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Posts Tagged ‘racism against Indigenous Australians’

Black-on-white silhouette of an apparently female figure in a top hat, with the words in white: 2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge (and the url australianwomenwriters.com at the bottom)
We of the Never Never by Jeannie Gunn
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Blurb from Goodreads

An Australian classic. Depicts the enduring hardships of life in the Australian outback and the battles against sexist and racial prejudices.

My review

One of the things I tried to do for this challenge was to read a number of books I have been meaning to read for some time. We of the Never Never was one such book. Because it is an Australian classic from the early 20th century, I expected to find parts of it confronting, and in that, I was not disappointed.

A quick precis: the book is a memoir of the author’s first year on the Elsey, a station in the Northern Territory, several days’ journey (by the modes of transport then available) from Katherine. She is there because she has just married the Elsey’s manager, referred to in the book as “the Maluka” (this is later explained to be a name given to him by the Aboriginal people they have contact with and is, at least, so the author tells us, untranslateable). She is the only non-Aboriginal woman on the Elsey. She tells the story of her journey from Darwin to the Elsey early in the Wet season, and goes on to narrate other episodes, including staffing difficulties, the completion of the homestead and trips out on the station.

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This makes me so angry!

I agree with a lot of what tigtog says in the linked post, and also Michael Brull’s post at Overland.

I did read through all of the reasons for sentence [NB: link is a pdf], and I have some further comments arising out of that.

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… but something about this article strikes me as racist.

It may be the general patronising tone.

It may be the “mystical native” type of sub-heading:

Aborigines have handed down songs and legends about their lands for generations. Today they form an unbroken link to a mythical past – and a key to the future

It may be the misunderstanding of what “Stolen Generations” means:

Australia, the recent movie with Nicole Kidman, dramatises what happened to the “stolen generation”, children born of Aboriginal mothers but fathered by white men, removed from their mothers and sent to missions. But full-blooded Aboriginal children were taken away from their families, too, and this is a story less well-known.

It may be the “only white man can save the Aboriginal past (and it only matters because white man wants to save it)” climax to the piece:

And there is a story, but it’s a story I can’t hear. Part of me wishes they would tell it, because I’m afraid otherwise it may be lost, and what if it is an ancient story? With roads, cars, alcohol, genocide, the destruction of a land and a group of peoples, I’m afraid it will all go away.

But whatever it is, there’s something about that article that strikes me as softly, subtly, dangerously racist.

It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

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DUFC logo

Welcome to the 18th Down Under Feminists’ Carnival! (And apologies for the delay.)

This Carnival has an optional caring theme, thanks to Australian Carers’ Week (which was October 18 to October 24). The theme for this year was “Anyone, Anytime, Across Australia”, which I modified to “Anyone, Anytime” for the purposes of the DUFC.

There wasn’t much sent in on theme, so I’ve expanded the DUFC rules just a little.

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I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in God, nor do I believe there is any inherent supernatural reason not to walk on Uluru.

However, I do believe there are excellent cultural reasons not to walk on Uluru.

I also believe that human rights are important.

However, I don’t believe that your choice to do something as trivial as climb Uluru because it’s there is a human right.

Unlike Kerry van der Jagt and her mates.

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This post will be quite short, but I wanted to briefly discuss Indigenous Australian stories which are available in the Australian mainstream.

I think stories are important. One of the things about being in a minority or an oppressed group is that you get used to seeing people who are “not like you”, to not seeing people who are “like you”, in mainstream stories.

Or, if you do see people who are “like you”, they usually have some special role, no character development, they’re 2D and in black-and-white rather than full colour. Often entirely good or entirely bad.

So I thought that I’d write about the exposure that I had to stories of Indigenous Australians as I was growing up, to illustrate the paucity of information about the Indigenous Australian experience in the (relative) mainstream.

First of all: Dreamtime stories.

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The theme for this year’s Reconciliation Week is “See the person, not the stereotype”.

A couple of months ago, I noticed some ads around the city. Each ad had two faces, and a question (eg “Who would you want to work with?”), and then the words “We’re hoping you couldn’t answer that” and url reconcilation.org.au.

You can see video versions of the ads here (15 seconds each). [Bonus feminist mini-rant: anyone notice anything about (a) those questions and (b) the male:female ratio?]

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