In the Media – National Indigenous Times

Conscious, sub-conscious or unconscious – mainstream news is all DANGEROUS to me!

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Category: Opinion
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The comments which appear following many mainstream media articles regarding Aboriginal issues (regardless of the content) by mainstream Australian society are what really interest me.

It is here at the end of an article where we get to see clearly what we are up against. We get to see the unabashed opinion of “Mr and Mrs Mainstream” and every so often “Mr and Mrs Laterally Violent” too.

Looking here and wading through the dregs, it is heart wrenchingly apparent the amount of work that still needs to be done to educate the masses of this country about the truth and reality confronting Aboriginal peoples.

One article, published recently in the Sydney Morning Herald by columnist, author, architecture critic and essayist, Elizabeth Farrelly entitled “Protecting a cultural right to abuse” is a classic example.

Ms Farrelly’s piece was, in my view, rubbish. It was insulting to Aboriginal people and told me Ms Farrelly really has no understanding of the issues confronting our people, despite the many credits following her name. But her uneducated views are given credibility only by an equally uneducated mainstream media and consequently the “mainstream Mr and Mrs Australia” follow. Ms Farrelly’s article had attracted 47 comments at the time I wrote this and it is the comments from “mainstream Mr and Mrs Australia” that I found even more disheartening than Ms Farrelly’s article.

I am not going to comment on the content of Ms Farrelly’s article any further other than to say mainstream journalism has a lot to answer for and if anyone is going to attempt to write articles about Aboriginal peoples or Aboriginal culture or Aboriginal heritage they should arm themselves with all the facts and knowledge first.

This article left much to be desired in terms of “care journalism” or in demonstrating Ms Farrelly had any real grasp of the issues we, as Aboriginal peoples, face within this racist place many call the “lucky” country.

It is why all attempts must be made to eliminate the glaringly stereotypical views lurking in the shadows of this demoralising national psyche where we as Aboriginal people find ourselves.

What I want to get to the bottom of is this: Is this “national psyche” a conscious, subconscious or unconscious reckoning? Either way all three options are equally as dangerous in my mind and will be detrimental to us achieving cultural safety as we stand today.

The cultural safety for our Aboriginal and Islander (including the Torres Strait) children and our future generations needs to have happened yesterday. Our kids are going to be expected to have the ability to gain equality for themselves (Closing the Gap etc, etc, etc) so there is the opportunity for each and every one of our children to reach their full potential. As it stands this is currently at stake in devastatingly dire proportions.

We must not allow “ignorant” Australia to continue holding these and many more demoralising and misguided views of our First Nations peoples, our history, our lives and our culture.

Here is a small sample of the comments from “Mr and Mrs mainstream Australia” about the article published in the Sydney Morning Herald by Elizabeth Farrelly:

Comment 1: “Excellent article! By actively preserving cultures that embrace human abuse at their core we are contributing to the problem. Instead of spending money on preserving Aboriginal culture we should shut it down. The same should apply to Muslims and any other culture that violates the rights that we hold core to our society.”

Comment 2: “We HAVE to break the cycle. Didn’t we try once? The Stolen Generations? All those Aboriginal lawyers and doctors crying over their lost parents… and then seeing them in the bush and being thankful for the life that ‘whitey’ gave them. Complex issue! I am a simple person without much compassion. One strike rule! Abuse your child, we take it. Do it again to another child, life in GOAL. Rape a woman or child, castration. There is NO soft and fuzzy way to break the cycle.”

And then there was this piece of multiculturalist “lucky country” gold …

Comment 3: “The tough part here is defining the culture. The religion of Islam is not much different to Christianity. The culture of the people who happen to be Muslim has barely crawled from the dark ages. I question WHY we import these people but that is another matter. They are here now. A tough stance is the only way. Zero tolerance. Human rights and the law MUST see EVERYONE equally.”

And another. Comment 4: “A stone age people is, let’s be honest, living on the edge of survival. The culture that goes with that is likely to be violent and abusive of the weak and the vulnerable. Why is that even slightly surprising? What is surprising is that the violence is now being defended as acceptable, or as exclusively a white problem or a problem that white people caused. Plainly nonsense.”

