First Peoples September-December 2016

Past and future: the 1966 equal pay case; progress on treaties (20 December 2016)

Barrister Hal Wootten recalls the lack of involvement of Indigenous people in the 1966 case on equal pay for Indigenous stockmen. The Inside Story article has many insights into the attitudes of the barristers involved in the case.

What appalled [Sir Richard] Kirby was not “deliberate ill-treatment” or the conditions on the cattle stations in particular (he had visited only a carefully selected few), but the condition of Aborigines in the Territory generally. As much on the missions as on the cattle stations, Aborigines were “degraded.” “Even when treated kindly they seemed to be regarded as a mixture between dogs and cattle and sub-human beings.”

Harry Hobbs in The Conversation looks at moves under way in jurisdictions for treaties with Indigenous peoples.

They [treaties] offer the potential to revitalise – but also overtake – a flagging process to recognise the First Australians in the Constitution … [Treaties] could represent a break from a system that for many years has disregarded the views of Indigenous Australians and reinforced their feelings of powerlessness.

Indigenous women artists at Ian Potter Centre, Melbourne, till April (16 December 2016)

Brigid Delaney writes in Guardian Australia about the Who’s Afraid of Colour exhibition. ‘Many people assume Indigenous art begins and ends with dot paintings, but there is an incredible variety of artistic styles on display in this exhibition.’

Human Rights Commission report shows lack of progress on Indigenous deaths in custody (3 December 2016)

This report is here. Speaking about the report, Social Justice and Native Title Report 2016, the commission’s Robynne Quiggin said

the lack of action was disrespectful to the work the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people put into the commission, which ran from 1987 to 1991. “It’s really unforgivable, I think, that we have seen the failure to commit to implementing the recommendations of the royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody,” she told Guardian Australia. “We were starting to see change after the royal commission and that has just fallen away and fallen away until we have the shameful statistics now.”

The Indigenous imprisonment rate has doubled in the years since the royal commission handed down its final report, from 14.4% in 1991 to 28% in 2016.

First Contact: critical reviews from Amy McQuire in New Matilda, Jack Latimore in Guardian Australia and Celeste Liddle in Fairfax; what’s really happening in ‘Indigenous affairs’; Stan Grant (2 December 2016)

Darumbul woman Amy McQuire has a detailed analysis of the SBS series First Contact. There were more than 30 comments.

[T]hat’s what Australian racism thrives on – the dehumanisation of Aboriginal people, it is given new life through painting Aboriginal people as ‘victims’, as degenerates, as incapable of agency and control. That dehumanisation helped justify the colonial project – the stealing of land, the attack on culture, and the slaughter of our people. All of this is tied up in the founding of this country, and the wealth it enjoys.

All of these ‘well-known’ Australians are successful, and they are successful because of the oppression of Aboriginal people. They live in the ‘lucky country’, precisely because there are those who were ‘unlucky’.

Goori man Jack Lattimore in Guardian Australia said First Contact catered to the voyeurism of non-Indigenous viewers. ‘It was extremely difficult to watch five celebrity types and a squinty former political adviser perpetuate Aboriginal stereotypes and cultural falsehoods on a magical mystery tour of black Australia.’ Arrerrnte woman Celeste Liddle in Fairfax says, ‘If there is one thing Australia needs more of, it’s bigots telling us all about Aboriginal people on TV’.

Also riffing off television shows (ABC this time) but going further was Elise Klein in The Conversation, as part of a series triggered by a recent call from Larissa Behrendt for more publicity to be given to Indigenous initiatives that counter negative stereotypes, the contrast being with the recent Productivity Commission report which emphasised gaps. Both the Behrendt statement and the Commission report can be found by scrolling down (22 November and 17 November). Larissa Behrendt has written a chapter for the Honest History book.

Stan Grant’s new Quarterly Review is also relevant on the range of Indigenous experience. There is an extract here. He also makes some points directly relevant to the Honest History project (and the Honest History book).

Anzac Day, Invasion Day: are they not each, in their way, our attempt to make the world intelligible? We render these memorials as quasi-myths to make a devastating loss more bearable. History, myth, memory and forgetting: these are the things of identity.

