Getting right and Closing the Gap: Honest History miscellany

How settler Australia gets right with Indigenous Australia is a nation-shaping issue connected intricately to our shared history. The prime minister’s Closing the Gap report today will be scanned closely and judgements made as to ‘how far’ and ‘what next’. The prime minister’s speech is reported here. Full text. He also made a speech to a breakfast. Michelle Grattan summarises. Below are links to some relevant articles. We do not claim they are representative but all of them are worth reading.

  • Stan Grant, journalist of Wiradjuri heritage, anticipates the PM’s report. He writes of ‘the malaise that today sits at the heart of too many Indigenous communities and lives. It is framed by suspicion, mistrust and often hostility to governments.’
  • Paul Daley in Guardian Australia says the big picture of ‘dismal failure’ does not change, despite minor improvements from year to year. A new start would involve real engagement with a wide range of blackfellas who now ‘struggle to be heard above a select, handpicked few whose views largely reinforce those of whitefella politicians’.
  • Cobbie Cobbie woman and law professor at UNSW, Megan Davis, wrote in December in The Monthly about the current state of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs, commencing her article with the word ‘Despair’. Among other remarks, she noted that ‘oblivious to the greatest upheaval in decades, earnest folk retweet support for recognition while the manifestations of the ancient culture that such an act would reify face obliteration around the country’. (Megan Davis also has an article in Griffith Review 51, issue reviewed here.
  • Chris Graham, editor of New Matilda, reports on the widespread opposition among Indigenous Australians to the current Reconciliation process. He says a meeting of 500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Melbourne unanimously passed a motion that ‘We as Sovereign People reject Constitutional Recognition’. He also comments on Closing the Gap.
  • While who is the responsible minister nowhere near determines outcomes, this recent blog by Michael Dillon (background in Indigenous policy) makes some salient points, including about the complexity of the policy environment. He asks: ‘Do we as a nation get the ministers for Indigenous affairs we deserve?’
  • ABC Triple J post on seven young Indigenous Australians, presented as role models. ‘Amid promises from the PM to better engage with Indigenous people in “hope and optimism rather than entrenched despair”, Hack has spoke with seven legends in the fields of education, heritage, climate advocacy, media and health who are each fighting to “close the gap”.’
  • The Conversation posted articles on Indigenous retirement savings being lower, Indigenous students needing a boost into vocational and tertiary, and early childhood, education, and the political barriers to change.
  • Darumbul woman, Amy McQuire, analyses the report on New Matilda.
  • Finally, we provide a link to the full text of a book first published in 1989. It is called Singing the Land, Signing the Land, and it was written by Helen Watson, the Yolngu community at Yirrkala NT and David Wade Chambers and published by Deakin University. ‘In Australia’, says the Preface to the book, ‘there is a pressing need to recognise the stature of Aboriginal modes of thought, especially in their approaches to the understanding of nature’. That is one of many timeless issues.

10 February 2016 updated




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