ROK-march09c Aboriginal flags fly during the Naidoc Week march through Rockhampton CHRIS ISON CI09-0710-5
ROK-march09c Aboriginal flags fly during the Naidoc Week march through Rockhampton CHRIS ISON CI09-0710-5 Chris Ison

'We need to take responsibility in race debate'

YOUR SAY: ONCE past the anger and name-calling, you can see the compassion side of A. R. Kenny's response (4/4) to Mark Copland's article about the impacts of placing at risk indigenous kids with non-indigenous carers.

Kenny acknowledges that Aboriginal people have been dispossessed and their traditional ways of life wrecked by European settlement. Further, they write even though we seem unable to fix this damage, we have to keep trying.

The anger in the letter seems to arise from frustration with the lack of success to date in fixing the damage.

Compassion is not much use without understanding of the context. Kenny writes "For various reasons … they (Aboriginal people) have a great degree of difficulty coping with our culture." Therein lies the problem - lack of understanding.

Firstly, there's no "they". Aboriginal people are not one group. They come from diverse backgrounds, live in diverse situations. Many live in poverty, and that's a key fact to remember in this context.

Secondly, the "great degree of difficulty" lies not in coping with white culture but actually lies in white Australians expecting that Aboriginal people will assimilate into white culture.

Thirdly, the "struggle" appears to me not to arise from failure to adapt, but from having to cope with the destruction of an ancient way of life, its culture and its languages and the lack of acknowledgement of this destruction and dispossession - in short, a theft of identity, land and heritage, as well as the ongoing humiliation of being ignored, of having every reconciliatory gesture they make rejected by politicians and others in power.

To fix this problem, it's we white Australians who have to do what we keep telling migrants and refugees to do - assimilate!

We have to learn about Aboriginal culture and ideas and languages and ways of life.

Most importantly, we have to acknowledge the truths in our shared history - as hideous as they are. We have to learn about the diverse ways people identify as indigenous.

When I write "we", I include myself, we all need to start this journey if we want things to change for indigenous people.

I've found it especially educative to read or listen to indigenous voices speaking on their home turf about things that concern them: Indigenous publications, such as National Indigenous Times; NITV; listen to programs such as Awaye of ABCRN.

We have to take responsibility for our own ignorance and deal with it, before we can tell Aboriginal people what to do about improving their lives.

PHIL ARMIT, Toowoomba



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