Re: Hindmarsh Island "cultural"?

Luana Lisandro (
22 Sep 1995 14:16:58 GMT

Joseph Askew [JA] ( wrote:
: In article <> (Rod Hagen) [RH] writes:

[JA's idiotic material deleted. However, I could not spare readers from the
rest. My compliments to Rod Hagen for an excellent reply to JA's
political *burden* to pursue this thread in aus.general etc. Why not in
sci.anthropology? My apologies to the original poster who wanted to know
why the Hindmarsh Island affair was cultural, we never did quite get down
to answering that. And most of all the Aboriginal peoples of Australia,
who have been generalised to the hilt in these postings.]

JA: But which they have received just once in all the years that
JA: the legislation has been in place. This is the first serious
JA: challenge to an Aboriginal claim. [Hindmarsh Royal Commission]

RH: >Because of this they
RH: >tend to make their objections known only when the matter is particularly
RH: >serious and when they believe they have some hope of affecting the
RH: >result.

JA: So you admit they do not believe that disturbances will make
JA: their women infertile?

RH: >The fact that the building of weirs did not result in any publicity of
RH: >Aboriginal grievances doesn't mean they didn't have any.

JA: I agree with that. Back then no one was listening.

RH: >There is also the
RH: >question of the context of the development. It is only recently that
RH: >Aboriginal groups have recoverd sufficient confidence to stand up for
RH: >their rights. It is also only recently that anybody has bothered to
RH: >listen when they have tried to.

JA: I agree entirely. Except about the confidence bit. So this is
JA: an opportune objection all in all.

JA: >> And if the situation is not confrontational there is no
JA: >> chance that the women will be seriously questioned. This
JA: >> is the only way to get to the bottom of it and if it is
JA: >> true that there are eyewitnesses to white males telling
JA: >> these women to invent the story then we will get to the
JA: >> bottom of it and fairly soon.

RH: >Confrontational systems are often a singularly poor way of establishing
RH: >the truth (ask anyone who has sat through just about any court case!).

JA: Rubbish. They are far better than one sided biased interrogations
JA: as anyone who has sat through a French court case will know. Let
JA: alone a Chinese one. This is the only way to allow both sides to
JA: air their points of view freely and to their satisfaction.

RH: >In
RH: >situations such as this one they both culturally inappropriate and
RH: >singularly unlikely to prove successful.

JA: Why are they culturally inappropriate? Is it against Aboriginal
JA: law and culture to admit if fraud has or has not taken place?

JA: >> In particular islands in rivers of course. Which makes their
JA: >> beliefs so general that they are hardly possible to respect
JA: >> in practise. Every island? Every mountain? Every hill? Not a
JA: >> chance of getting the public to buy that.

RH: >I don't for a minute suggest that it is "easy" for whites to respect
RH: >Aboriginal beliefs.

JA: Fine. We have some grounds for agreement. Of course what is
JA: easy it to get the intellectual "elite" of this country to
JA: agree to pretend to respect said beliefs and intimidate any
JA: dissenters. Even though no one really does.

RH: >The fact remains however that there are a vast number
RH: >of sites of spiritual importance to Aborigines in Australia.

JA: I agree with that too. But so what?

RH: >The knee jerk
RH: >reaction of disbelief whenever Aboriginal people seek to have sites
RH: >protected is based primarily on a lack of understanding of breadth and
RH: >intensity of Aboriginal relationships to land.

JA: On the contrary I suspect I have a well developped sense of
JA: the breadth and intensity of the Aboriginal's relationship
JA: to the land. But why do you think all Aboriginals share the
JA: same set of beliefs based only, as far as I can tell, on race?
JA: Is it in the genes? And in connection with nothing in particular
JA: besides Coronation Hill when was the last time any development
JA: was totally halted by Aboriginal objections? Not the last time
JA: they got a Court injunction but the last time a Mining company
JA: could not strike some sort of deal?

RH: >The public may not "buy"
RH: >it, but that doesn't mean that Aboriginal people don't have a right to
RH: >stand up for their beliefs.

JA: Of course not. I am all in favour of people standing up
JA: for their beliefs. Especially minorities. I just don't
JA: think that government policy ought to be made on that
JA: basis.

RH: >If we really want to come to terms with the
RH: >consequences of the white occupation of Australia then we should do
so on
RH: >a basis which accepts the reality of Aboriginal land relationships.

