Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Taken from the ABC report on The Apology in Adelaide:

A critic of the formal apology is Port Lincoln mayor Peter Davis.
He says he can't see it making any difference to the real problems facing Aborigines.
"As for instance granting equal citizenship the 1967 referendum, the same euphoria from the same southern (and I'm not being disrespectful) 'do good' sectors resulted in no real physical or mental better wellbeing for Aboriginal people," he said."

This is probably the same guy who doesn't let his children have a party and cake and singing on their birthdays. What good would it do?

I got a little bit emotional this morning watching it on television. Those stories hurt. I suppose I could understand what Nelson was meaning when he had to blah on about war veterans - that an apology for past actions doesn't mean a blanket of shame over everything - but if you don't understand that by now, then a politician's speech isn't going to educate you.

I think the difficulty that Australians who are against it have with the apology is a lack of understanding of what it means to the Stolen Generations and Aborigines in general. I think that in the decade of silence since the Bringing Them Home report was first issued, John Howard has taught Australians to act their political lives on a purely personal level and encouraged the belief that everyone was entirely responsible for their own circumstances. This equated to an attitude that those in need had, in whatever small way, placed themselves there. They were to blame for their situations. He took this attitude right to the end when he took full responsibility for the Liberals' election defeat.
But his ten years of "You Look Out For Yourself" policy had the effect of telling Australians that they were never, ever wrong, as long as they never admitted it. You can have a four-wheel-drive, as long as you don't feel bad about it. You can buy anything you want (education, health, etc) as long as you earn the money to pay for it.
The Stolen Generations and their request for an apology didn't fit into that brand of "self" politics. John Howard had trained the political hearts of Australians to look no further than their own immediate influences and something as complicated as assenting to an apology on their behalf by a democratically elected government in the present made on behalf of previous governments for now-overturned well-meaning-yet-horrifically-catastrophic policies that have effected all aspects of life for a specific group of people is just too far removed from the Howard-era mindset that truly believes that since they didn't physically take the children away then there's nothing that they can offer. Regret. Sure. That must have been tough, but you were only a little kid and plenty of people have had tough lives and have really pulled their finger out in this great land of opportunity and really made something of themselves.
These people can't get it through their skulls that they are not the ones saying sorry. They are not responsible in the way that Howard has taught them they were (or could be). They are also not the ones who have lived with racism and the pain of decimated families. To paraphrase Brendan Nelson in this morning's speech: I challenge any of those detractors to visit the Aboriginal communities where the results of past Australian governmental policy are all around and truthfully say that they wish they had been born there.

Sorry doesn't fix anything on a practical level, it doesn't bring families back together. But, for the people who needed to hear it, hearing it from the government they needed to hear it from, it does make a difference. It makes it a little bit better.

But what now?


Update: Further quote from Pt Lincoln mayor in a new variation of ABC story: "

"I mean, to me life is a lottery whether one is Aboriginal or black or white or blue or brindle.
"As far as I'm concerned [it] makes no difference; the past is past, we've got to make our life into the future.
"And I can tell you I personally have no sorrying to do, nor have I on behalf of the Port Lincoln community." (bolding mine)

Sort of proves my point really...


  1. Great post Franzy, and it's certainly one of the sunniest days in politics since well before the start of 1996.

    I was working with an Aboriginal woman whose story formed one of the many in the 'Bringing them home' report and she took me on a tour of the remains of the Retta Dixon Centre in Darwin.

    All that was left was some cement foundations cracked with heat and weeds, but she pointed to one area and said, "That's where my bunk was. Sometimes I could hear my mother calling to me through the barbed wire fence, but our dorms were always locked."

    She paused as I stood, vainly trying to imagine how awful it would have been to have been placed in a home for no apparent reason other than due to her mother's choice of partner when she said, very quietly: "I cried a lot of tears in this spot."

  2. What happens in the future I wonder about the children who are still being removed in the current time period because of alcohol and/or incest issues? Will they be requiring a formal apology? will they too have their hands out for compensation? (Money doesn't reverse time and give you your life back.)What about the many white children who were taken from families?

  3. River - The kids being removed now because alcoholic parents and child abuse probably won't be looking for an apology because in the future alcoholic parents and abusive families will still be seen as great reasons to remove kids from families.
    The apology was issued to the Stolen Generations because they were removed from their families purely because their families were Aboriginal. Their families weren't abusive, just Aboriginal.
    And what's the big problem with compensation? You'll still pay the same amount of tax and have just as much say as to where it goes at the ballot box every three years.
    I see where you're going and it's a slippery slope, trust me.

