In last Saturday’s Weekend Australian, Professor Peter Sutton, an internationally recognised anthropologist and linguist, wrote ‘Indigenous identity has become such an attractive option that false claims to it now abound’. If you are not familiar with the considerable body of his work, look him up and then ask yourself why Bruce Pascoe needs no introduction while you weren’t aware of the achievements of Peter Sutton.
Also in the Australian that weekend was an article by Jacinta Price in which she claimed, ‘…the genuine voices of indigenous suffering are being drowned out by the virtue-signalling calls for a “voice” and “recognition”’. What characterises the comments of both Sutton and Price is the impeccable credentials they bring to a debate which is going to dominate the political arena for the life of the new parliament.
Unfortunately their arguments are probably going to be lost in the torrent of comments from the wokerati and their fellow travellers which are going to inundate us in the months ahead. Take this bit of grovelling Greenspeak which is from the Greens’ policy statement which says we must ‘recognise,learn from and seek consent for first nations peoples spiritual, cultural and physical relationship …environment, and their rights and obligations’. I suppose it means something to the Greens.
On a more practical level is Andrew Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation, the aim of which is to establish ‘parity with and for Indigenous Australians within one generation’. Given that the considerable efforts from both the private and public sectors over the past half-century have not had much success, we wish the Minderoo project well. The CEO of the team charged with achieving this goal is Ms Shelley Cable, a young woman who describes herself as ‘a Wilman-Nyoongar woman from Perth’ and therein lies a problem. The numerous photographs of Ms Cable on the Minderoo Foundation website show her to be a well-groomed, attractive person, of what appears to be Caucasian heritage.
I do not, for one moment, wish to imply that Ms Cable does not have a strong connection to ‘Wilman-Noongar’ culture. Nor do I wish to argue that her belief in that connection is not genuine. What I find troublesome is the fact that she is content to describe herself in a way which, to someone who knows nothing about her, would seem to ignore a major part of her genetic inheritance. She is of course not alone in making such a claim. The vast majority of the people of indigenous background who rise to positions of prominence, and are of mixed race descent, never acknowledge the complexity of their ethnic origins. The females, in particular, are always ‘proud Yolngu’ or ‘proud Wiradjuri’ women when clearly, a substantial part of their ancestry must have been the terrible racist white people who stole the land and then went on to steal the children.
It is worth considering why so many ‘indigenous’ public figures choose to avoid an honest discussion of their genetic heritage. In this they stand in contrast to politicians who are keen to spruik the complexities of their heritage. Your average pollie will be proud to emphasise that he or she has a multicultural background but will always identify as an Australian first and foremost. The indigenous community leaders and especially those who frequent the corridors of self-delusion in the ABC Ultimo Centre, almost never identify as Australian. Instead they identify as part of the oppressed minority who are the descendants of people who suffered dispossession and two centuries of discrimination.
The problem with this approach is that it ignores the complexity of the history black white relations in this country. Of course over the past two centuries there was considerable cruelty and injustice. But there were also examples of genuine attempts to work together to develop outback Australia and there were and are hundreds of thousands of children being born from interracial relationships.
Yes, we must recognise that not all the relationships were based on equality of the partners and, in the past, white men frequently used their economic power to obtain sexual favours from Aboriginal women. But the days when, as Stanner so bluntly put it, ‘any woman could be bought for a fingernail of (tobacco) or a spoonful of (tea)’ are long gone. Also gone is the shame of being the product of such relationships. But every day we see intelligent articulate mixed race women appearing on television telling us how proud they are of their indigenous heritage while glossing over the unmistakeable fact that a substantial part of their genetic and cultural heritage is European.
The current emphasis on a ‘truth telling’ emerged from the ‘statement from the heart’ produced five years ago to provide “a Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution providing a practical path forward to…address the issues that governments alone have been unable to solve”. An essential component of this will be “a truth telling about our history” but many of the Yorta Yorta, Djabwurrung, Gunnai Gunditjamara et al., women are simply not telling the truth about their own ancestors. The much-vaunted ‘truth telling’ focuses on a selective view of the past. It isn’t so concerned with truth telling about the present or about the vast discrepancy between the lives of the ABC/Canberra ‘first nations’ mob and the people they claim to represent who live in remote outback settlements. Furthermore, with the full backing of the Labor Party, our new Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Linda Burney, will ensure that, very shortly, we shall be inundated with the sort of feel good statements designed to bring forward a referendum on constitutional amendment. There is going to be a torrent of ‘truth telling’ from privileged middle-class indigenous women who will tell us all about the hardships they faced at school and how difficult it was to get access to free university education.
My own guess is that the majority of Australians have little sympathy with the ideas contained in the Voice Treaty Truth rhetoric. Warren Mundine has said ‘The Uluru Statement made two proposals. One is a “top-down” lawyers’ approach that will certainly fail. The other is a grass roots proposal with overwhelming indigenous support that could be implemented without the need for any referendum. I’m calling time on ten years of discussion on constitutional recognition. We don’t need it’. Unfortunately Mr Mundine’s position of honest pragmatism is probably going to be crushed by the woke steamroller.
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