Countering Indigenous disadvantage

Australia’s politicians talk frequently about ‘bridging the gap.’ This gap refers to the relative socio-economic status of the First Nation People of Australia. They represent the underclass of society. There are, however, quite a few achievers of note within this community, mainly through personal effort.

One Prime Minister said “Sorry” on behalf of the nation. Other politicians come across as sincere in their wish to reduce indigenous disadvantage. Against that, a State Government was once accused of deflecting federal funds to other policy objectives. And there was a lot of talk once of fly-in and fly-out consultants.

Remarkably, an African-American established 8 years ago an organisation in Australia involving the private sector, “Career Trackers,” which “mentors indigenous university students into professional jobs.” Its success has attracted the attention of Maori and Pacifika leaders.

Here are extracts from an article by Caitlin Fitzsimmons in the Sydney Morning Herald of 7 Feb. 2018.

Modelled on the INROADS program for African-Americans, Career Trackers provides support for participants during their studies and matches them with paid internships during university holidays.

Despite being 2.8% of the population, Indigenous Australians compose 1.7% of the workforce. Career Trackers is trying to change that – and it’s reporting amazing results. There are 1354 students in the program and 108 corporate partners. A number of companies have committed to take paid interns from the program for at least 10 years, including major law and engineering firms.

Less than half of Indigenous university students make it to graduation, according to the Australian Council for Educational Research, but Career Trackers says nearly 9 out of 10 of its participants do.

Career Trackers says a whopping 95% of its alumni are in full-time employment within three months of graduating.

 The median weekly income for all Australians is $662 and for Indigenous Australians only $441 – but for Career Trackers alumni it is $1192.

It would be naive to think Indigenous disadvantage will be solved by a few corporate internships.

(Comment: Some real progress – at last. This comment is based on 70 years of observation of Australian society.)

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Celebrating nationhood

The celebration of Australia Day has come and gone, exacerbating the division in the populace as to the appropriateness of the date.

Pride in one’s nation is wonderful; and advisable. However, when the visible, audible, and palpable underlay of the populace, the indigenes of Australia, remain the underclass in the nation after more than two centuries of control over their lands, their lifestyles, and their life-chances, could they be expected to commemorate the anniversary of the date of invasion by the British?

Australia was formed as a nation on 1 January. Celebrating Australia Day on the date would, however, deny an extra public holiday. We can’t have that. Public holidays should also fall on a Friday or Monday, enabling a long weekend for full-time employees. The operators of small businesses and their traditionally casual employees can have no say in this matter. How then decide on an appropriate day?

Then there are the ‘trogs’ of this nation. Another generation of these will have to join their Maker before any Aboriginal rights, or even recognition as First Nation Peoples, could ever be considered. In this allegedly democratic nation, what a large majority (say 80%) of electors or the population want has been repeatedly over-ridden by (concealed) cultural superiority, sectarian religion, or political-party affiliation. Our elected representatives represent only their parties, which represent only their own interests. Re-election is all that matters.

Now that the federal government has increased both entry numbers and the ethno-lingual diversity of the immigrant intake, seemingly in the belief that the world will soon run out of migration-seekers, there will be a natural tendency for some new settlers to remain involved in the politics ‘back home,’ to the extent of returning to fight their tribal opponents.

Others will yearn for some aspect of their traditional culture which is incompatible with Australia’s institutions or cultural values and mores. It may be the next or succeeding generations which feel Australian – and with pride.

Successful migrant adaptation can be expected in a country known for its ‘fair-go’ ethos.

When will our Aborigines be accepted as a distinct people, and that ‘bridging the gap’ in disadvantage goes beyond political rhetoric? I fear, not racism based on skin colour, but tribal superiority based on cultural conditioning over more than two centuries.

‘They need to be like us’ used to be said frequently. They clearly have. What now, in this highly-vaunted multicultural nation?

The push of a past life (2)

That a past life can penetrate a current life is my own experience. My wife repeatedly noted that I was attracted to the scimitar. It has a lovely curved blade. Eventually, I admitted to her and to myself that I experience a demanding instinctive need to wield a scimitar when the discrimination I experienced (especially at work) got under my skin.

