal Corporation (M.P.A.C), a major service provider that was responsible for two A&I hostels in Brisbane. As well as being a day and drop-in center for many A&I and non Indigenous homeless and street people. EVERYONE !!!! in South Brisbane including Non-Indigenous Locals, The Police, the A&I Community, the People that Accept and Accepted the mantle of Community Leaders and Spokespersons and so called Role Models, Was Aware of the Ongoing Maladministration, Mismanagement and Corruption including drug-dealing, Associated With This Organisation, And for years! Yet, NOT ONE !!!! was prepared to say or do anything about it! Many were on the board of M.P.A.C. at various times. A lot of these people are, Still on the Boards of, Running, and Employed in, A&I organisations in Brisbane and Handling 100s of Thousands of Dollars! Everyone Knows Who They Are, and it is No Secret. Inquire of these issues to the so called, Local Leaders and Spokespersons, and they will declare, that they are, Blind and Deaf. This is the reason for the Deafening Silence on the Demise of A.T.S.I.C. Accountability Thrown Out The Door! Yet, With Employment and Funding Secure. It was the same with the dismantling of the Aboriginal Development Corporation (A.D.C.) Much properties and infrastructures, unknown to the general public or discussed, was passed on privately, and to Boards of Organisations. Much was lost! Including monies advanced to staff and management, and unsecured loans. Many people were (a lot still around) Let Off the Hook! And now it looks the same with A.T.S.I.C. Many have been around for to long. The Old Guard a lot of them. Still clinging to their past achievements. A lot done a lot of good. But now it is time for them to Move On. They certainly have No Answers to the Problems in this Country. It is Extremely Doubtful, if they even know what the Problems Are!  And some even, Responsible For Them. This is why in the main, A&I people including street -people and the paint sniffers, have No Respect for Them and their, Oppressive, Tunnel-Visioned, One Dimensional, Agendas, and A&I Organisations and Services in general. ( alb.c, 6/03 )

  18. arthur bell

    Sue, Why waste this exelent opportunity to publish on an exelent and well informed forum? My website, Whats Happening In This Country, www. is down at the moment. (It was active for about four (4) years), domain name renewal problem, so,some of my scriblings and publications from the said website.b.t.y.s. Arthur.Bell.

    The Aboriginal Victim Industry and Associates, A.V.I. ( not the people ) presented the opportunity and it was accepted. There is a mummer of a grab for uranium, a whisper really, compared to the din of the entrenched A.V.I that know nothing more than blame apportioning, ( it has delivered results in the past ) Still, an indication of their inadequacy and failings. ( ALB c. 9/07 )
    Look To the Future.
    It is time to Resist, Oppose and to Reject the Acceptance and the Expansion of the Destructive Alcohol Culture that has developed amongst our People. This Culture with it’s False Values has already made a Permanent and Adverse Impact on the younger generations of our children. For the sake of our great, great, great grandchildren we must make a stand. And to recognize the entrenched Victim Industry as a “Major Contributing Factor” to the present situation. The Victim Industry are those employed, Mainly, in Aboriginal Identefied (p.c.) positions and Services, whom continue to Foster and to Assist this circle of dependency and irresponsibility, to maintain employment credibility, to create access to further funding, to Further Encourage and to Perpetuate, in their Ignorance, the Victim Status and Mentality of Aboriginal and Islander People and a Culture and Values that is Disastrous to the Aboriginal People and, Devastating to the Aboriginal Cause in this Country. …..(A.L.B c. 9/99)


    It is time to Resist, Oppose and to Reject the Acceptance and the Expansion of the Destructive Alcohol Culture that has developed amongst our People. This Culture with it’s False Values has already made a Permanent and Adverse Impact on the younger generations of our children. For the sake of our great, great, great grandchildren we must make a stand. And to recognize the entrenched Victim Industry as a “Major Contributing Factor” to the present situation. The Victim Industry are those employed, Mainly, in Aboriginal Identefied (p.c.) positions and Services, whom continue to Foster and to Assist this circle of dependency and irresponsibility, to maintain employment credibility, to create access to further funding, to Further Encourage and to Perpetuate, in their Ignorance, the Victim Status and Mentality of Aboriginal and Islander People and a Culture and Values that is Disastrous to the Aboriginal People and, Devastating to the Aboriginal Cause in this Country. …..(A.L.B c. 9/99)

