In 1967, 55 years ago, a referendum was held in Australia to allow a change to the Constitution that would remove the last impediment to the recognition of our Aboriginal people as full citizens. Australians are slow to accept constitutional changes: we have held 44 referenda since Federation, but only eight returned a positive result. Yet the 1967 referendum succeeded dramatically – 90.77% voted YES. …
What propaganda has wrought:
Half a century later this has mostly been forgotten. In our modern and pessimistic world few can imagine, few can even bring themselves to believe, that their grandparents actually felt strongly about the Aboriginal cause. Isn’t it common knowledge that my generation were vicious racists? …
You can meet many older people (if you try) who went to school with Aboriginal mates and played sport with them. They’ll often tell you now that things have changed since those times, and that mutual suspicion has gradually squeezed out friendship. The two communities are actually growing further apart, not closer as we hoped they would. That was just a dream some of us had.
Throughout the years of my early schooling I can recall no ill will towards Aborigines. Those who taught us about them did so with respect, warmth and not a little sadness. We all knew that we had taken their land, but we also knew that, in the cities at least, their dispossession had been complete and that there was no way back — especially at a time when immigration into Australia was further enriching the mix and changing our understanding of what it meant to be Australian. From the Fifties onwards ‘New Australians’ were living side by side with us, and with the oldest Australians of all; our agreed common goal was integration.
Since these exciting events two generations ago relations between the ethnic groups have actually worsened. Millions have been spent, millions have been wasted (or worse), interracial discord has grown more bitter, Aborigines continue to feel neglected, and poorer ‘white’ people are becoming increasingly resentful of financial advantages going to fellow citizens who ‘identify’ as indigenous.
Aboriginal elders are very concerned by the growing number of people who assert aboriginality on the basis of the most tenuous family links (or none at all), for they know their whole community could suffer reputational damage from false claims.
That’s how I recall growing up in the 1960s in western NSW. People are people and get along. We sort ourselves out if everyone is treated respectfully and the same, as individuals. The climate seems to be much worse now.
The problem seems to be caused by those who make their living using government money to “look after” aboriginals. Talk about a vested interest!
What if we simply didn’t discriminate at all on the basis of race, but only of need? Radical thought, I know, because it would put a lot of racists and activists out of a job.