Consciously, I was not initially angry (a wasteful emotion). That was because, in the White Australia era, my cultural heritage gave me enough strength to ignore the ignorant. However, my subconscious sought revenge when, at the end of my career, I experienced tribal and religious discrimination. But I had to keep my head down.

My intuited past life – that of a Muslim warrior – could explain this itch in my palm. My past life was subsequently confirmed by a clairvoyant in relatively recent times. If that is the truth, I must obviously accept it. And I obviously have to amend some of my emotional reactions, no matter how subconscious; as well as adjust some of my thought processes.

Life is for learning, is it not?

The myth of racial discrimination (1)

Since the concept of ‘race’ is meaningless (common usage being no intellectual defence), then the term ‘racial’ is equally meaningless. What is race? A construct of European colonialism; the ‘white race’ was contrasted against all other races, which were allegedly genetically inferior.

So much for the intellectual competence of those scholars in earlier centuries who sought to prove this. It was no more than the new boy on the patch flexing his muscle. (Mine is bigger than yours!) It may also be that the ‘white’ supremacist had not yet met the peoples of East Asia and those living along the terrain between the Tropic of Cancer and the 40th parallel around the globe; these people are clearly more white than the coppery-white European (except the Mediterraneans).

Funnily enough, when an Asian Caucasian like me marries a European Caucasian, the progeny tend to be whitish in colour; except that the resulting very lightly-tinted ones display an attractive skin colour (like the suntan assiduously sought by white Anglo-Australians).

Since arriving in Australia at the age of 19, I have experienced statements of petty prejudice and acts of discrimination (some very unjust and thereby hurtful). The expressions of prejudice reflected, I realised, my intrusion into ‘white space.’ That this space had been white for only about 250 years, against the reality that it had been ‘black space’ for at least 45,000 years, would not have penetrated the thick skulls of those white supremacists. So, skin colour was the trigger.

Like my fellow-Asian students, I experienced some petty discrimination in service initially, based on my being a coloured foreigner. Disdain was also directed to any white girls in our company. Indeed, in the 1990s, a young Aboriginal youth in my district was beaten up because he was seen walking with a white girl. That was during the ‘Hanson era’ when a new politician complained that there were too many Asians in the country. I too was shouted at in public then. Again, it was skin colour that was the trigger.

Why not refer to this as colour prejudice? It was simply white (repeat, white) supremacy being manifest. There were no ‘races’ implicated.

What of the prejudice displayed initially against the white, Christian, European immigrants who were imported by the government? They were foreign; that is, not British! Racial discrimination? Hogwash! There must be a term for people ‘not like us’! Outsiders? Foreigners? Nothing racially inferior here, is there?

Then, in a competitive work environment, I experienced (between age 55 to 60) overt (and painful) discrimination based on my religion; I did not belong to ‘the faith.’ This was purely tribal discrimination (not one of us). Nothing to do with race!

Ignorant people displaying prejudice through looks and words can be thick on the ground. But they can be, need to be, ignored. Why not? Unjust and hurtful discrimination denying rights or entitlements reflects much more than idiotic prejudice.

Is substantive protection available from legislation in Australia?

Did colonialism make Aborigines nomadic?

Was the Australian Aborigine made nomadic? A most illuminative book by Bruce Pascoe ‘Dark Emu Black Seeds: agriculture or accident?’ suggests to me that British invaders of Australia, in their respective roles as explorers and settlers, forced the indigenes into a nomadic life. When the British drove away the Aboriginal people from their land by shooting or poisoning them (so it has been written), destroying their life chances, as well as their culture and lifestyle, where could the indigene go? How could they survive?

The imagined terra nullius of Australia and North America led to the despoliation of the First Nation peoples of these lands. They could not have been settled, could they? They had to be nomadic, owning no land!

The back cover of Pascoe’s book says: “Pascoe puts forward a compelling argument for a reconsideration of the hunter-gatherer label for pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians. The evidence insists that Aboriginal people right across the continent were using domesticated plants, sowing, harvesting, irrigating and storing – behaviours inconsistent with the hunter-gatherer tag.”

