Looking forward and Lest We Forget: two thought-provoking contributions for NAIDOC Week 2018

ABC RN Breakfast this morning had a NAIDOC Week discussion between presenter Hamish Macdonald and four Indigenous Australians, Mikaela Jade (story-telling technology entrepreneur), Evelyn Araluen (poet and Indigenous literature researcher), Kris Rallah-Baker (opthalmologist), and Ben Abbatangelo (education mentor). Well worth a listen (about 15 minutes, no transcript) for what it says about Indigenous Australian successes and inspirations today. Ends with a great poem from Araluen.

Then, yesterday, we found by accident this comment from November 2014 on a Guardian article by Paul Daley. It came from Susan Midalia, a West Australian writer, and it represents a balanced attitude to an element of our Australian history. It is a response to those non-Indigenous Australians who, when confronted with stories of Indigenous-settler clashes and ill treatment and massacres of Indigenous Australians, say, ‘I wasn’t there, I didn’t do it, don’t blame me’.

I understand that individual white people feel anger and resentment about being “made” to feel guilty about the past treatment of Indigenous people. But that misses a couple of crucial points. Firstly, it’s not a question of individual guilt but of collective responsibility; contemporary white culture continues to benefit from the dispossession and victimisation of Indigenous people, and to that extent all members of the dominant white culture, myself included, have an ethical obligation to accept responsibility for past atrocities and loss. Secondly, for Indigenous people, “the past” isn’t over; many of them continue to suffer from the loss of their language, culture, family and land – the devastating effects of white colonisation.

Our collection ‘First Peoples’ has resources dated 2014-17.

David Stephens

13 July 2018