There is a mature Australian slowly forming who accepts that the methods by which this country was colonised were not only wrong but also caused enormous damage to the lives and well-being of this country’s First Peoples.
Without seeking to detract from the bravery of soldiers who put life and limb on the line fighting in the Imperial war, the mature Australia accepts that there has been – and continues to be – great suffering by Australia’s indigenous peoples as a consequence of a forcefully imposed colonisation.
And without having recourse to a dreadful calculus of human suffering, there can be no doubt that the suffering of First Peoples has been as great – if not much greater – than that caused to Australian soldiers and their families in World War One. It is not a competition.
This newly maturing Australian is learning to accept that a massive human ‘sacrifice’ of indigenous life underlay the foundations of what we now know as “Australia”.
And, in doing so, also acknowledging a great debt which is owed to contemporary First Peoples as the survivors of that founding act of ‘modern Australia’.
The fact that no Federal politicians talk about the need for reparations for First Peoples, and the need for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission of some kind, does not do away with these fundamentally truths.
Many politicians appear to regard the apology to the stolen generations as absolving them of the need for any further action. But the removal of generations of indigenous children from their parents – while of real importance – is one chapter in the much larger story.
We have a long way to go in terms of bringing this larger story to the surface and taking the necessary actions required to heal life as a result.
COMING TO TERMS WITH REALITY
By contrast to the mature Australian, there is an almost infantile Australian who seeks to cling to the comfort blanket of the 20th century mentality and doctrines of terra nullius.
They appear to yearn for a return to a fantasy structure which belongs to an earlier phase of development – a phase of false innocence which accompanies, and makes tolerable for those who benefit from, acts of imperial colonisation.
Despite the attempts of some to return to an imaginary Australia of the 20th century – and to enthrone it as a dominant ideology of some kind – life has a momentum of its own. We have already moved on from the conditions which made the that form of false consciousness possible, and there is no returning. It takes more energy to deny these truths than to accept them and take appropriate adult action.
Mature Australians are also in a process of adjusting to the fact that we are on this side of the planet, and no longer part of the British empire. There is a slowly growing awareness of the wisdom contained in – and the importance of – First Peoples Ways both in terms of caring for country and of other life values.
While those of us with connections to Great Britain treasure them, we also appreciate that we are situated in an Asian context. We cannot make a fetish of the mythical British homeland at the expense of making timely adjustments to our true surroundings.
The healing challenges which face us in Australia, as a result of the legacy we have inherited, will not be assisted by people in positions of authority who seek to deny the realities of First Peoples suffering – and who seek to denigrate the importance of days of significance for a mature Australia.
PYNE’S INFANTILE REGRESSION
Based on the following report of his remarks, Opposition education spokesperson Christopher Pyne clearly places himself in the infantile camp.
From the Sydney Morning Herald, 22 April 2013, reported by Mark Kenny and Josehine Tovey:
” … as opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne appeared to re-open the so-called ”history wars” which raged during the Howard years, by attacking the school curriculum for putting Aboriginal and multicultural commemoration days on the same level as Anzac Day.
The national curriculum would be reviewed under a Coalition government, he said. ”The Coalition believes that, on balance, Australia’s history is a cause for celebration,” he said.
”It is because of our history that we are a confident and positive nation. We must not allow a confidence-sapping ‘black armband’ view of our history to take hold.
”That history, while inclusive of indigenous history, must highlight the pivotal role of the political and legal institutions from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.”
In the new curriculum Anzac Day is studied in year 3 as one of a number of days of national significance. The Gallipoli campaign is studied in year 9.
Mr Pyne criticised the fact that Anzac Day is ”locked in with NAIDOC Week, Reconciliation Day and Harmony Day” in the national curriculum.
Mr Pyne’s sentiment was similar to that expressed by former prime minister John Howard, who last year accused the government of purging British history from the curriculum.”
VOTE FOR A HEALING AUSTRALIA
Hopefully more mature minds in the Liberal Party will prevail if they win office in the September election. A good part of the rest of the country has moved on – the Liberal Party needs to catch up if they are to lead.
Hundreds of thousands of people walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the name of Reconciliation under a blue sunny sky with the word “Sorry” written in it – while LIberal Party Prime Minister Howard sulked – alone – in a frosty Canberra.
In seeking to return to the ideological approach of former PM Howard, the Liberal Party will merely demonstrate that it is not fit to handle this country’s education system.
For a healing Australia, for a mature and confident Australia which accepts both the reasons for regret and the causes for celebration, vote for those who policies place proper recognition of the suffering and achievements of us all.
That is life’s way forward.