And this piece, comment 5: “I shot a doco in a far western NSW Aboriginal community once as a film study. I didn’t know what the story would be or what I’d get from talking to locals and community leaders. In less than three hours I had heard dozens of stories about sexual abuse, violence, rape, under aged sex, drug abuse and suicide.

“I saw half the town line up outside the pub waiting for it to open on welfare day and by lunch time strung out adults laying on mattresses drunk and fighting in the park. Most distressing I saw two kids one maybe 7 or 8 the other around 5 or 6 with snotty noses, glazed eyes, staggering around with tin cans hanging around their necks full of petrol looking for a cheap high (and brain damage).

“We saw malnourished kids sick and bloated like scenes from hunger appeals but drinking soft drink and eating junk. We talked to school teachers about the issue and they said the kids had money but only bought junk food, they weren’t getting a balanced diet or meals at home. They lived on take away. Volunteers had started a breakfast program to attempt to curb this. We were told by two 14-year-olds they lost their virginity to older men when they were 10 and 11. They called it ‘having a scrape’. I don’t know if any of this is pre-settlement cultural behaviour (the drugs, alcohol, petrol sniffing, welfare dependence and junk food obviously isn’t). But I do know some of these communities are violent, abusive and broken and need help.”

The author of comment 5 is why it is beyond me why the Australian Government and non-government organisations alike place so little attention on the appropriate training, education and knowledge for ANY persons who go anywhere near our communities to work, to investigate, to scientifically monitor and so on and so on before they send them there.

The author of comment 5 clearly had no concept of the environment he was walking into or of how to cope with the realities that unfolded, or just how damaging his own interpretation of what he witnessed, participated in or took away from his interaction could cause within Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal arenas alike.

It actually pained me to include this person’s comment but it needs to be discussed because it demonstrates just how many interrelated issues are embedded within it and they are all complex, each aspect leading on to another set of equally complex issues. Ignorant mainstream society eats this stuff up for breakfast on face value alone.

There was one ray of shining light from a person called “Sad Reality” who read Ms Farrelly’s article and then offered this, very sensible comment amidst the slanderous, misguided misconceptions from the others.

“Let’s get beyond the blame game – any fool can see the damage white culture has done. Any fool – if they took the time – can also see the complex, caring, life-affirming cultures that Aboriginal people had before then.

“There’s been so many years of biased reporting from the media that the majority of non-Aboriginal people, who’ve rarely met, let alone shared friendships with, Aboriginal people, have no way of judging the reality of the absurd statements made about Aboriginal people and culture.

“Where are problems with drunkenness and violence worst? In closest proximity to white dominance? Where is respect, order and nurturing environments strongest? In the remoter communities, where so-called ‘traditional’ culture is strongest.

“This is not to blame individual non-Aboriginal people but it is clear that white culture has been and continues to be, very destructive to Aboriginal people – some of the disgusting comments above should help to explain why!

“The answer, if there is one, is to nurture Aboriginal culture and support Aboriginal people to adjust to the new circumstances they find themselves in. And while we’re about it – let’s start Closing the Gap, the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal knowledge of this country, importance of family and rich philosophical traditions from this land.”

Some of the outright Racism and Lateral Violence that is ever present and unabashedly tapped out on keyboards and mobile phones by mainstream society right across this country even leaves an Aboriginal person like me, who is very positive and has some very clear ideas of the way forward, left to wonder where the hell do we go from here?

Just for the record the definition of unabashed/unabashedly via is this: “not ashamed, disconcerted, or apologetic; boldly certain of one’s position; not ashamed, embarrassed, or ill at ease.”

I feel “unabashedly” ashamed and shamed for many at their level of ignorance and the illogical thought processes that lead to the types of misguided judgement shown towards a traditionally beautiful, nurturing and loving culture which is built on sharing and caring, a culture that has the potential to be the saving grace of many of these very same racist bigoted people who live in Australia’s mainstream society.

It is not only Australian government at all levels that needs to listen to the Elders of this land. We ALL need to listen and quickly to the precious gems that are out there with our Elders. They are still willing to share with the oppressed and the oppressors alike despite the shameful way they have been treated by mainstream Australia. I suggest everyone needs to listen to our Elders before it is simply too late.

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