  4. Everything everywhere is a slippery slope. I truly have mixed feelings about this whole thing. Past removal methods were cruel and families that experienced this do deserve an apology, but I'm concerned that compensations may get out of hand with undeserving people jumping on the bandwagon and all the chaos and recriminations that may ensue.

  5. I don't know ... putting a question mark over giving compensation to Aborigines in case some of them rort the system and receive money they don't deserve is like putting a question mark over people asking for unemployment benefits or a disability pension. Are they really disabled?
    Trust me on this one: getting a disability pension isn't just a matter of rolling up to Cennerlink with a limp. You have to supply them with evidence from your own doctors saying you're disabled before you're even allowed to see their doctor who will give you a thorough physical before confirming your disability.
    And that's just to get your seven-hundred bucks a fortnight, which you have to live off because you can't earn any more money because you're disabled.

    Could you imagine trying to claim compensation from the same system when all the evidence that you were taken away as a child has been falsified or destroyed?
    If and I mean IF compensation happens, it'll be token at best. A few tens of thousands here and there, maybe some kind of complicated fund that you have to apply for and relive your awful, painful lonely childhood in front of a tribal before they give you enough for a new car and not much else.

  6. I guess it's a matter of wait and see and hope for the best.


An explanation of The Joy Division Litmus Test

Although it may now be lost in the mysts of thyme, the poll below is still relevant to this blog. In the winter of 2008, Mele and I went to live in Queensland. In order to survive, I bluffed my way into a job at a Coffee Club.
It was quite a reasonable place to work: the hours were regular, the staff were quite nice, it wasn't particularly taxing on my brain.
There were a few downsides: In the six weeks or so that I worked there, there was about a 90% staff turnover (contributed to by my leaving). This wasn't seen as a result of the low pay, the laughability of staff prices or the practice of not distributing tips to staff, rather it was blamed on the lack of work ethic among Bribie Island's youth.
However, one of the stranger aspects of the cultural isolation that touched our lives during our time "up there" was the fact that nobody at my work had heard of the band Joy Division.
The full explanation is available here.
But please, interact a little further and vote in my ongoing poll. The results are slowly mounting up, proving one thing: people read this blog are more well-informed about Joy Division than anyone who works at the Coffee Club on Bribie Island.

Have you heard of the band Joy Division?

Chinese food, not Chinese Internet!

Champions of Guess The Header

  • What is Guess The Header about? Let’s ask regular “Writing” reader, Shippy: "Anyway, after Franzy's stunning September, and having a crack at 'Guess The Header' for the first time - without truly knowing what I was doing mind you - I think I finally understand what 'GTH' is all about. At first I thought you needed to actually know what it was. Don't get me wrong — if you know what it is, it may help you. I now realise that it's more Franzy's way of invoking thought around an image or, more often than not, part of an image. If you dissect slightly the GTH explanatory sentence at the bottom of his blog you come up with this: “The photo is always taken by me and always connects in some way to the topic of the blog entry it heads up.” When the header is put up, the blog below it will in some obscure way have something to do with it. “Interesting comments are judged and scored arbitrarily and the process is open to corruption and bribery with all correspondence being entered into after the fact and on into eternity, ad infinitum amen.” Franzy judges it, but it's not always the GTH that describes the place perfectly that gets it. “The frequent commenters, the wits, the wags and the outright smartarses who, each entry, engage to both guess the origin and relevance of the strip of photo at the top (or “head”) of each new blog and also who leave what I deem the most interesting comment.” It generally helps if you're a complete smartarse and can twist things to mean whatever you feel they should mean - exactly the way Franzy would like things to be twisted." - Shippy Blogger and GTH point scorer.
  • Nai - 1
  • Lion Kinsman - 2
  • Will - 2
  • Brocky - 2
  • Andy Pants - 2
  • The 327th Male - 3
  • Mad Cat Lady - 3
  • Miles McClagen - 4
  • Myninjacockle - 4
  • Asheligh - 5
  • Neil - 5
  • Third Cat - 5
  • Adam Y - 6
  • Squib - 6
  • Mele - 6
  • Moifey - 7
  • Jono - 8
  • The Other, other Sam - 14
  • Kath Lockett - 15
  • Shippy - 19
  • River - 32