Letter from John Downie, Barka UK board member who currently lives in Australia. The letter is a consequence of an informal invitation for Barka to work with aboriginal community in Australia by a group of Australian travellers in Europe.
The aboriginal situation is highly complicated and a very sensitive topic. my view is that many aborigines have lost their true sense of their culture. Perhaps they had it stolen rather than lost it. They were a stone age people and many were
murdered, removed from their families, died of western diseases or forced into near slavery, forced off their land and of course Christianity was forced upon them.
Many white Australians feel very guilty about this and this leads to what is called “sorry money” being given to aboriginal groups where there is little requirement for accountability. This is a kind of reverse racism where expectations of this
people are reduced because they are regarded as incompetent or incapable.Some aboriginal groups follow parodies of their cultural roots but still accept what they call “sit down money” (welfare benefits) and are perhaps still enslaved by this. It is very difficult to understand as their value system is so different. One principle is that they share everything which can be good but it is also suggested that this is one contributing factor in the very low levels of personal success – because effort never brings personal advantage.
Opinions are all very biased on this issue and it is very hard to see the line of truth in it.
Paris has just commissioned a major installation of aboriginal art. I saw a documentary about it and although not a great lover of the style I was changed by the impression the installation left on me. Very beautiful in a wonderfully bright and optimistically reverent way.
But it is so dismal to see the needless squalor, intoxication, domestic violence and child abuse. In their religion their land is part of their triumvirate soul and some feel soulless without their land.
I write so much because I am not confident in speaking to any Australian about the aboriginal situation as I do not know enough – especially not from the aboriginal perspective. if is am to be truthful I feel that many see the aborigines in the same way that African American slaves were once regarded – as a sub species without full human capacity. I don’t find it hard to imagine that a people treated in such a way for generations would have low expectations of themselves but they must find a way to help themselves if they are to regain the mastery of their own future.
Go see some aboriginal art when you are next in Paris!
Hugs to you