Pascoe is quoted on the back cover thus: “If we look at the evidence presented to us by the explorers and explain to our children that Aboriginal people did build houses, did build dams, did sow, irrigate and till the land, did alter the course of rivers, did sew their clothes, and did construct a system of pan-continental government that generated peace and prosperity, then it is likely that we will admire and love our land all the more.”

A reviewer (Lisa Hill) wrote “In 156 pages, Pascoe has inverted almost everything I thought I knew about pre-colonial Australia. Importantly, he is not relying on oral history, which runs the risk of being too easily debunked; his sources are the journals of notable explorers and surveyors, of pastoralists and protectors. He quotes them verbatim, describing all the signs of a complete civilisation but viewed through the blinkered lens of appropriation and White superiority.

As a matter of interest, during a brief but bitter historiography war in Australia in recent times, a strident effort was made to play down oral history. Why? Without being tested through the adversarial processes of an Australian court, oral statements about the past could have no credibility. So, there go the Old Testament and any other artefacts of culture.

Pascoe’s work was preceded by the renowned Dr. Coombs. The following is an extract from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity’ Chapter 3 ‘To have a dream.’

“ A few years after the initial ‘discovery’ by Captain Cook, it was apparently known that the indigenes not only occupied the land and used it with economic purpose, but also (according to the highly respected Dr.Coombs) “… lived in clan or tribal groups, that each group had a homeland with known boundaries, and that they took their name from their district, and rarely moved outside it.” It was also known that they had, and applied, firm rules about trespass, kinship ties, marriage, child rearing and other matters, the hallmarks of an organised society; that they had a “habit of obedience” to their rulers and leaders, a hallmark of a political society; and that they had an ordered ceremonial life, reflecting the sharing of a spiritual vision, a hallmark of a civilisation. Apparently, they also had their own zodiac, which guided their activities. Their artistic records are also well known and respected.”

Sadly, government after government talked about ‘Bridging the gap,’ with no discernible improvement in the plight of their First Nation people (except for a handful of urban Aborigines, who seemed to have made good progress through personal effort). Quo vadis?

When other people’s money runs out

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, said that socialism works well until other people’s money runs out (or words to that effect). In spite of my extended life in Australia (almost 7 decades as an adult), I do not believe that I have experienced (lived under) a socialist government. My exposure to the Australian polity ranges from White Australia (with its overt racism) to the current rule under Vaticanite social doctrines.

Although the Australian Labor Party (ALP) purportedly represented the working class, it has allowed generous tax concessions to the wealthy, and to powerful interests (especially the foreign-controlled mining industry). As a swinging voter, and thereby a political orphan, I am perpetually aware that our major political parties are akin to Tweedledum and Tweedledee in that wonderful story ‘Alice in the looking glass’. Changing places in Parliament makes little difference.

The cost of welfare payments is said to be rising. Eligibility seems to be widening. There are visibly wealthy senior citizens receiving some age pension (the cut-off point for couples is close to a million dollars). The disability pension (which pays about 25% more) appears to be easily exploited; I personally know 4 recipients who are not in any way disabled.

By retiring from the work force from about age 55 to 60, and living on one’s superannuation until retirement age, one could then live on the age pension until death. (Super is intended to be a replacement for the age pension.) The use-by date for men is now (Oct 2017) about 80; and for women about 84.

In the late 1980s, when asked about the policy implications of the proliferation of welfare eligibility – and how he proposed to deal with it – the responsible public official replied “I am too busy”!

With the political parties playing politics, were the responsible public officials to sit on their hands in the circumstances of the increasing casualisation of the workforce and falling union membership (about 12%), are those taxpayers who are unable to reduce their tax to be increasingly burdened? How long before the ‘camel’s back’ collapses?

Yet, there are increasing demands for widening welfare payments. In spite of a substantial intake of identified refugees, we are also asked to take more. It has also been suggested that welfare should enable a sustainable lifestyle. Worse still, that ridiculous concept of a ‘poverty line’ has re-surfaced. Under this definition, anyone whose income is below the median income (at the halfway mark) is in poverty; and therefore needs financial supplementation. How irresponsibly generous are those proponents of expropriation of other people’s hard-earned money!

