Monday, June 1, 2009

Demoralising Darwin

I'm currently in Darwin covering the APPEA (Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association) conference. Each year they hold a huge event for around 1500 industry bigwigs and politicians. Each year they go to extraordinary lengths to make peace with whichever indigenous population they have most recently demoralised through various destructive means such as digging the crap out of sacred ground, confusing local communities with bombast or pumping waste in every form and in every direction.

The opening ceremony featured aboriginal dancers, a spokesperson from the local indigenous people and Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu who was, I have to say, an outstanding singer and left-handed guitarist. And he's blind.

I felt a great deal of sympathy for the spokesperson. He stood before 1500 people and 'welcomed' the mining industry to his native land. Trouble was, he was clearly and utterly saddened to make the announcement. He was a broken man. The welcome was said with such reluctance, such obvious pain, that I nearly cried. Yet 1500 people applauded rapturously, completely missing the emotion in the delivery and only hearing the words.

Industry spokespeople, as well as the NT Chief Minister Paul Henderson and Federal Minister for industry, Martin Ferguson, have been talking about protecting the environment, ensuring safety for workers and protecting local aboriginal communities, with great gusto and vehemence. Still, I just don't buy it.


Leilani said...

I don't buy it either and it breaks my heart. I hate the way it's sold as progress.

WitchOne said...

I have a difficult time with native land and whatnot. Not trying to make it sound flippant and it is late and I am tired, others will make it sound much more logical I'm sure. I simply feel that in history and in war, which a take over is, the losers integrate or die.

I know it sounds harsh and I know that in many ways our land is being destroyed, I'm not saying the destruction is right and I am not saying respect shouldn't be shown. But I can't help but feel a lot of the emotion is a beat up. How many genuine, full blood (or even half blood only) Aborigines exist now?

We should respect history, we should preserve what we can but the future is not the past and while we should take note of the lessons history has taught, we cannot force everyone to abide by those lessons.

Puss In Boots said...

How many genuine, full blood (or even half blood only) Aborigines exist now?What the fuck, Melba?? What does that have to do with anything?? Is it the Aboriginals fault for the White Australia policy? Is it their fault the powers that be decided it was best if they were 'bred out'?? Why shouldn't they try to hold on to their heritage and beliefs, even if it is only a small part of their makeup? Why shouldn't they believe in the sacredness of some lands?

Besides which, even in other countries which have been conquered, the indigenous peoples hold on to their culture, albeit in a limited respect much like the Australian Aboriginals - think South, Central and North America.

Also, maybe if the government (Queen included) acknowledged that it was, in fact, a 'takeover' and stopped saying Australia was 'colonised' (implying it was empty of peoples to start with), the Aboriginals might have more respect for us.

Puss In Boots said...

Oops, I meant Witch One, not Melba.

catlick said...

"How many genuine, full blood (or even half blood only) Aborigines exist now?"Excuse me?

Mr E Discharge said...

Ferguson et al can say what ever they like about protecting the environment, but in the end the oil companies will do exactly what they like, and God help anyone who gets in the way. Clearly Yunupigu was one of the few people present to have a sense of this.

To its credit, one can't accuse the oil industry of racism, their offical policy is to rape everyone, black or white.

Perseus said...

Bob - remember the one from a few years ago where Dylan licensed 'The Times They Are A Changin''? To a mining conference!

They certainly were changin'.

I also remember years ago, Bob, about 1990, doing a mining AGM and when I came out protestors were throwing eggs at all us suited people, and as I was dodging the eggs, I looked up and noticed two of the egg-throwers were friends of ours from our High School.

We went for a coffee. Well, I had a coffee, they had chai tea.

Melba said...

Oh Puss. Your Freudian slip is showing. Mine is the name that pops into your head when someone says something off?

WitchOne said...

Hey I was happy with that Melba. Please don't mention the war.

200 years people, that's my issue, 200 years! Most of these decisions were not made in our lifetime, or even our grandparents lifetime.

I will never understand why I should be sorry for something I would not have participated in had I been around to make the choice. We are left with consequences, let's deal with them as best we can without trying to remake the past.

Anonymous said...

Perseus, I hope you cracked an egg over their heads while they sipped their chai tea.

Lewd Bob said...

Perseus, that was the moment I lost all faith in Dylan.

Witchy, it's still happening. Land is still being taken.