    Australia, a Country of Climatic,Geographical and Social Contrast and Contradiction.A Major Factor in the lives of the Original Peoples and Societies of This Country. And now, The Descendants of. The Inhospitable Interior, where Life for All, was Harsh and Unforgiving. Drought killed many tribes. Terrible for kids and the old and infirm, they went first. Break the Law, expect to be punished! No ‘mitigating circumstances’  with them old Black-fellas! And it was seen to be done. Then the dreaded Hunt. Definitely not Paradise! Then we have the Coastal Fringe where in a lot of places, it was Paradise. Pippies, Oysters, and other tucker immediately available and all day. Where kids didn’t bother to ask. Just ate when hungry. With fire going all day. A less harsher and stressful environment, with lifestyle. Yes Australia, where people freeze to death in the snow, as others die of thirst in our deserts! We have the dry Western and Interior, and then we have Rain Forests. We have Mountain Ranges and Endless Plains. We have record prices for real estate. Then there are blocks of town land for $1. There’s people committing suicide over house mortgages in this Country. And in the next suburb, Housing Commission virtually giving them away!
    ( ALB. circa. 11/05 )

    “It is also about exploitation, abuse and failure.” Yes Sue, the Aboriginal Caste system is thriving in old OZ !!!! a.l.b

  19. ECir

    Hello Bob,

    Enjoy reading your blog and interested in everyone’s comments.

    I am not sure what they teach in schools today but in my time we learnt about all the different nations of the world, having to memorise ‘important’ statistics etc. Any mention of Aboriginal people was generalised and superficial. I went on and studied Fine Arts and Museum Studies at university and any discussion in regard to ‘Aboriginal / Indigenous Australia’ seemed to surround the issue/debate of ‘definition’. What was missing was the obvious. At no time did we learn about all the different nations existing within Australia. There was no sense of celebration and/or understanding of the diversity of peoples. Many people are still unaware that in many regions of Australia English is a second language.

    I now live in the Ngaanyatjarra lands (WA). People here call themselves ‘Ngaanyatjarra yarnangu’. Yarnangu means ‘people’. Whitefella’s are called ‘walypala’ (white man) and ‘mitjitji’ (white woman).

  20. Readings and Links

    […] article Branding the blacks – a “community of thieves” and the tyranny of terminology in the Northern Myth usually written by Bob Gosford in Yuendumu has a great article by Sue Stanton […]

  21. Jon Hunt

    Sorry, I’m a bit of a pragmatist.

  22. cici

    Wise words Jon Hunt…but I reckon it is important to know…and hear what other people think…and I believe healthy discussion on any number of topics is good too. Finding answers is perhaps not the ultimate objective – but sharing ideas and knowledge and considering others’ opinions can be useful.

    Sue Stanton

  23. Jon Hunt

    PS I really think what is most important is what they wish to be called. What anybody else thinks is not important and one can go on about hypotheticals until you are blue in the face and still not have an answer.

  24. Jon Hunt

    The problem is one can not find a perfect name appropriate for such a heterogenous group of people, so we really have to compromise somewhere. All that really matters is that we know who you are talking about, and that no-one is offended.

  25. cici

    Hey Bob Gosford – Its great that the post generated some interest – and a little discussion. I don’t know what it is about our wonderfully democratic NT/Australia that a post giving a personal overview can turn into a personal attack on the writer – and (mostly) we still don’t get around to having an intellectual discussion. Perhaps I’m just not sophisticated enough to engage with the majority of posters to the Northern Myth. In that case I guess I’ll just have to keep trying.
    I would like to make a few responses and they are to:
    Shilpa – Bob Gosford gave a good answer to your thoughful response. And thanks for your well considered second response too.
    Yuwalk – Thanks for the reason re your educator’s preference for indigenous over Aboriginal. I have heard this too, but I have also heard that Torres Strait Islanders do not care for the term indigenous and indeed have their own name for themselves.
    I agree with your example re the term European and I have heard Chinese, Malay, Thai, Vietnamese etc – even Japanese – protest over the term ‘Asian’ to describe them – and those described as ‘Pacific Islanders’ make objection too…as do those described as ‘Middle Eastern’ or ‘of Middle Eastern appearance’. Maybe there are those who object to being described or categorised as ‘Australian’ ??