First Contact; Indigenous art in the face of a hostile culture (29 November 2016)

Tom Ballard on insights coming from his participation in the First Contact series on SBS.

We reckoned with the realities of alcohol abuse, suicide, tradition, culture and lore, constitutional recognition, housing and poverty, incarceration rates, the stolen generations, education, language and symbolism.

We met some extraordinary Indigenous people who were gracious enough to welcome us (and our cameras) into their homes and tell us about their lives, their culture and their view of history. Some of them are proud leaders in their community, dedicated to improving their people’s lot. Others are still recovering from and are furious about the impact that Australia’s structural racism has had on their lives. Others, like so many of their fellow citizens, are just trying to get by.

Eugenia Flynn on how Indigenous art and culture are forms of resistance to racist white Australia.

[D]espite it being 2016, mainstream Australia still does not want to engage with Indigenous stories. As reported by the Australia Council for the Arts, the understanding is that “… audiences wanted to be entertained, not lectured or told “how guilty I should be for being white”.

In sharing this perspective, once again, racist Australia proves that Indigenous culture is viewed by them as threatening. However, with more and more Indigenous Australians practicing culture and sharing stories through art, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will continue to resist. We will resist this perception and negate the stereotype.

Indigenous culture and urban planning; Indigenous women and domestic violence (22 November 2016 updated)

Guardian Australia has: Paul Daley’s review of a new book on Australian and Canadian experience of dealing with the claims of Indigenous people in urban environments: Larissa Behrendt on the work being done by Indigenous women to reduce the levels of violence against them. Behrendt’s article is one of a series, which also includes Lilly Brown on the need to educate journalists about domestic violence in Indigenous communities. (Both Daley and Behrendt have chapters in the forthcoming Honest History book.)

Productivity Commission report on overcoming Indigenous disadvantage; Indigenous domestic violence (17 November 2016)

The Productivity Commission report reveals a mixed picture and a lack of evaluation of the success or otherwise of programs. Professor Marcia Langton and others call for action on domestic violence in Indigenous families: ABC; Fairfax; Guardian Australia; News; Huffington Post.

Another report on Indigenous suicides; Aboriginal boarding school for girls (15 November 2016)

Anthony Dillon in The Conversation on a Commonwealth report on the factors contributing to Indigenous suicide and to better prevention. The report looks at the links between sexual abuse and suicide, the importance of locally-run solutions, and the need for ‘”upstream approaches” which include improving such social determinants of health as sense of belonging, stability, and hope’. Plus employment and empowerment.

Suicide results from feeling hopeless and helpless, and employment plays a significant role in restoring hope and creating opportunities for a meaningful life …

The report stresses the need to “acknowledge and understand the devastating and enduring impact of the colonial legacy on Indigenous people’s contemporary lives”. While it’s fine to acknowledge historical injustices, it’s disempowering to let this form the overarching narrative of our lives.

Jane Cowan’s photo essay on the ABC website on the work being done by the Worawa Aboriginal College to empower young Indigenous women.

Treaty; archaelogy; Abbott; Arabana Country (6-8 November 2016)

An article in the Age wonders if the site has been found on which to agree a Treaty. A significant archaelogical find in the Flinders Ranges. (More on this from Giles Hamm.)  Paul Daley doubts the credentials of Tony Abbott to be Indigenous Affairs minister. Some nice photographs of Lake Eyre (one of which is below).

adam-williams_kati-thanda-lake-eyre_2016_003(The Monthly/Adam Williams)

Arguments for Treaty (31 October 2016)

White journalist Jeff McMullen in New Matilda presents arguments for Treaty.

Around this country I have sat with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for some 50 years. I am certain that I share their deepest belief that rather than minimalist and near meaningless incremental change, Australia needs a bold and hopeful Treaty with its First Peoples.

Indigenous children’s health (including speech and hearing); incarceration inquiry (27 October 2016)

Tom Calma in The Conversation on how discrimination and stress impacts on the health of Indigenous children. NACCHO on an encouraging project to improve speech and hearing among Indigenous children. Attorney-General Brandis announces an inquiry into rates of incarceration of Indigenous Australians.

