Friday, 22 June 2007

Do I Smell An Election?

I photographed these kids at Kalumburu, a remote community on the north Kimberley coast , in 2003.

Are there any Australian voters out there who aren't even the tiniest bit cynical of politicians nowadays? Unfortunately, my cynicism is threatening to overwhelm my enjoyment of life, both in the present and in the next 4 months or so, if rumours of a federal election later in the year are correct. I have become an obsessive channel-surfer of both TV and soon as a politician raises his / her head / voice, the finger twitches ,the groan escapes involuntarily from my lips and that channel or station is gone!

Money is being so liberally splashed around by a Coalition government with fear of defeat in its eyes, that I'm expecting at any moment John Howard will even mumble that word not previously in his vocabulary.....SORRY! At that moment, all of us who have argued for reconciliation with Aboriginal Australia will swoon in a collective faint!

This post was originally going to celebrate the Howard government's 'Ah Ha and Light Bulb On' moment it had on the plight of the majority of Aboriginal Australians. It announced a national emergency this week on the crisis in many Aboriginal communities in the face of growing child sexual abuse and issues related to grog. For years and years, the Federal governments have ignored, belittled or dismissed calls for sincere and straightforward leadership and a REAL commitment to improving the lives of Aboriginal people.

So...we now have a government-decreed national emergency! Yep, I sure can smell an election. And, yes, you can call me Queen of the Cynics!


Sally said...

Caba, I agree with you 100%.

I think the good ship Mutijulu just sailed over the horizon. As election stunts go, this is a corker - tapping Australians' core racism towards Indigenous is a winner. And with the rights' darling du jour, Knowall Pearson laying the groundwork, it's Howard all over.

The drama of the "Parliamentary recall" is the stuff of great theatrics. There's been 10 years of his govt to listen to the Aboriginal voices and read the reports, and understand that there are critical issues. Of which there have been no shortage, but outside the "media elites" (confined, essentially, to The SMH and The Age, and ABC and SBS), absolutely no interest.

As former Fraser Minister, Fred Chaney. asked on AM today: Just where ARE all the teachers, doctors, professionals going to come from? Howard's solution is to "send in the army", East Timor, Solomon islands, Iraqi style.

(Earlier this week, Howard was getting stuck into the Iraqi leadership, blaming them for the devesattion and lawlessnes sin the wake of the coalition of the willing's invasion. This sets up a situation where, once it fails, Aborigines can be apportioned all the blame (AGAIN, STILL) and dispossessed of any self-determination , and land. Perhaps sent to mission-style welfare stations. And unlike with the refugee gulags in the desert, there aren't any pesky human rights lawyers and concerned whingeing psychiatrists on hand to raise issues of human rights, because they've already been trumped by Knowall)

This from 7:30 report last night is interesting (Alexis Wright just won the Miles Franklin Award for literature):


KERRY O'BRIEN: What do you think of where Aboriginal people are today in terms of gains and losses in your lifetime?

ALEXIS WRIGHT: Well, I'm very disappointed. I've worked for many years and so have many other Aboriginal people have worked for many years trying to do a lot of things with poor resources and often very poor policies from government and I think we're at a all time low.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Exactly 10 years ago you wrote a book called Grog War about the impact of alcohol on the Aboriginal people in Tennant Creek. In the past two weeks two more reports, one from the Northern Territory, one from Noel Pearson's Cape York Institute. Fundamentally about the same issues. You must feel very frustrated when you see today's headlines and reflect on how little you've travelled down that road?

ALEXIS WRIGHT: Well, that's right. The book that I wrote for the people, the Aboriginal people in Tennant Creek, the Warramunga people, Grog War, it is a book that they asked me to do to document 10 years of an enormous struggle that they had to introduce some pretty, I don't think they were major restrictions, simple restrictions to the availability of alcohol in Tennant Creek and they took 10 years just to bring in some restrictions in that town and they had to fight every inch of the way. When the restrictions came in, that created even more problems of licencees for instance not wanting to honour of those restrictions, other people not wanting to honour those restrictions.

Aboriginal soilutions to problems consistently get subverted by white fellas holding the trump cards . . alcohol distribution is a white fella money-makier and Aboriginal attempts at introducing dry communitites were resisted.

The real target of this will definitely include amendment to the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act 9178, and in particular the land councils, and the very strong inalienable freehold enjoyed by the Land Trusts (which includes land bought with federal funds over the years). It is arguably the strongest freehold title held by any Indigenous peoples anywhere in the world.

There really are politicians and bureaucrats who wake up every morning vowing to wipe out the land councils - it is a hot issue for conservatives of a particular bent. I still don't quite see why protection of Indigenous children requires attacking some of these rights, why you need compulsory acquisition powers, or why the state v territory issue is front & centre, unless you have the ideological agenda described above.

Michelle said...

Thanks Jude for your thoughts on my garden mishap.

I love that picture you have of the two kids at Kalumburu. I've been fortunate to experience first hand those lovely smiles and giggles a few years back when I was involved with some Walpiri youngins.
Let's hope that irrespective of the motives the fact that the Idigineous issue has suddenly gone National will mean that the situation will be the actual focus.
The politics involved make it a contencious issue and too many words on the political aspect pose a risk to the actual issue becoming sidelined.

I for one have decided that if I am to discuss it even just amongst friends I will give more energy and breath to the actual plight of the people concerned and not the politics.

So if I may I will start right here...if I count up the words in my text above starting at "The politics....sidelined" it equals 25 words.

My breath now must surpass those 25 words with something about the people: Here goes:

A few years back I was blessed to be involved with some young idigenous children. Not in a big way, certainily not as big as their smiles. We met via sport each week. They taught me about humour, kinship, loyalty and language. They showed me what a true grin is. They stripped away from me every stereotype that I had learnt. Indigenous culture is beautiful and gracious and is being swallowed up by a dark insideous wave of destruction.
(76 words)

Year on when we look into the dark faces, the aged and weary eyes, we need be able to still see those young smiling faces.
RIP Brittany 8yrs
Ali Curung Angel

(sorry Jude for saying so much)

Sue "Sioux" Seibert said...

Yup, and we here in the USA are having an election, as well...yup, politicians are politicians around the globe!