Abbott’s not the only one who should spend a week in an Aboriginal community
Federal Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, seen here with Senator Nova Peris and a local Elder in Nhulunbuy recently says Tony Abbott spending a week in Arnhem Land is tokenistic. Image SMH
by Stephen Hagan 24 June 2014
t’s not surprising Opposition leader Bill Shorten has joined a chorus of cynics who question the sincerity of Tony Abbott’s recent announcement of marking the first anniversary of his swearing-in by spending a week in September with Galarrwuy Yunipingu in his community in north-east Arnhem Land. It’s “too late” and “meaningless” argues Shorten of the ”tokenistic” trip when the government is cutting funding to Indigenous affairs “the other 51 weeks a year”.
“Aboriginal people need more from their Prime Minister than a flying visit and a photo opportunity,” he told The Australian. First Nations Telegraph’s Facebook page went into overdrive with readers venting their spleen on reading of Abbott’s trip to Arnhem Land: ‘He should take Mundine with him, he might learn something; ‘Can we arrange for Feather Foot too take him pls; ‘Great he can explain why he cut funding; ‘A croc might take him..hmmm, wishful think aye >:)’; and ‘Wait for all the photo opps
coming with Abbott and MP’s. I imagine Twiggy will be joing him?’ Whilst the focus of outrage is on the Prime Minister for his lack of empathy for the aspirations of our mob – and rightfully so from our experience thus far on his short reign - I can also, however, think of thousands of non-Indigenous people in the public and private sector who work in Indigenous specific jobs that could benefit from time in a discrete Aboriginal community. This group definitely needs to be culturally and socially informed about what happens on the ground with programs they have so much influence over, as their ignorance is
breathtakingly ingenuous. It would be remiss of me to overlook another group that stands out like the proverbial who should also spend time with a discrete community: coconut Indigenous senior public servants and private sector executives. These people also wield significant clout over budgets that impact on essential grassroot’s projects that, through their privileged life, are as ignorant on the ways of our mob as their white counterparts. Some of these Indigenous people may have a plausible defense for their disconnect with what happens with our mob at the grass-root’s level as a result of being part of the Stolen Generation and the brainwashing negativity sway of their foster parents on all things Aboriginal. It, however, becomes a problem for these people if their naivety becomes their cultural barometer as they assume high office through lack of genuine effort on their part to want to learn more. In this same category of coconut leaders are those Aboriginals who have always been aware of their lineage but chose to deny that part of their life to their white buddies, marital partners and work associates in their yearning hope that their journey will be less arduous as that which the majority of Aboriginal people have had to traverse. And last, but definitely not least for those who need to take a trip to an Aboriginal discrete community, are the Indigenous CEOs/Managers who worked their butts off to reach the top of their government funded organisations to suddenly feign amnesia of who they’re really working for. These are the black fellas who
Prime Minister Tony Abbott at a Garma Festival in Gove: Image: abc.net.au
surround themselves with white lieutenants that they allow to make decisions for them and to ride roughshod unchallenged over junior black staff. You’ll find them in the comfort of secured back rooms or second floor offices of their multi-million dollar operations; about as far away from direct contact with the very people they’re meant to represent, should they venture to their office and tap on the organisation’s strong glass window divide. We all know who they are as they can be found in most communities with large Indigenous populations. The black bosses who are so full of their own self importance that they’ve forgotten what succession planning is all about and are happy for their white lieutenants to sit in an identified position indefinitely. Just so the irreplaceable white lieutenants always feel the love from their black bosses, they’re handsomely remunerated with pay rises every year whilst the
black junior workers, if not made redundant, stay on the same pay or take a reduced wage to accommodate those critical pay rises. A good tactic on the part of Bill Shorten would be to make the groups above – when he gains office - more accountable for their healthy pay packets whilst working in Indigenous specific government funded jobs. He can do that by insisting they demonstrate high level knowledge of the culture and aspirations of our mob in addition to establishing and implementing a reasonable succession plan to facilitate future Indigenous employment and empowerment within their organisations. If they fail in this directive if he becomes our next PM, Shorten should sack them or find room on a plane – better still, a bus - to send them to an Aboriginal discrete community to be culturally and socially informed.