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Issue #1667      December 3, 2014

Govt is too negative – Dodson

Yawuru man Mick Dodson has called on the Abbott government to stop contributing to the negative discourse about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In a question-and-answer session following an address to the National Press Club in Canberra last month, Professor Dodson said the constant negativity from the government and mainstream media was making Indigenous people sick.

“The concerns that are parroted like a mantra from the Prime Minister and others in the government are: protect kids – and that’s good, we all want to protect kids, that’s a given – safe communities – of course we want safe communities – and jobs,” he said.

“It’s a three-piece mantra, as if we don’t have social and cultural needs, as if we don’t have linguistic needs, as if we don’t exist as a people.

“It’s a three-trick pony, and a very small pony at that.

“And all of three things are about our failure, supposedly, because we’re Aboriginal.”

“Makes people sick”

“The negativity actually makes people sick. If you’re constantly told: ‘You’re a useless black and we’re going to fix you’, it makes you sick. We need more of the positive narrative out there.”

Professor Dodson delivered a positive narrative, speaking about the important roles of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), particularly in storing important archival materials.

He made the case for investing in a spectacular new building for AIATSIS, similar to the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC.

“Long after each of us in this room have passed on, what we leave our children, and their children, in fact what we leave as our contribution to the Australian nation, will be measured by the legacy we build, or fail to build, now,” Professor Dodson said.

“As a nation we must now gather and cherish these materials, before it is too late. So where to from here? With goodwill, intelligent design and funding, there’s no reason why the institute and the Australian nation cannot do much, much better.

“What is needed, and here I agree with Noel Pearson, is a plan. A Before It’s Too Late Mark III plan. A comprehensive and urgent plan to identify, gather, safe-keep and share, the Indigenous heritage of this nation.

“To that end, I am moving to create the BITL Mk3 Steering Group – a small group which will include notable Australians both Indigenous and non-Indigenous that we can call upon to help put the meat on the bones of this plan.”

Professor Dodson said to live up to his self-appointed title of the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Abbott should stop talking negatively and capitalising on the “entertainment of black failure”.

“Cheer squad”

“It’s not just the white folks saying it. Some of our own prominent individuals are joining in like a cheer squad,” he said. “The reality is many, many of us are very successful.”

Professor Dodson pointed to the success of the Indigenous Governance Awards (as featured in the Koori Mail, November 5 pages 1, 18, 19 and 24) as an example of a positive story that was ignored by the mainstream.

He said that while he was broadly supportive of recognising Indigenous people in the Constitution, he didn’t think the current political climate was conducive to reconciliation.

“There’s a lot of undoing being done, sadly,” Professor Dodson said. “I think the present government is picking fights on a number of fronts.

“I’m very concerned that on the one hand the Prime Minister says he’s going to be the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs, but on the other some important things that have been put in place over the years are being attacked deliberately.

“The attacks on the Northern Territory Land Rights Act are disturbing, because it’s the pillar. If it’s weakened, the rest falls.”

Koori Mail

Next article – Fury over ABC response to cuts

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