Feb 5, 2012

Posted by in Political comment, Social comment | 0 Comments

It’s time to reconcile reconciliation

It is a legitimate expectation of governments that they spend taxpayer funds wisely, even if this maxim is so frequently honoured in the breach. Almost a Greek tradition, one might say!

In this spirit, I am grateful to the rowdy ratbags who displayed their true colours on Australia Day at the Lobby Restaurant in Canberra. Such was the heady aphrodisiac of that eventful afternoon that they had a real morning-after outside Parliament the next day with a burning of the national flag.  Just not sure their spittle was intended to extinguish the flames.

Remarkably, the symbolism of these two events appears to have truly registered on the national psyche though in a way quite contrary to what the aboriginal cause may have wanted to achieve. For many, this appears to have been a seminal turning point. And, yes, it is valid to recognise that these were the actions of the few and not the many. As such they should not be used to hold guilty those who neither took part nor endorsed such protests. Yet, as with a genie out of a bottle, getting it back in can be a bugger.

Over the past four decades we have provided untold assistance packages, welfare programs, support services, interventions and just plain handouts to assist the cause of aboriginal betterment. But on every front we are told that things have not improved and may even have become worse. How could this be? It is clear to all that real change has not been achieved.

It is time for a reconciliation of accounts to determine value for money.

It is time to uncover the truth of what four decades of assistance have achieved.

It is time for a Royal Commission into aboriginal welfare.

Let us start with tallying the outlays. So, from the instigation of the aboriginal tent embassy in Canberra let us be told just how much funding has been applied to aboriginal betterment, welfare, reconciliation and allied issues. This is the foundation of any assessment. Debate as to effectiveness may well be inconclusive yet it is surely a debate that must be had. We keep getting told, after all, that the eyes of other nations are upon us as we consider amending our constitution to entrench aboriginal advancement. Frankly they appear to have their own share of problems. Certainly, the down-trodden, oppressed masses in the rest of the world could only pray for the largesse the Australian people have lavished on our own indigenous peoples.

And while on the subject of the so-called aboriginal tent embassy, let us acknowledge the farce that it is. After four decades, any potency of symbolism has waned to the point of irrelevance. Worse is that the occupiers appear entirely unaware of the fraudulent nature of their ‘permission to remain’. If there is a sadder example of white, middle-class patronage than the generally well-off Canberra residents tolerating this smudge on their otherwise orderly landscape, it is difficult to imagine. How smug they must generally feel to know they are playing their part in the advancement of indigenous people by letting them have their little plaything in the heart of town. Such a patroinising pat on the  head. Quite sad, really, but there are none so blind as those who refuse to see.

As for the rest of us racist, rapist invaders, let us shrug off the yoke of tyranny we allegedly have imposed on this land’s traditional owners. Let us treat them with the respect they deserve and be mindful of the injustice their forebears suffered. Yet history cannot be rewritten. What has been done cannot be undone and none of us today had any part in the events of yesteryear so we cannot legitimately bear the guilt some try to impose on us. Those who cannot or will not get over their grievances must pay the price of such angst. But if they wish to bite the hand that feeds them then let them at least know how much feed they have had.

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