Contact without impact

“The first Aborigine I talked to seemed to be a tradesman.It was in the 1960s. He confused me by asking about my colour. I felt that he lost interest in me when I explained that I was an Asian immigrant. I never saw him
again — not surprisingly, as this bar was becoming popular with public servants. The latter, having recently risen
from the working class, are normally very fussy about the company they keep, especially as they move up their
career ladders. One should never be seen to socialise with anyone below one’s level.

I then met the redoubtable Charlie Perkins, a recent graduate. He addressed a group of university graduates,and impressed us with his enthusiasm and vision, as well as with his plea. He asked that the Aborigines should
be given the opportunity to adapt to modern society, to control their own lives and finances, even if they made
many mistakes during the learning process. He received a standing ovation. When I met him again, I was looking
for a job at senior executive level, and he was the head of the Aboriginal Affairs Department. He had changed. … … ”

“… … Somewhere along the line, I set about trying to help Aborigines in the public sector in Canberra to improve
their skills, thereby raising their confidence and presentation. I offered training in chairmanship and public speaking (skills shown to benefit everyone); and on their own terms. They could have their own Aboriginal
club within Rostrum, an Australia-wide organisation well regarded for its training capabilities, and whose
graduates were in senior positions in both the private and public sectors.

Or, we could provide training in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, there being no indigene employed elsewhere. Or, they could train themselves in that Department under our expert guidance. We had the skills and the will. There was, regrettably, no interest, in spite of my trying to persuade the highly regarded Captain Saunders (ex-Army and an indigene), and the Department’s senior management that what I offered was valuable. So, that was that. Since it would have cost the Aborigines nothing, except a little effort to learn and to practice …!”

“ … … When I worked, after retirement, as a lowly service station attendant, providing driveway service late at
night, I met a wide range of Aborigines, a few seemingly full-blooded. There were those who were apparently well
paid, driving expensive cars, and employed by Aboriginal organisations. I was told by a couple of them that,
in spite of their academic or professional qualifications, there were no jobs available to them in the private sector.

At about the same time, the federal government was talking about unemployed Aboriginal people learning to
conduct their own businesses. Why weren’t the unemployed whites asked to do this too?”

( I am not impressed – after 65 or more years residence in Australia – with official efforts to engage with the nation’s First Nation Peoples and to assist them to participate fully in the economy. Too much talk, wasted money, and no significant achievement. Only individual effort seems to have lifted some of our Aborigines into successful careers. Group effort has brought success in the arts. Official waffle appears to keep the ‘Why can’t they be like us’ lot pacified!)

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