Perseus said...

Witchy, saying you shouldn't feel remorse for things your ancestors did also disqualifies you from celebrating what they did.

Should we not have ANZAC Day, Christmas, Easter etc because we weren't 'responsible' in person?

It fucking shat me when Howard used to refer to the 'black armband' of history, whilst waxing lyrical about ANZACS and Donald Bradman. You can't have one without the other. I'm not saying we should wear a dark armband, I'm saying that history is history and it's full of good and bad, and much of it reverberates today.

Point is - our indigenous population copped it bad when the English rocked up, and you can see the results today, and it is up to us (and them) to sort it out.

You seem to think that because we weren't alive 200 years ago it's not our problem. Well, the people that did it 200 years ago are dead, so actually, it is our problem.

Melba said...

I knew if I waited just a little bit, someone would write what I wanted to say on this topic.

Just feeling a bit lazy today, but thanks for writing that Perseus.

WitchOne said...

That's right Pers, all the people are dead. So therefore who alive today knows it to be any different to what it is now?

I'm not saying we shouldn't feel remorse, history is a lesson learned, why reinvent the wheel? Don't do it again. We don't hang people these days, just as we don't ship them off to a strange and unknown country for stealing a loaf of bread.

There were horrid happenings on all sides, I wouldn't say we should forget it but let's learn from it and move on shall we?

Perseus said...

"...let's learn from it and move on shall we?"I agree, but to move on, we have to right some wrongs made in the past, like giving some native title back, not to mention some respect and assistance where needed.

You said the 'losers' should 'integrate or die'. Well, to integrate, we need to at least level the playing field.

Anonymous said...

Perseus and Witchy...

I don't celebrate Australia Day, ANZAC Day, I think Don Bradman was a cunt, and I don't celebrate any 'successes' of my ancestors.

Easter and Xmas don't count because they're not celebrations of any ancestors' successes, they're just (as far as I am concerned) a nice secular holiday with family and friends.

All my immediate ancestors were from England, so there's absolutely no lineal connection between me and the perpetrators of the White Australia policy.

Am I now also excluded from apologising for the actions of my ancestors?

However, I do agree that the government is not an individual, and can be considered a continuous entity throughout history, regardless of the current party or individuals in power, and therefore it was appropriate and correct for the government to apologise for actions of past governments.

But for myself, while I sympathise with the plight of the Stolen Generation, I wouldn't apologise if asked (unless I were the head of a government or organisation previously responsible for the act).

Perseus said...

I agree Boogeyman. It was the Government's job to apologise.

But as you live in the country, regardless of where you came from, you inherit its history, and play a part in forging its future.

Saying "they lost, get over it" (as Witchy did) will do nothing but make the future murkier.

Perseus said...

...kinda like buying a house really.

You might buy a nice house but say, "Oh, it has a broken window."

So you call a glazier. You don't sit there and say, "Well I didn't put the hole in the window so why should I fix it?"

Likewise, if you're a kid born and raised at the family house, you also have to deal with the broken window as part of the family.

WitchOne said...

I think you're taking the piss Pers. I never said they lost get over it.

Maybe I should have requested the Queen apologise to my family for shipping us over here way back when. I'm sure life would have been different had we stayed in mother England.

Frankly, I don't feel the government should have apologised, but then I think Boogey is correct, the government is a continuous entity and so maybe it was right.

There are so many arguments to be made for and against and really, what does it solve? The mining companies still take what they want, the government still does as it pleases. We still spend shitloads on Aboriginal support projects that don't go anywhere because some bleeding heart can't spend the money properly.

The projects are a great idea but I have yet to see one that has actually worked.

Anonymous said...

I'm still waiting for the Queen to apologise for the Normans.

Puss In Boots said...

Why should the Queen apologise to your family, Witchy? Either your ancestors broke the law and were punished for what they did by being shipped to Australia, or they were offered a berth on a ship headed here to start a new life. Either way, you don't deserve an apology. What did the Aboriginals ever do to deserve what they got? Simply inhabiting a land the English wanted to use as a penal colony doesn't justify what was done to them.

And so what if the Aboriginals around today don't personally recall what it was like 200 years ago. They still have their belief systems, and if they believe that a piece of land is sacred, it is in their lifetime that such land is mined and desecrated. They are entitled to feel how they do about it. The mining didn't happen 200 years ago, Witchy, it's happening now.

catlick said...

