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Indigenous Affairs: Displacement and integration

By Brian Holden - posted Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Michelle Fahy has written a compassionate article in support of Indigenous rights. In it she quotes Rosalie Kunoth-Monks: “once we are moved from our place of origin, we will not only lose our identity, we will die a traumatised tragic end...” These are moving words.

In 2010, Indigenous rights crusader Patrick Dodson said that the early colonists “should have learned or left”. What was Dodson thinking? If the early arrivals had left after deciding that their presence would be too alien, is it conceivable that spacecraft could be flying over this continent with the astronauts looking down and wondering what the mysterious land was down there?

In 2010 Dobson also said: “We have a right to be uniquely the nation’s First Peoples”. How could he say that when the timeless environment upon which the culture of the First Peoples was totally dependent on for its identity has gone completely? When the First Fleeters stepped into a First People’s camp, they did not see wrecked car bodies and bottles, cans and plastic strewn over the ground. They did not see women weighing over 90 kilograms.


For as long as influential people cling to a fantasy, there will be an Indigenous problem that will not go away. I clearly remember the mood of the nation at the time of the 1967 referendum when Aborigines became full citizens. We walked out of the polling booths feeling good about having marked the ballot with an affirmative ‘Yes”. And yet in 2010, Dodson says: “Educational, economic and health outcomes for indigenous people must reach parity with those of other Australians”. No parity 43 years after officially becoming equal! Some very fundamental misreading of realty has occurred.

The Flynn Effect

Around 1950 it was believed by my teachers that only about 10 per cent of the Caucasian race were intellectually capable of gaining a university degree. Now we know that it is over 50 percent of all races. The genetics are much the same. Where change has occurred it has been due to a change in the social (and technological) environment.

What parents powerfully visualise for their children passes into the children’s consciousness. If a door is before us, the visualisation of what is behind it is the key to opening it. If in your image you see nothing, then you won’t open it and step through. What do Aboriginal parents in remote settlements visualise for their children?

Relative parental influence explains why the children of displaced Vietnamese generally do well at school and why Indigenous children disappear from school for weeks at a time. Setting the example for Vietnamese children are parents who, after leaving the land that they had worked for generations to the Communists, took very little time to set up their small businesses after arrival here. They did not seek to escape from feelings of loss into an alcoholic stupor.

The Flynn Effect tells us that at the root of the Indigenous problem and the failures since 1967 are the remote settlements and the atmosphere of hopelessness within them. Ghettos of any description do nobody any good.


The idealistic Whitlam government handed over prime central city real estate at Redfern to Sydney’s Aborigines. Recently the wrecked remains of that drug-ridden area known as “The Block” was finally handed back to the general population. Buildings of the same size and vintage in nearby Paddington have a median value of nearly $1.5 million. The different outcome is mainly due the owners of the Paddington properties having to strive for them rather than receiving the property as a handout.

By maintaining the remote outback settlements, our federal government is directly responsible for the rampant alcoholism, the rampant wife beating, the rampant sexual abuse of children and the “worst health in the world”. Our failure is that while we regard immigrants as our equal in the struggle to make a living - and leave them to it, we regard Aborigines as being something else - and by so doing encourage them to make a mess of their lives. 

They were best of times and the worst of times

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About the Author

Brian Holden has been retired since 1988. He advises that if you can keep physically and mentally active, retirement can be the best time of your life.

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