Australia is a systematically and institutionally racist country; that is the story peddled by the Australian Human Rights Commission at last week’s Senate Committee hearings. Well, yes, that must explain why the Aboriginal flag was flying next to the Australian flag up high on the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, as I noticed from the Manly ferry on the weekend. Tourists were happy selfie- snapping it.
I was heading to the Sydney Opera House for an afternoon performance, which was preceded by a lengthy speech naming and recognising the original Indigenous owners of the land, expressing respect to the elders past and present and so on. In the courtyard of the Opera House, a recorded commentary at the information point explains how the recognition statement is an old Aboriginal tradition. (Supposedly invented by Ernie Dingo, a living TV star, I was tempted to remark as I walked by.)
A few days earlier, I saw the Aboriginal flag flying (without the Australian flag) above the Taphouse Hotel on the corner of Flinders St and South Dowling St in East Sydney.
That is obviously how we in Australia flag our widespread prejudice against indigenous Australians. High brow or low brew, we fly the distinctive Aboriginal flag.
There are no corners of society, government, the law or institutions where Aborigines are discriminated against. There is no greater social taboo than to be perceived as insensitive to Aboriginal culture, history and needs. Such has been the depth and tangible effect of the private and public acts of recognition — and the ‘sorry’.
Many indigenous individuals have stepped onto the ladder of opportunity afforded by the institutions and support mechanisms of contemporary Australia. There are Aboriginal sportsmen and women, filmmakers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, politicians (since 1971, two generations ago) and writers, actors, media figures – and, of course, famous musicians and painters.
Note to the mischievous (misguided, uninformed, biased) AHRC: dishonestly talking up institutional racial prejudice does not make racism a reality, nor does it seek to eliminate it. It is an insult to the truth. It demeans you and it demeans Australia. And it is disrespectful to those you profess to support. You are not helping Aborigines by perpetuating a victim status; that’s paternalism – which most Aboriginals rightly reject. You are an institutional reject. Faulty. Not fit for purpose. Seek a remedy.
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