JA: What reality? Patronising aren't you? If we want to come to
JA: terms with the consequences of white occupation we have to
JA: think seriously about what sort of country we want to live in,
JA: what role is there for Aboriginals, is any modus vivendi even
JA: possible, if so what and are we willing to pay for it and what
JA: policies ought the government enforce or not enforce. There is
JA: no sign of that even beginning to happen and without proper
JA: confrontational politics it won't. We will just muddle along.

RH: >Ultimately, as you suggest, it may prove politically impossible to do
RH: >justice to their beliefs and interests. But simply denying their
RH: >significance leaves us living a lie.

JA: I am not denying the significance, I am questioning whether a
JA: group of what are plainly false stories ought to determine the
JA: whole economic policy of the nation. False not in the sense that
JA: they are made up but false in the sense they are flatly not true.
JA: There is no difference between the stories of the Bible and those
JA: of these Aboriginals. Yet I do not see the government banning the
JA: wearing of clothes made with mixed fibres let alone killing gays.

JA: >> The real question we should answer is how much are we
JA: >> prepared to pay to assuage the guilt of white settlement
JA: >> and for the present status of Aboriginal Australia.

RH: >What price justice? What price morality?

JA: Depends, does Coles sell them. Both these terms are highly
JA: loaded and subjective. There is something we could both
JA: agree on out there I am sure but Hindmarsh island is not it.

RH: >These are always difficult
RH: >questions, but at present many don't seeem to have even reached the
RH: >where they are prepared to ask them. Instead they react with knee jerk
RH: >disbelief whenever Aboriginal people stand up for their interests.

JA: I do not disbelieve when they stand up for their beliefs. I
JA: do not think that they do not hold many obscure and unknown
JA: superstitions. I just don't think that government policy ought
JA: to be made on the basis that everything has to stop merely
JA: because an Aboriginal claims something is true. Worse I do not
JA: think that the mere fact that an Aboriginal claims something
JA: is true means that no one else is allowed to question it. In
JA: particular when three Aboriginal women step forward with no
JA: obvious motive and a lot to lose in monetary terms and claim
JA: that these stories were invented at the prompting of a White
JA: lawyer in their presense I see an obvious need for an inquiry.
JA: Nor is this belief restricted to Aboriginals. I have no doubt
JA: that the Reverend Fred Nile believes deeply and sincerely that
JA: homosexuality is an abomination that ought to be illegal. And
JA: that the Roman Catholic Church deeply believes that abortion
JA: is wrong. I just do not think that government policy ought to
JA: be made on the basis of "respecting" these beliefs.

JA: >>If a line isn't drawn somewhere it will backfire for Aboriginals
JA: >> in the long run. After all they are mostly dependent on the
JA: >> rest of us for everything.

RH: >We currently spend more public money per capita on providing the
RH: >infrastructure to support a suburban house in Melbourne or Sydney
RH: >than we do on an Aboriginal family in a remote community.

JA: I am not going to dispute it. So?

RH: >Aborigines in remote
RH: >areas have less of the resources which we take for granted in our cities
RH: >and towns than any other groups of th Australian popluation.

JA: Of course but just about everything they do have is provided
JA: by the rest of us.

RH: >Many of the rural industries of Australia depended for the best part
RH: >of a century on cheap Aboriginal labour and free Aboriginal land.

JA: Well free land anyway. But thanks to the well meaning efforts
JA: of city liberals (in the American sense) we have seen that all
JA: the rural industries in this country do NOT depend on cheap
JA: Aboriginal labour.

RH: >Even in the
RH: >1980's, when I was working the NT, some cattle station operators were
RH: >paying their Aboriginal workers by simply signing them up for social
RH: >security. Some even had to work for their age pension cheques.

JA: Really? And why weren't they simply claiming without working?
JA: Excuse me while I doubt loudly that anyone would be so stupid
JA: to work a full week for what they could get by doing nothing.

RH: >If a real
RH: >balancing of costs and benefits was possible, I suspect we would find
RH: >that we owe them far more than they owe us!

JA: No doubt you would.

: Joseph

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Luana Lisandro ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
University of Western Australia | "There is no system that has not
email:| another system concealed within it."
| "Art & Lies" by Jeanette Winterson