    Re Ted Egan – I must try and read that book again – maybe I missed something important.

    Mark Duffett – I suggest you brush up on the definitions of genocide and apartheid. I don’t know about ‘culturalism’ as a preferred term over ‘racism’ as I prefer to name it what it is. But you of course, you are entitled to call and understand it in whatever way it makes sense to you. Personally I think there is a HUGE gap between ‘culturalism’ and ‘racism’.
    From my understanding – race focuses on obvious distinctions, and are usually based on skin colour – and goes deeper than that too because racist thought also represents myths in relation to purity (of genes, skin, blood), and separateness. Sadly, in the 21st century most of society still uses race – an ideological construct in science – about interbreeding – still carries important cultural overtones. Ethnicity is another supposedly politically correct term meant to disguise ‘race/racism’ but is a term, I claim, used by racists who refuse to acknowledge that 19th century prejudices about ‘uncivilised’ peoples are still prevelant in society. My opinion and experience is that racism is not confined to white supremacists but that it is embedded in all aspects of all cultures. However, colonial subjects have truly felt racism’s psychological effects and oppressed people(s), dominated by so-called superior language(s) and culture(s) of the invader(s) continue to struggle with the identities imposed on them and have little power to resist that type of cultural domination.

    The patterns of colonialism go hand in hand with the expansion of capitalist forms of society and this in turn leads to control and exploitation of the local (invaded) population. The ideology of difference has always been an essential justification of the colonisation process – and the ideology of race (even though a false concept) plays a central role in defining, rationalising, and perpetuating colonialism.

    Of course the civilising through christianising mission has also been in the best interests of the coloniser – and most of those imperialist ideas, hand in hand with racial notions of difference AND superiority, still in most parts supported by forms of social Darwinism (the survival of the fittest) justified invasion and occupation, theft of land, genocide, apartheid (can’t think of a better word than that), separation/stealing of children – the list goes on!. But maybe all of that deserves a separate post of its own.

    I think most Australians prefer to deny the lingering ethnocentric bias and racist ideology of original colonists and their intentions. For me this is best summed up by Jean Paul Sartre: [The colonised] do not even need to be exterminated anymore. No, the most urgent thing…is to humiliate them, to wipe out the pride in their hearts, to reduce them to the level of animals. The body will be allowed to live on but the spirit will be destroyed. Tame, train, punish…those are the words that obsess the coloniser.
    (JPS – Colonialism and Neo-colonialism].

    sanitchk – Of course I meant a federal Minister. But that wouldn’t work either for the reason I outline below. I must disagree with you re the Ministers in the NT – they are not ‘Aboriginal’ Ministers – they are ‘Labor’ Ministers. While they may have some loyalty to some of their Aboriginal constituents – they are first and foremost Labor politicians and (as they should) represent all cross-sections of the electorate. Now that Marion Scrymgour has become an Independent and no longer constrained by Party politics, I (personal opinion) have more confidence in her as a politician – and as an Aboriginal person representing Aboriginal constituents.
    It is your opinion that the ‘black Ministers” are leaders in a truly democratic sense – and you hang on to that!
    I don’t recall saying I disagreed with them – on political or “black” issues. It must be in the invisible text somewhere!
    I don’t vote on colour or party line. I vote (hopefully0 for good politicians with sound policies who show a tad of honesty. Yes, Im probably naive, and I am very cynical – but spare me the ‘democracy’ lecture. Tell me what that means again!

    Arthur Bell – thank you for having the courage to raise the issues you do. I can’t wait to read the responses.

    I suggest those who want Marcia Langton’s opinions – contact her and ask.

    Re what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people want to call themselves – I am unable to speak at individual level what people want – I can only give my personal view as is my right in this democratic wonderland I live in.

    Sue Stanton

  26. Bob Gosford

    Dear Comfortably Aligned – I believe that we all have a personal responsibility for the conduct of our elected politicians – which is why I take the odd whack at them when they do their job badly.

    I’m sure you’ll agree that there are enough examples of that right here at home in the NT to keep me busy for a long time…just have a look at the today’s report into the operations of the NT Education department as the most recent example.

    Thankfully I do have some better things to do with my time – taking all-too-easy potshots at poorly-performing pollies is more of a sport than an obligation.

