Tuesday 11 May 2021

An "indigenous voice in parliament"

is back under discussion. 

There have been  opinion pieces in the press about this - and most of them seem to be in favour of the idea. There has also been some community discussion - and most people I have heard discussing it do not seem to be in favour.

And no, they are not being racist. Some of them are the very people this move is in some way supposed to acknowledge. Interestingly though they do not want that. They simply want to be part of the community in which they live. They do not want to be singled out as being in any way different.  

My good friend M..., a man who is obviously indigenous, does not support the idea. He sees it as a divisive move. Yes, he has done well in life. Not so long ago he retired from his position as a very senior youth worker.  He's busy now - doing much the same sort of thing he did before he retired. He's keeping boys out of trouble and out of harm's way as best he can. It's an uphill battle. 

M... believes that the families he has worked with need to make more effort to stay out of trouble. When he was growing up his parents made sure he attended school, that he did his homework, that he went to Sunday school and then church on Sundays. It was the same for his sister. They were expected to work and to achieve. His father was a station master, probably the only indigenous station master in the state at the time. It was a good job. There was a regular income coming in. M... and his sister went to school well dressed and clean. "I might not have come home clean but I certainly went looking clean. Mum made sure our shoes were polished and that we had a decent lunch," he once told a meeting I attended. 

And yes, he has faced racism. He has faced abuse with quiet dignity, the sort of quiet dignity his mother instilled in him. His attitude is "It's up to us to make the most of the opportunities available. Nobody needs to break the law. The cops are not going to arrest you for walking down the street. Some of them might stop you but if you are polite and tell them where you are going then they are simply going to let you get on your way."

In the district he lives in there are police from indigenous backgrounds. They are watching out for indigenous youth. Many of them actually want to help the many indigenous teens who end up in trouble. 

"There need to be bigger expectations of the mob Cat," M... told me yesterday. He had rung me about an issue with a boy who has learning issues but really does seem to be trying to stay at school. His mates however are teasing him about being there. To me these "mates" are not mates at all. They could do so much for themselves if they went to school and made the most of their opportunities. 

"We don't need more Cat. We need to use what we already have," M...said again.

An "indigenous voice in parliament" will be meaningless unless people make use of what they already have. If they did make use of it then the "voice" might not be necessary.  

But do the rest of us make use of what we already have? If not,  how can we expect the "indigenous voice in parliament" proposal to work? 

1 comment:

jeanfromcornwall said...

The "voice in Parliament" would be a permanent mark of difference - giving any one group a separate voice means that they can safely be ignored in matters that affect the whole nation.