Indigenous social media; early boomerang fatality (18 October 2016)

Bronwyn Carlson in The Conversation reviews a dozen Indigenous social media wranglers, quoting Luke Pearson about the importance of the medium:

[D]igital technologies, and in particular social media, can be a significant tool for connection, empowerment, education, employment, the ongoing struggle for social justice, and Reconciliation. In fact, whatever issue is being addressed (or is not, as the case may be), I believe the digital world can assist.

Nicholas St Fleur writes in the New York Times about the discovery on the Darling River of the skeleton of an Indigenous man from perhaps the 13th century AD who may be the earliest known victim of a boomerang attack. Archaelogists led by Michael Westaway of Griffith University investigated.

It was clear that Kaakutja [the name given to the skeleton] was killed by a traditional weapon, but the team was puzzled by what that wooden weapon could have been. No one had ever seen trauma such as this in Australia’s archaeological history, they said. They started reading into the ethnohistory of the Aboriginals and looking at cave paintings for clues.

Generations are still being stolen (9 October 2016)

Michael Lavarch writes in Guardian Australia that Indigenous children are being removed from their families at a higher rate than at the time of the 2008 Apology.

The separation of Aboriginal children from their families during the assimilation period of public policy caused enormous harm to Australia’s Indigenous community. Successive federal governments have endeavoured to respond to the consequences of the policies but it is a fundamental misconception to believe child separation on a wholesale basis is an experience of the past.

Indigenous culture is something for all Australians to share and be enriched by (8 October 2016)

Rhoda Roberts writes in Guardian Australia to mark the Homeground cultural festival in Sydney.

As Australians, when we think deeply about our connection to the land, we can only be led by Australia’s first people. Spirituality is intrinsic in our songlines and in all the ways that these are expressed – yes in song, but also in dance and through visual arts.

See related articles by Larissa Behrendt, Chris Sarra and Paul Daley.

Learning Indigenous language online; Indigenous rights recognition in cities; Indigenous citizenship’s history (6 October 2016)

Greg Dickson in The Conversation on a new online interactive documentary about learning the Marra language of the Gulf Country. There is a link to the doco. Libby Porter, also in The Conversation, on issues surrounding recognising of Indigenous land and cultural rights in urban areas. Alison Holland (The Conversation again) on the history of moves towards Indigenous citizenship.

The need for a keeping place for Indigenous remains (27 September 2016)

Paul Daley argues in Guardian Australia that we need a place to keep Indigenous remains, particularly those that are repatriated from overseas museums.

Increasingly, museums that supposedly serve as portals into Indigenous worlds must re-evaluate whether their primary purposes rest in collecting or repatriating, keeping or returning. These vexing questions are challenging some of the world’s oldest collecting institutions with significant Aboriginal holdings, including theBritish Museum, which has some 6,000 Indigenous Australian pieces in its collection.

Indigenous ‘health care”s brutal history; DNA tells a story; death of John Mulvaney, archaeologist of Indigenous Australia (22 September 2016 updated)

Melissa Sweet, Kerry McCallum and Lynore Geia look at the history of lock hospitals of the Western Australian coast. More from these authors. Michael Westaway and colleagues use DNA to take a new look at the origins of Aboriginal Australians and how their population has changed over 50 000 years. ABC report. Larissa Behrendt on traditional culture as another way into thousands of years of Indigenous history.

John Mulvaney died yesterday aged 90. He would have been following the DNA story closely.

ABC does a number on Recognition (21 September 2016)

Paul Daley and Jack Latimore write in Guardian Australia about an ABC TV program which has Linda Burney MP and Andrew Bolt sparring about Recognition, which the former supports and the latter opposes. Both reviewers found the format – and the choice of Bolt as a protagonist – bizarre. On the issue, Daley writes: ‘They [Indigenous opponents of Recognition] are concerned Recognise will impede a dramatically re-energised treaty movement and the ongoing fight to have sovereignty (and not just the people to whom it belongs) rightfully recognised and appropriately – finally – reckoned with’.

‘New racism’ surveyed in the Northern Territory (20 September 2016)

Report of a survey in the Territory which ‘shows most Indigenous people feel judged, stereotyped and disregarded by white people’. The authors look at how ‘new racism’ is manifested in ‘everyday disregard’. ‘While it is essential to maintain programs to tackle Indigenous disadvantage, what is missing from the picture is an understanding of the problems caused by white attitudes.’