    And no apologies from me for the odd stray into cynical boorishness – but at least I’m not an anonymous cynical boor…

  27. sanitychk

    Don’t be sorry Bob, I am comfortably aligned with the great majority of Territorians who gladly participate in the Territory democracy and take collective responsibility for the politicians that we elect (unopposed or otherwise). Your right to be cynical is respected, but it can lead to one becoming a tad boorish – perhaps even developing tendencies to play the (pseudonymic) man, rather than the ball…

  28. Bob Gosford

    Sorry to disillusion you, whoever “sanitychk” may be, but for many people in the NT the NT Government is little more than a toy parliament – I’m sure that Sue was talking about the real centre of power in this country – Canberra.

    The rot had well and truly set in well before “self-government” in 1978 and the lie of any notional NT independence has been settled since August 2007 and the commencement of the NTER legislation. That effectively stripped the NT government of a large part of the already diminished power it had, particularly in relation to Aboriginal people.

    And if you want to believe that the current crop of Aboriginal parliamentarians in the NT are exemplars we should all admire, well I suppose you are entitled to that view – me, I’m a bit more cynical.
    And as for the democratic process – both Malarndirri McCarthy and Alison Anderson were elected unopposed at the last NT election in 2008.

    Oh, and a last thought – wouldn’t it be much better if, absent a very good reason, people were brave enough to use their real name rather than some silly pseudonym?

  29. arthur bell

    Bob, Your view on this statement. quote, “what is color prejudice? If you’re white you’re right, if you’re brown hang around, if you’re black get back. This is a determining factor in Aboriginal society as well. Is this racism? And if you’re Islander (Mud) get back even further! The division between Full-Blood and caste Aboriginal People is legend. An issue not discussed in the public domain. Almost like a taboo subject ! But a fact of life. You won’t hear Michael Mansell talk about this. A Full-Blood will accept and trust a white person before they would a yella fella or mixed blood Aboriginal they know will exploit them. Is this racism? Torres Strait Islanders are derided by us. Is this racism? This is one reason why they are seeking to annul the marriage “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders”. On the grounds of non consummation. It was a marriage in name only. Regarding and involving easier and continued access to funding. A marriage of convenience so to speak. ” unquote.( A.L.B. c. 9/07 )
    Also, indigenous, is the choice of the so called Aboriginal spokespeople ie. the Aboriginal Victim Industry ‘a.v.i’ Mainly Misguided moral postures and Out of Touch Aboriginal academics and the their support network, the black bureaucracy.
    for further info on these and other relevant issues
    ps. when ever it is opperating

  30. sanitychk

    “Aboriginal people must have an Aboriginal Minister. Its (sic) time!!” How bizarre from a Territorian. The NT has three Aboriginal Ministers, including the Minister for Indigenous Policy. But (oops), I forgot, on this blog we only deal in fantasies of Aboriginality. We can’t possibly recognise real, live Aborigines that manage budgets, logistics and competing priorities; that have gone through the political process and been elected by their fellow citizens; that speak uncomfortable truths about the need for education, work and self-responsibility. S.J Stanton – you may not agree with the black Ministers in your Parliament, but they are leaders in a truly democratic sense.

  31. Jon Hunt

    Some light reading if you wish another opinion: (from ) I’ve no idea how authoritative this is.

    (Usually I just say “is he/she Aboriginal?”. I’ve not got into trouble so far. Clearly I would be talking about an Australian Aboriginal)

    Collective names used to describe
    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:

    Aboriginal/Aborigine 9
    Aboriginal people(s) 10
    First people/first Australians 11
    Indigenous people(s) 11
    Torres Strait Islander/person 12
    Goori, Koori, Murri, Nunga and other such terms 13

  32. Bob Gosford

    Fredex – sorry for our mutual confusion caused by my confusion!

    I note Mark’s comments about racism but think that racism has been around a lot longer than the specific applications of it as a political philosophy to which he refers.

    In my experience most racists, and those spouting racist views, rarely take the time or effort to inform themselves of their subject’s culture – so I’ll stick with the “R” word for now.

    And for John & Deccles – I can’t answer that question – other than as per my comments above – why not go out and ask yourself? Let us know what people say!

    And where has Bob D got to? Surely he can do better than just taking the first shot and leaving us all waiting for his well-informed insights?

