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A sad reflection

By Stephen Hagan - posted Thursday, 23 March 2006

“He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.”

As I reflect on past and present governments’ handling of Indigenous affairs I thought of this great quote from Edmund Burke (1729-1797), Irish-born British statesman and philosopher. These are truly sobering lines to read in the context of the daily grind we have to endure just to sustain a meagre existence: providing a roof over our family’s head, food on the table and finding extra money to meet the never-ending stream of bills that continue to plague us.

Conquering adversity and our collective unfaltering determination to maintain our cultural identity will ensure that we will not lose the fire in our belly, however small the flicker of light might be.


At the turn of the 19th century our ancestors were deemed to be the forgotten people, and as we commence the 21st century I wonder whether we are still held in that light by others.

As a mental exercise, take your mind back to the beginning of 1806 and paint a picture of a destitute Indigenous female elder lying unconscious on a busy pebbled city footpath with hundreds of non-Indigenous people walking around or stepping over her on their way to work. No one bothers to check to see if the old lady is in need of medical attention or to show her any compassion.

A black member of a forgotten race soon to fade away forever might be the underlying thought in the indifferent minds of the fleeting pedestrians.

Now take your minds two centuries forward to the second week in March 2006 and try to picture an identical scene being played out in any busy city street in the nation.

Not possible? Well read the following exert from a major Murdoch paper and shock yourself out of your complacency.

"Left for dead at bus stop"
Margaret Wenham
March 7, 2006


One of Queensland's most prominent indigenous elders was left for dead for more than five hours at a busy Brisbane bus stop after suffering a stroke ...

... A group of Japanese students finally came to Aunty Delmae's aid.

Aunty Delmae, 62, has sung on stages around the world, performed with ballets and orchestras, even penned poems for prime ministers but, yesterday, with tears running down her cheeks, she recalled the shame of lying in her own vomit, unable to speak or reach out to passers-by.

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About the Author

Stephen Hagan is Editor of the National Indigenous Times, award winning author, film maker and 2006 NAIDOC Person of the Year.

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