By Diet Simon
It had been a loud couple of weeks about Aboriginal rights. At the United Nations in Geneva Australia was hauled over the coals for our human rights standards, especially the lack of them for Indigenous people. Tribal Voice reported on that the previous Tuesday. And Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivered her report on Closing the Gap, the third since the Rudd government pledged to do one every year. It prompted anger and derision . I gathered some from Aboriginal leaders by phone.
Also in the program:
- The possibility that Aborigines were humankind’s first astronomers
- A new mentoring program starting up on the Sunshine Coast for Indigenous senior high school students to make them community leaders
- A triumphant gig in China for the Chooky Dancers of Elcho Island
- And Aboriginal news
A group of prominent people calling themselves “Concerned Australians”, which includes former Liberal prime minister, Malcolm Fraser, convened more than 400 people in Melbourne ahead of Julia Gillard’s “Close the Gap” report card and issued one of their own. It was read by Helen Whitby, one of our receptionists.
“Positive change requires respect and genuine engagement with the people themselves at the local level, rather than an isolated policy development in Canberra”
The Concerned Australians sponsored the attendance at their conference of seven Elders from the Northern Territory. Their statement, addressed to “The People of Australia”, was voiced by Maree Allison, another of our receptionists.
“Under the Intervention we lost our rights as human beings, as Australian citizens, as the First People of the Land. We feel very deeply the threat to our languages, our culture and our heritage. Through harsh changes we have had removed from us all control over our communities and our lives. Our lands have been compulsorily taken from us. We have been left with nothing.”
Gillard: Get a job;
Abbott: parliamentary talk has not achieved much
Tribal leader: only country where one race dictates to another
Brisbane community worker: problems date from 1770
NT campaigner: She’s trying to put the blame on the black people
Social justice campaigner: Only community involvement would work
Here’s what Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott said in parliament about closing the gap, and the Aboriginal responses.
How depressing and infuriating is all that. But there were also some happy, pride-instilling stories in the program.
“Ancient Aborigines were keen astronomers”
A new find in Victoria suggests that ancient Aboriginal tribes might have been humankind’s first astronomers. Scientists of the CSIRO discovered a pile of rocks laid out in a particular way to map the progress of the sun, creating a primitive form of sundial. Carbon dating of material near the rocks is to establish whether they’ve been there for hundreds, or for thousands of years. Duane Hamacher, a graduate student of Indigenous Studies at Macquarie University, is researching the site.
“We promote and focus on Indigenous communities”
Good news if you’re a year 11 or 12 Indigenous high school student, or someone involved with one. A new support program is starting up, involving Sunshine Coast TAFE, Sunshine Coast University and two trade training and employment organisations. It aims to keep students in school until graduation, and to mentor them into future leaders of their communities. They’re to be given role model skills and ultimately to become mentors themselves. Called “Jump Start Your Future – Future Indigenous Leaders Program”, it’s looking to recruit 60 Indigenous high school youngsters. The coordinator is Natasha Hawkins.
“Billions of people watched the show”
An act of kindness by a Greek woman who looked after a sick Aboriginal woman has kicked off a worldwide craze for seven young Aboriginal men dancing to a Greek melody you’ve probably all heard, the dance from the film Zorba the Greek. A YouTube item of it has gone ferral on the web and taken the Chooky Dancers to places near and far, including onto Chinese television on probably its most important day, Chinese New Year. Josh Bond manages the group.