Thursday, 19 June 2014

There is a fairly new "tradition"

here that always makes me feel very uncomfortable. It is viewed as a "politically correct" thing to do but I felt uneasy about it from the first time I heard someone do it.
It is the tradition of "acknowledging" the fact that the meeting, usually a public one, "is taking place on the land of the (insert indigenous tribal name) people".
To me it ranks along with things like "reverting to the indigenous name" and flying the "indigenous" flag. I squirm.
Before I get accused of being racist may I explain that I once had a very good and very close friend, now sadly deceased, who was a "full blood" indigenous woman. She was very strong minded about such things. She had little time for them.
Her view was that the acknowledgment should only take place if the gathering in question had some direct relationship to the tribe in question. She said indigenous names were often incorrect and were not there for the use of everyone - and certainly not without the permission of the elders of the indigenous community in question. As for the flag? Well indigenous Australians could use it if they wanted to but they had done without any sort of flag for thousands of years and they could continue to do so in her view.
That was her view - and I believe it was shared by many of her generation.
The "acknowledgment" is tokenistic. It divides rather than draws people together.  It lacks any real meaning and, I suspect, many people feel uncomfortable with it. A respected indigenous elder is now saying, in this morning's paper, that it is "over used".  I have heard it said with some respect but, far more often, I have heard it gabbled as if the speaker was embarrassed or said in a way which suggests it is a duty to be got out of the way.
I think we need to question why there is a feeling it needs to be used so much. What do people really believe they are doing when they use it?
And I can remember my friend's funeral at which nothing like that was said. There was a greeting in her language - and we all stood quite still and silent for her.



Helen Devries said...

I heard this on the two last Ashes tours....and thought it a pointless piece of PCness.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you met our family member who wasn't quite full blood, wasn't 'stolen' in her opinion, and who thought that others with both lighter and darker skin than hers should get off their seat of knowledge and get a job.

Her opinion of welcome to country ceremonies would have been colorful, to say the least!

Stroppy Author said...

Isn't the obvious thing, if they feel bad about stealing the land from the indigenous people, to give it back? That would sort out how really sorry they feel about taking it.

Anonymous said...

Cat, it irritates the heck out of me and a lot of us feel embarrassed by it. It wasn't said in the past and it does not need to be said now - especially not out of some sort of misguided PC attitude.
(And, for the rest of you, I am the son of the person Cat is talking about.)

catdownunder said...

Hi Rob - your mother would have a thing or two to say! She was an amazing woman and I still miss her.
Give it back Anne? I wonder who they would give it to...there is another whole issue around who is indigenous. Rob's mother had some astringent views on that too.