I really do love Bill Bryson. In this interview, he manages to talk sensitively and intelligently about ‘new’ Australians’ relationship with Aboriginal Australians.
“Australia went from being a pink-skinned, sunburned, Britannic nation in the 1940s to, in a generation or so, one of the most ethnically diverse nations anywhere. And they did it all very successfully. There’s been hardly any downside to this change in immigration policy. Most of it has gone very smoothly. The people have been assimilated, and everyone realizes that it’s made the country a richer and more interesting place. Most people are really proud of that.
Still, you have this great, fundamental paradox: why doesn’t this extend to the Aborigines, the indigenous people? Australians are not a racist people. They really do have a sense of fair play. And Aborigines are not hated or treated with contempt. It’s more a puzzle: how do we bring them into society? No one has come up with any approaches at all. The gains have been almost entirely marginal.

It’s not that they’re universally marginalized, but in terms of social policy the Aborigines are without question Australia’s greatest failure. That’s hardly a contentious assertion to make. Everyone agrees. The question is, What do you do about it? They’ve tried lots of things. Nothing has worked so far.”
Australia’s inability to find ways to live up to the responsibility to provide the opportunity for equality in life expectancy, quality of life, education, etc is one of the reasons I’m no longer proud to be an Australia. (John Howard and the xenophobic, homophobic attitudes he encourages are most of the rest of the reasons). It’s a difficult issue. How do you reconcile 40,000 years of history? How do you find a lifestyle that works for people who have been dragged into the 21st century without any say?
Forget sucking up to the US and freaking out about refugees: finding the right questions to ask, and looking for the answers should be Australia’s first priority.

3 thoughts on “

  1. Micha says:

    It’s funny to me that Australia ever elected Howard in the first place,…all the Australians i know always comment on how similar Canada and Australia are, in so many ways. And you know it’s true,.. we’re both ex-colonies, both countries have accepted large no.’s of immigrants who’ve contributed so much both to the economy as well as to the culture,..recognized, at least here, by the vast majority. I’m frankly shocked & saddened by the turn Australia seems to be making now, (i’m thinking specifically of the whole anti gay-marriage & supporting the war in iraq ).
    I guess i don’t know what to say, except that despite all of my (i think, very funny) ozzie jokes,…australians, and canadians alike are smarter than this.
    At least i hope so.

  2. Micha says:

    This is a rare 2nd comment, (ok, i can’t sleep!);
    the whole aboriginal thing. well, there actually is a difference between Canada & Australia in the sense that we didn’t actively try and wipe them off the face of the continent, at least not in a truly direct way.
    We were just too busy wiping the buffalo off the face of our continent. And then the English, then the French, and THEN the Americans, (you know,…even back then they were the Americans) The cod came later,…but that’s another story.
    But all joking aside; how do you repair an entire people’s sense of…. i don’t know the correct word,…”cultural death”, i guess is the best i can do. Well, after giving it a lot of thought,…i still don’t really know, at this point i wish someone would just tell me!!
    And that i think is the answer. We should just let native people alone, and as corny as it sounds let them do just that. For a little while. We’re (sort of) trying that here in Canada now, they have the power to police themselves, (as in there are native police forces), this has had admittedly mixed results, as well as self-governance, still.. i’m optimistic.
    Give it time. Someone told me recently that it is estimated that in Canada, within 50 years there would be no more full-blooded native Canadians. I think she thought that that would end ‘our problem’. I’m not sure why she thinks this,…people, for whatever reason seem to care where they come from.

  3. mia says:

    I think self-governance has been tried, but it hasn’t been very successful.
    IMHO, that’s no reason to give up trying it. And if the Howard government spent a fraction of its ‘war on terrorism/refugees/queers’ budget on more health and education resources for the Aboriginal population, we wouldn’t have the devastating life expectancy figures we have now.
    Actually, I might write to the major parties about they’re going to do about Aboriginal infant mortality, life expectancy and imprisonment rates to help me decide how to vote in the this election.

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