Stan Grant’s book, ‘Talking to My Country’, on Aboriginal Australia

Stan Grant’s book,  ‘Talking to My Country’, on Aboriginal Australia, by Jeremy Sammut.

Following in the wake of the 1967 referendum that gave federal parliament the power to make laws for the benefit of Aborigines, Aboriginal self-determination … replaced the official policy of assimilation that had been adopted under the post-war Menzies government—which envisaged that Aborigines would be absorbed into the Australian community through the extension of full civil rights to Aboriginal people.

Self-determination was instead designed, in theory, to enable indigenous people to return to their “country” to live on their traditional lands in traditional ways, and practise their traditional culture. In practice, however, as Pearson argued, the prevalence of “passive welfare” dependence, along with the grog, drugs and pornography, … [led to] a breakdown measured by the suffering of indigenous people, especially women and children, due to epidemic levels of violence and abuse. Aboriginal self-determination maintained that in order for the nation to be held to account for its original sins of colonisation against Aborigines, “Aboriginal-controlled” organisations had to be empowered to deliver “culturally appropriate”, taxpayer-funded services in Aboriginal communities.

The chief policy innovation of the practical-reconciliation era, in contrast, has been to abandon the separatist approach to indigenous communities (and thus challenge the hegemony of the “Aboriginal industry” of indigenous-specific service providers) and replace race-based provision with the principle of “mainstreaming” health, education, employment and other services so that ideally the same level and quality of services are available to indigenous and non-indigenous Australians alike. This approach, which is designed to “close the gap” by better integrating and elevating the conditions of all indigenous people and communities by accessing the benefits and opportunities available in mainstream society, was first adopted under the Howard government, and has continued under subsequent Labor and Coalition governments.

Here’s an example of why teaching of history matters:

There are some other extraordinary statements expressing Grant’s sense of alienation from “white” Australians and from the nation. He reports, for instance, that while he is friendly with the non-indigenous fathers at his son’s football games on weekends, he feels isolated from these “strangers” because there is a “chasm here”; “I still can’t become one of them … [because] deep down I also know we are speaking a different language”, due to the different stories he believes that white and black Australians tell each other about this country.

Estrangement from the nation, he also says, is acute every time the Australian flag is flown or the national anthem is sung, because all he can think about is the theft, murder, pillage, plunder and destruction of Aboriginal society. Hence when he attended the Sydney 2000 Olympics opening ceremony, the anthem sounded like a “death march” and the celebrations felt “like dancing on our graves”. He did not join in the singing because the anthem and flag were not the true ones of his “lost” country.

hat-tip Stephen Neil