Senator Malarndirri McCarthy’s Maiden Speech in the Senate (16 September 2016)

Really worth a listen and a read. ‘My kujika [songline] has allowed me to see both worlds—that of the Western world view and that of the Yanyuwa/Garrawa world view. I am at home in both. I am neither one, without the other.’

Maxine Beneba Clarke’s book reviewed; Indigenous children’s trachoma neglected (15 September 2016 updated)

Brenda Walker in The Monthly reviews Maxine Beneba Clarke’s memoir, The Hate Race. ‘Maxine Beneba Clarke’s memoir is likely to precipitate the kind of conversations about racism that Australia badly needs.’ Yet Clarke is of West Indian descent. Does her story have resonance for settler-Indigenous relations also?

Racism is the “sport” of schoolchildren; in some cases it is seen as “teasing”. She is rightly angry “that the school did little to combat the insidious racism I dealt with on a daily basis, but was happy to … parade me and the rest of their ‘multicultural contingent’ around when the circumstances suited”.

In the other piece, Hugh Taylor, Emma Stanford and Fiona Lange in The Conversation ask why is trachoma still blinding Indigenous children when white Australia eliminated it a century ago. The article links to two forthcoming pieces on rheumatic heart conditions and otitis media (middle ear infection) among Indigenous children. More on ear problems in Indigenous children.

Language, counting and Native Police (5 September 2016 updated)

Monica Tan in Guardian Australia on reviving the Pakana language of Tasmania, earlier articles from Monica Tan and Helen Davidson, and Jakelin Troy today. (Guardian Australia has had a series on language.)

Ray Norris (The Conversation) busts some myths on the limitations of Indigenous counting. He asks: ‘So why do some people believe the generalised view that all Aboriginal people can’t count beyond four when there is abundant evidence to the contrary?’ Claire Bowern responds.

A seminar in Queensland looked at the role of the Native Police there in the 19th century. There was a report in Guardian Australia from Joshua Robertson which attracted 322 comments. ‘It’s blatant war and genocide’, said Indigenous activist Sam Watson of the history of Indigenous-settler contact in Queensland. ‘It’s cold-blooded murder. And these stories were handed down through grandparents, uncles and aunties. We lived through that. So you can dress it up all you like.’ Words like ‘colonisation’ and ‘settlement’ were euphemisms.

It is 150 years since the first regulations empowering Queensland Native Police to ‘disperse’ any ‘large assembly of blacks without unnecessary violence’. Professor Megan Davis traced Indigenous youth distrust of law enforcement to the legacy of the Native Police. More broadly, she said,

One of the big obstacles or roadblocks I suspect to having the nation understand the kinds of problems that occur in our communities is the nation doesn’t actually understand what happened … It is impossible to have a conversation about this, there is just this continual denial and resistance to having conversations about our history.

Watson summed up: ‘Until white Australia acknowledges that fact that they’re on this country [that’s] drenched with the blood and suffering of our mob, and this land is stolen … then don’t even bother having reconciliation marches’.

Professor Mark Finnane acknowledged the estimate of Indigenous deaths in Queensland at the hands of Native Police was somewhere between 10 000 and 60 000. The work of Raymond Evans and Robert Ørsted-Jensen is relevant, as are the articles of Paul Daley linked from the Honest History website (use our Search engine or the author list).

‘Noongarpedia’ is Australia’s first Indigenous Wikipedia (2 September 2016)

Monica Tan writes in Guardian Australia about efforts by the Noongar people of south-west Western Australia to preserve their language. The front page of the website has a welcome to country, seen as a subtle departure from the traditional Wikipedia.

Kaya wanju gnullar NoongarPedia. Gnullar waarnkniy kwop kwop birdiyah wiern, maaman, yorga, koorlinga. Gnullar waarnkiny noonar yoorl koorliny waarnkiny nidja NoongarPedia. / Welcome to our Noongarpedia. We speak in good spirit of our ancestors, spirits, men, women and children. We hope you come and contribute to our Noongarpedia.