  33. Jon Hunt

    I don’t think that there is a unique word for Indigenous/Aboriginal Australian. Apart from the colloquial ones that is. They can be used to refer to any country, but I suppose the context would make it obvious.

  34. deccles

    The educator who instructed me to use Indigenous would tick the ‘Are you of Aboriginal / Torres Strait Descent’ on any form that would ask it. “Aboriginal” is not a term unique to natives of Australia. Ask the Inuit.

    What do native Australians wish to be called?

    Prof. Marcia Langton may agree with S.J Standton but let Prof. Langton speak for herself.

  35. Jon Hunt

    That which we call a rose..
    (its the only thing he wrote that I half understood).

    What do the Indigenous Australians/Aborigines/Aboriginals/black fellas et al wish to be called?

  36. Shilpa Rajkumar

    Bob, Thank you for your thoughtful response and my apologies for carelessly referring to you as the author even after I read your note about it being a guest post by Ms. Stanton-I was, unfortunately, typing faster than I was thinking!

    Thanks, also, to “Yuwalk” for the interesting comments and reference to one more source for us to look up!

    To some extent, we may, perhaps, take the names/categories we have for ourselves very much for granted when we are part of a majority group but when you are a member of a minority group with a history and present like the different clans of Aboriginal Australians do, surely how you are referred to by majority groups as well as by immigrants becomes even more an issue of significance…? At the sub-conscious level, how we treat things, places, people, objects might be importantly affected by the names/categories those ‘things’ have been ascribed-if it affects how we think about them to begin with?

    It sometimes seems to me, that, in our rush to seem all-embracing and multi-cultural, we have become less tolerant in many ways by striving to become blind to important inter-and intra-cultural differences and distinctions -maybe because we fear, that, to recognise such things is, somehow, a form racism…?

    However, the subject raised by Ms. Stanton is an important matter-how we refer to groups of people and that people be consulted as to what and how they wish to be referred to does matter in many ways, not all of them simple or straightforward. Clearly, we have a long way to travel before we reconcile differences in opinion, increasing awareness and knowledge with practice, but I hope that we will make earnest and enlightened attempts at the journey.

    Anyhow-I end this morning’s first coffee-less post in the hope that I have made a smidgen of sense, at least, to somebody out there! 🙂

  37. fredex

    Er Bob the Bob I was referring to was the Bob as in Bob Durnan at #1.
    Not that I dispute your reply to me in above but I’m guessing you thought I was referring to you when I wasn’t.
    Too confused now.

  38. Mark Duffett

    Bob – I lived for three years in Darwin and five in Alice Springs, leaving the NT in 2006, so I know a little about that of which you and Sue speak. I spent my fair share of time in the supermarket queue, and never overheard this ‘differential racism’ – certainly a fair bit directed against blackfellas though.

    You are correct about the pervasiveness of appalling racism, often unabashed, in the NT. Note that this includes blackfella as well as white society. However, I think it’s important for those who haven’t lived there to understand how easily such attitudes can be acquired in response to experiences of NT life. This has nothing to do with differences in genetics, but everything to do with differences in culture. Hence, if we’re getting worked up about names, I think ‘racism’ is an inaccurate and unhelpful term in this situation, with all its connotations of Nazi genocide and apartheid, which were truly based on race. Something like ‘culturism’ would be much closer to the mark.

  39. Bob Gosford

    One word – everything!

  40. Jon Hunt

    What’s in a name?

  41. Bob Gosford

    I’ve been meaning to have another look at Ted’s new book – particularly his comments about bulldozing my hometown of Yuendumu!!
    And while we are on the topic of cultural and political identity – does anyone else get as annoyed as I do by the constant referral by cycling commentators to the Basque cycling team of Euskatel-Euskadi as “a Spanish team”?

  42. Yuwalk

    Forgot to mention that Ted Egan in his latest book went into detail around the terminology of Aboriginal and Indigenous. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but I think at the time I thought it made sense.

  43. Yuwalk

    I sorta agree with deccles in that I was told to use Indigenous by an educator, but mainly because Aboriginal does not encompass Torres Straight Islander and Indigenous can.

    However, just because its easy for educators and the Government doesn’t make it right. I know the Yolngu consider themselves (and are) to be different people. I found the difference even between Bulman, which is very close geographically and other East Arnhem communities to be very large.

