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A world made in England

By Babette Francis - posted Tuesday, 4 October 2016


Many pages and gallons of "printer's ink", if such a substance, is still used, have been devoted to issues relating to our indigenous population: their achievements and their problems - and the policies devised over decades by successive governments, state and federal, and non-government agencies, to address these problems.

Looking at the situation from what is a non-indigenous but immigrant-to-Australia perspective, the policies apart from occasional success stories, appear to have failed if one examines the statistics on life expectancy and rates of imprisonment, considering just two indices that show up indigenous disadvantage.

Because of this I suggest a new basis for policy making which is particularly relevant to that proportion of our indigenous population who are of mixed heritage, that is indigenous as well as having an Anglo-Saxon-Celtic or other European heritage.

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I relate this back to my own experience - I was born in India and lived there during the heady days of Indian independence from British rule in 1947. There were celebrations but also ghastly riots between Hindus and Muslims in which over a million were killed.

However India made some sensible decisions - one was to have a secular Constitution and the second was not to over emphasise 'our ancient culture' dating back over 5,000 years and related to the Vedas (holy books of Hinduism), the Sanskrit language, etc., but to recognise that for practical purposes we live in a world "made in England", although it was not phrased quite like that.

Accordingly Hindi and English became the two major official languages with another 15 local languages also recognised.

Today English is achieving even greater significance in India with classes advertised everywhere for locals to learn and improve their fluency in this language.

So this is my first plea to our indigenous population - no matter how great your pride in your indigenous culture, acknowledge that you do not have a written language and that we live in a world made in England.

Fluency in English is a prerequisite for success - it truly is a world language, unlike French which is no longer so important. English is also taught all over Europe and Asia.

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Fluency in English is particularly useful in dealing with discrimination - I told my children that if they were ever teased at school because of their skin colour, to respond cheerfully and say: "Well at least I am not at risk of skin cancer like you, have you applied your sun block today?"

England and English may become even more significant in our world because of Brexit, ie. Britain leaving the EU which appears to be sinking somewhat into economic socialism and an uncontrolled immigration morass, while Britain is emphasising its own identity.

My second plea to those of our indigenous population who are of mixed indigenous and European (mostly British) blood is not to ignore the European part of their heritage. Identifying solely as indigenous no matter how many "Aboriginal" identity cards you possess, is like denying part of your parentage, denying your mother or your father. Teach your children about the other part of their heritage - the history, literature, music and art of Europe.

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About the Author

Babette Francis, (BSc.Hons), mother of eight, is the National & Overseas Co-ordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc. an NGO with special consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the UN. Mrs. Francis is the Australian representative of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer - www.abortionbreastcancer.com. She lived in India during the Partition of the sub-continent into India and Pakistan, a historical event that she believes was caused by the unwillingness of the Muslim leaders of that era to live in a secular democracy.

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