The cost of welfare in October 2017 is reportedly $300,000 per minute or $430 million per day. The total lifetime bill for those receiving welfare benefits is estimated at $2.1 trillion. Furthermore, dole recipients are reported to be not attending interviews. Does anyone in office care?

Welfare is now based, not on need, but on a right; what about reciprocity? I read recently that a nation in Europe insists on reciprocity in relation to payments to refugees. Was I correct in believing during my youth that socialism is no different from communism – and to be fought in terms of a human right – the right not to subsidise those not in need?

Being ‘too black’ and a ‘coloured foreigner’

The White Australia policy had a sharp bite. Way back in 1949, Australia’s first Immigration Minister tried very hard to deport Mrs. Anne O’Keefe and her children. She was then married to an Anglo-Australian, and they had a cute little white baby. Mrs. O’Keefe and her daughters were Ambonese. They had been given succour in Australia, when her husband had died defending The Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) against the Japanese invasion. I had been a neighbour of that family.

The family remained in Australia after the High Court’s intervention. Reportedly, the High Court found that the Minister’s earlier deportation of other coloured people, especially Sergeant Gamboa (a Filipino who had served in the US military in Australia), was unlawful. But the Minister had only been attempting to apply the law. However, it was the Australian public which had defended the O’Keefe family.

Yet, as I had observed over a number of years in that period, the prevailing public attitude towards coloured people was antipathetic. The antipathy applied to white foreigners (non-British) as well. However, when able-bodied European workers were sought and brought into the country, the Good Neighbour Councils (of Anglo-Australians) set out to make them feel welcome.

Educated, fee-paying Asian youth studying in Australia had to fend for themselves; they were however strongly buttressed by their religio-cultural heritage. Discrimination was overt. Oral slights were not uncommon. Yet, we remained untouched, even as we adapted to Aussie traditions and colloquialisms.

One tradition I liked was the evening barbeque over a 9-gallon keg of beer. The party ended when the beer ran out – from (say) 4am to 8am. My hosts were fellow-workers in the factory where I worked, and on the trams. I must have been the first coloured tram conductor in Melbourne.

Since the Aussies then described all coloured people as black (East Asians were yellow), I had to put up with being a ‘blackfellow’ or ‘black bastard.’ But my Asian friends and I just went with the flow, knowing that when the oldest generation of superior whites met their Maker, our lives would be smoother. That did happen. Only the ignorant yobbo continues to seek to protect white space by name-calling.

S.18 (c) of the Racial Discrimination Act, regrettably, emboldens the odd coloured new immigrant to feel offended and humiliated by oral abuse by the yobbos. That is not discrimination! Such immigrants should have been here in the 1950s. I remind them of my father’s adage: ‘The dogs may bark, but the caravan moves on.’

In the mid-1950s, although I had qualified as a research psychologist, I was told that I was “too black” to be accepted by Australians. (I am a very light tan.) Later, when I qualified as an economist, I was advised that “the Australian worker is not yet ready for a foreign executive, much less a coloured one.” The first incident was witnessed; she confirmed my story a few years later. The second event was reported to me by the Head of the Graduate Employment Unit of the University of Melbourne.

In spite of all that, I am quite proud of my adopted nation. It has evolved into a cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic, colour-blind polity. During my work experience in State and federal agencies, and in private companies (from factory hand to senior accounts clerk), only once was I addressed improperly. A fellow factory worker called out to me “Hey, Rastus!” He was obviously a book reader. The Australian worker does stand tall, unlike most of the workers in ‘emerging economies.’

My only complaint is about the overt discrimination during the last 5 years of my career (leading to early retirement) from a small but powerful gang, for whom the word mass carried great weight. This discrimination was clearly tribal. Yet, by being moved from here to there often, I had the opportunity to become very knowledge about all of the government’s migrant-integration and related policies.

From that nasty experience arose 6 books (refer amazon.com), and 44 in-depth articles (refer ezinearticles.com).

Destiny can work in shocking ways. I paid a heavy price for my learning, but it was worth it.