I was going to write a heartfelt pithy yet useful par on why you are wrong WitchOne, but I reckon it wont change anything. You are all the way over there, and I am sort of about here, and the peoples who live daily with the consequences of 200 years of uninvited colonization are somewhere else. Germany has the grace to be ashamed, to "abide by those lessons". [Hi Godwin!] We are the dominant culture, we have obligations, and we should, perhaps, at the very least, try to fix things for as long a period as we denied anything was wrong. So in 100 plus years time after a sustained bi-partisan well funded consultative process I am prepared to examine whether it is worth it, whether we should be bothered, whether it will ever work. Meanwhile, we should do it.

patchouligirl said...

I'm interested in Witchone's point about how many full blooded or half blooded Aboriginals are there left? What is the line they use to say 'this person is/isn't Aboriginal'? 1/8th? 1/16th? In another 200 years will we still be making amends? Where's the cut-off for these things? Just curious.

Regarding saving the environment - we all got plasmas instead.

homesick said...

As a white living in a predominantly black society here in the Caribbean, I am intrigued as to why Iseem to be partially responsible for the slavery of the late 18th century purely because of my skin colour.
"yaz all de same" one taxi driver kindly pointed out to me as I asked him if he would mind helping me with a stoller and a couple of kids out of his van. "Slavery over now ya know".

When my Aunt did the good ol' English/ Danish family tree there was nothing but a couple of school teachers,a printer, seamstress and a baker... good working calls stock. Couldn't find any weathy landowners, politicians or ships captains that may have taken part in/profited from slavery.

I appreciate that the past will never ever be forgotten, especially here in the Caribbean, and it shouldn't be. Human atrocities such as the slave trade & genocide must be remembered so future genertation can ensure it will never happens again (Rwanda, Darfur.. so much for that theory)

Its just that the young kids here, black and white,do not see the racial differences until the elders point it out them often in a disparaging tones.

I am curious to hear your thoughts on this... am I being too sensitive and perocial about it all. Its good to get views from those on the outside as living the day to day here can cloud ones rationale somewhat.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Wrong monarch, Boogey.

She's German.

Anonymous said...

Her bloodline goes back to William I. If anyone's to blame for all that French clogging up ye olde Englishe, it's her family.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

William 1 was Dutch.

catlick said...

Hearsay and generalization only, but several NZ friends over the years have commented that the majority of Pakehas there have or will have Maori relatives, even if they don't have Maori blood so the land/rights debate is losing its "us and them" sting, (Treaty issues notwithstanding).

Anonymous said...

No no, I mean King William the 1st of England, not King William the 1st of a bunch of stoned red-headed Amsterdamians.

Lizzie II's ancestry goes back to William the Conqueror, so she can accept responsibility for a) Middle English, b) split infinitives, and c) the fact no one in university that studies Beowulf can read the bloody original without doing all sorts of linguistic brain gymnastics.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Stuff and nonsense, Boogey.

Lizzie 11 is no more related to William the Conqueror than you or me.

Anonymous said...

How do you figure that? Where do you see the line breaking?

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

The Glorous Revolution of 1688.

You do realise Perseus is going to call us "nerds" again.

Perseus said...

If you break into Middle English again, then I will call you nerds.

Desci said...

I love a good INH and Boogey geek tussle almost as much as I love me a Pers v Boogey ideology 'un.

Great post, Bob. The rest of you cunts pick your jaws up off the floor, yes I said it.

Anonymous said...

Ramon - King George I (Elizabeth II's ancestor) was the great-grandson of James I (also an ancestor of William I) through his maternal grandmother.

So I don't see how the Glorious Revolution affected that.

Perseus, we've never spoken Middle English, n00b. Olde Englishe, maybe a little.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

James Stewart, Boogey?

Are you sure?

Lewd Bob said...


Anonymous said...

Without a time machine and a portable paterntity kit, no, I can't be certain.

But the Hanoverian line bases its claim to the throne on that lineage.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

The Hanoverians are a pack of cunts.

I wouldn't trust them with a blunt butter knife, let alone the English crown.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, but who did you prefer?

Myself, I was rooting for James Scott. I was so sad after the Monmouth Rebellion failed, I went off my vittles and gruel for a whole week.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Always more of an Oliver Cromwell man, me.

"Away with this bauble"