    Having a generic term like Indigenous is a bit like using the term European, but then never admitting the difference between the French and the English or Poles and Russians.

  44. Bob Gosford

    Shilpa – thanks for, finally, a thoughtful response rather than the unsubtle abuse masquerading as discourse that so often pervades the responses to anything vaguely controversial.

    As noted, this is a guest post by an old friend from Darwin – so these words are hers not mine.

    I substantially agree with her thesis – that “indigenous” is an omnibus term that means absolutely nothing, just a weasel-word for politicians and bureaucrats. At least “Aboriginal” and “Aborigine” have, in Australia at least, a degree of specificity and definition.

    And it isn’t for me to say how Aboriginal people do or do not want to be described – what I can say is that most people I’ve known in my years in the NT mainly identify themselves generically as “blackfellas”, in the broadest sense, then by cultural blocs, i.e. “Yolngu” for north-east Arnhem landers, “Yapa” or “Anangu” in large parts of the central deserts etc etc, then by language groups or sub-groups, i.e. Waniega Warlpiri etc and then at the next levels by moiety, clan or family affiliation.

    And my only suggestion is that if you are working with people it is always at least polite to ask them how they want to be described – after all, you wouldn’t call a Scotsman a Pom or a Tibetan a Chinese would you?

    Despite the comments above, each person’s identity, and how they are described by others, is important – not only for personal and cultural identity reasons but also to get it right. It seems to me that “Indigenous” has become more of a brand than an accurate descriptor.

    And for Mark Duffett – I don’t know where you live but there are long-standing and deep-flowing streams of racism in the NT and the most obvious targets are blackfellas…I haven’t seen too many examples of the differential racism that Sue refers to and that you ask about but I’ve seen no end of instances of overt and more subtle racism – in public and in private.

    Deccles – did you believe all that you were taught or have you only recently come to realise that at least some of your teachers may have been wrong? And the reality of internal displacement in the NT is familiar to anybody that has spent any time looking at NT history – and the recent intervention seems, for a variety of reasons, to have sparked a new wave of internal displacement away from outlying townships into the larger service centres. And I think that you would find that Marcia Langton may substantially agree with the sentiments expressed in this post.

    And for Fredex all I can say is that your reality may be different from mine – and a good thing that might be too.

    Cheers to you all and thanks again to Shilpa for his thoughtful comments and questions – over to you!

  45. Shilpa Rajkumar

    Forgive me my ignorance but as interesting as Mr. Gosford’s post was to read, just what *are* we supposed to call Aboriginal peoples if Aboriginal is insufficient and the term indigenous is so offensive and counterproductive as Mr. Gosford posits?

    Is the Canadian way, that is, the Canadian use of the term “First Nations” a better and more meaningful term?

    Have any of the Aboriginal peoples discussed the issue of what they are called, what they wuld prefer to be referred to as and is there any sort of consensus as to what term/s they would prefer?

    Do you, Mr. Gosford, have any practical suggestions, ideas, answers? Does anyone reading this blog post have any insights?

    Discussing such matters is interesting but useless if all it leads to are blog posts and comments and no practical, useful ideas we can try to translate into reality, surely?

  46. fredex

    Possibly something called ‘reality’ Bob.
    Heard of it?

  47. deccles

    Unbelieveable. Open mouthed, fly catching, unbelievable nonsense. It was drummed into me that ‘Aboriginal’ was not correct, and I was to use Indigenous by an educator. What’s it to be?

    Also if the Australian Government of the Howard era was to treat Aboriginal problems like refugees then a lot of Aboriginals would have been relocated to Christmas Island whether they wanted to be or not. What a total crock of sh-t this post is.

    Next time give the spare kilobytes of the web to Marcia Langton. Please. I beg you.

  48. Mark Duffett

    “You only need to be standing in a line at Coles and Woolies in Darwin or any other city or town in the NT to hear Australians make awful racist remarks while comparing the two groups of peoples – praise and sympathy for one and abuse and denigration for the other.”

    This intrigues me. Why do you think this is? If it’s racism, it’s oddly selective.

  49. Bob Durnan

    So what’s s/he on? I need to know. There is no way I want to risk taking any of it, whatever it is.

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