Fred Chaney wake up! (The World Today. (ABC news 1/12/14)
Like the anthropologist Levi-Strauss, Mr.Chaney has taken the literature of Dryden ....I am as free as Nature first made man… When wild in woods the noble savage ran. (1631-1700) ... and not allowed observations from the ‘real’ world to prevent his more literary imagination ... (Dr. Gerry Coulter. Bishop’s University said of Levi-Strauss)
How we define Assimilation determines its goodness:
What we need is a great big melting pot, big enough to take the world and all it’s got. Keep it stirring for a hundred years or more and turn out coffee coloured people by the score. (Blue Mink - 1969)
No- person has “lost their culture”. No person is a-cultural. Culture is a dynamic fluid thing. It changes. 670,000 people in Australian are of aboriginal descent. Some speak no English. None of them are unaffected by the impact of European, settlement, conquest, invasion, assimilation, call it what you will.
"We don't use the word any more," ... Mr Chaney told "But I think that the implication of a lot our [government] policy ... does have a decidedly assimilationist tinge.”
Our government policy is, and The Prime Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Minister Scullion are, trying to be “realists”.
It is only the hopelessly optimistic who hang on to the noble savage illusion.
Intervention, well meaning or not, western education, religion, foods, language, welfare payments, alcohol and drugs have worked change, real cultural change. Community reverence given to the myriad of different stone aged tribal practices has changed. Denial of this is futile and counterproductive.
The November 2014 Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage Key Indicators report shows no change in high rates of family and community violence , no change in alcohol and substance use, unchanging high rates of disability and chronic disease, very high levels of psychological distress increased and hospitalisations for intentional self-harm by 48 per cent, Adult imprisonment rate increased 57 per cent between 2000 and 2013. Juvenile detention rates increased sharply at around 24 times the rate for non-Indigenous youth.
There is nothing “Noble” about this contemporary Aboriginal culture.
But, to homogenise aboriginal people who are erudite, educated and intelligent, with the stupid, ignorant and apathetic is also a mistake. Reconciliation needs to deal with reality.
The Forest Review targets a comprehensive plan. Yet the illusionists focus and attack just one of its 27 recommendations, the Healthy Welfare Card.
There can be no acceptance of government by spearing and maiming, the power of elderly men to control lives in this way has, or should, be gone. Women and children should feel safe. Self-determination has failed.
Experiments in autonomy by putting fences around Aboriginal communities have failed. The South Australian APY lands, 100,000 sq kms, one tenth of the whole State have excluded entry for the last 20 years.
With a population of between two and three thousand it is said to be a third world country. The Mullighan Reports says Anangu girls just accept rape as part of life and the Leyton Review of management (Nov 2013) recommends great change. Self-determination has failed the community.
How can Fred Chaney say ..."Personally, I am totally in favour of 'closing the gap' ...and "I'm totally in favour of every Aboriginal child and every Islander child getting a full education.” And not see that this means a huge dose of assimilation.
We can’t keep stating we want to “close the gap” without admitting what that means.
It means changing high rates of family and community violence , changing alcohol and substance use, changing high rates of disability and chronic disease, changing very high levels of psychological distress increased and hospitalisations for intentional self-harm and changing imprisonment rates and juvenile detention rates.
And it means changing them towards the norms of the rest of Australia. If that is assimilation, then ....