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February 12, 2008

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M-H

Can you clarify? Why can people not socialise across the race 'borders' if they choose to? What stops them, in either direction?

elsewhere

I don't want to sound melodramatic but it's simply the case that there's a stand-off here between the two populations. White people generally interact with black people via professional contexts, and that's about it. If ever I've tried to talk to an Aboriginal person in the street, it's clear from their response (awkwardness, wariness etc) that it's unusual.

I don't know why this is. I suspect history has something to do with it.

Mary Ellen Jordan mentions something similar in Balanda -- how she imagined she'd be inviting Aboriginal people into her home in Maningrida for cups of tea but it never happened, because the two populations don't socialise in that way.

suzoz

History, yes, has everything to do with it. I'm very interested in this silent stand-off too.

elsewhere

The other day when I was checking out of the IGA, there was a pre-apology current affair item about some rifts in a country town on the TV behind the counter. Bundjalung people were involved so it must have been NSW.

Anyway, as I was walking out the door, I heard the man behind the counter yell at the television screen, 'It's not about colour, you fucken pricks!'

If you were Aboriginal in a town like Alice, you might not know what reception to expect from white people...

dirt

Apologies of this sort confuse me since the person doing the apologizing is rarely actually the one who committed the original offense. That's not to say there shouldn't be an apology, there should be for sure, but I wonder what an apology is worth since it can't undo the damage, and even trying to return people to their homes creates a strange tension (or can) because now the person doesn't know which "world" he belongs to: the world of the people who tried to educate and mold him into one of them or the world of his family and past. The US has had a lot of that kind of problem, and I tend to think it's best if we make peace with the past and try to move forward with as much of a clean slate as possible. I'm not saying anything useful, of course. You know more about it than I do, but I think that cautious optimism of yours is the best thing.

seepi

Well the apology was a major thing in Canberra yesterday. And it seems that thousands stood and watched on big screens in other capital cities- in Sydney they stood thru the rain to watch it.

I think perhaps an unintended consequence of the apology will be a feeling of co-operation and goodwill coming from white people who havne't given much thought to the issues.

So with any luck when Kevin announces major funding for Indig affairs, there will be support, instead of whinging.

It seemed to have a real sense of hope from here.

elsewhere

There were some breakfasts here, including at Link-Up, celebrating the apology, but there'd be a lot of community people who wouldn't know about it or possibly wouldn't think it was that important to them (as those who hadn't been removed from their families and who still had culture).

Kevin's new vision was pretty vague and sketchy. It'd better be good, that's all I can say.

TPS

Hmmmm, the apology. It finally appears - and as you say Elsewhere, so long overdue. I can see (esp from your persepctive) the basis for your 'cautious optimism', and how Kevin's vision is vague and sketchy.

I, for one, feel more optimism than this though - I really felt genuinely moved by all the turnout and tears around the country, which, of course, was viewed mainly by white people and aboriginal people more connected to the urban Australia. But Kevin did a great job - he was absolute, he gave more than he 'had' too, and it really did feel historic (despite overdue). Also, I think that the bipartisan nature was quite powerful, despite Nelson's blunders in the speech etc.

The moment was exciting and timely. The thing I dont get though, is this tension between the people who say it is important, and the people who say it is symbolic and nothing will change. Why can't we have the apology and renewed momentum (and money and resources)??? Why does it have to be one or the other? No-one has ever said that making an apology means that nothing else has to be done - but it seems to me that nothing can be really done without it.

I do wonder too about what people in Central Aust think - as per your conversation, Elsewhere, with some people around town here in Alice. I was in Yuendamu for court day yesterday (300kms NW of Alice). We arrived in the community around mid morning, wondering who had been listening. It seemed that the people in the community didnt actually listen, but they did know about it. They asked us what Kevin said. I thought it strange that there was no collective radio or TV on, but, things just move along at their own pace, and Canberra is pretty far away.

Because, despite the apology and the nation applauding itself, the monthly court still takes place with school desks in the community hall, we still see our clients and workers sitting in the dust outside in the heat and flies, and there's still only a couple of small stores where a drink costs more than anywhere on the east coast. There is still rubbish and grog.

But - despite this, I feel pleased that the people still knew about it and wanted information. It didnt change their day but it must mean something positive. And I would think that now it's done, it's time for more action.

M-H

dirt - the point is that it was govt policy that caused this pain, so the govt needed to apologise. Of course the people who were apologising weren't in the govt when the events occurred, but it was an official recognition that the policies of past govts were inhuman, and that today's govt is sorry that this has happened to its citizens. I don't have any problem with that.

Like TPS I have found the whole thing moving and I feel hopeful - so hopeful that I will now begin to take out Aus citizenship after 10 years of squatting here.

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