Living in a Marsupial World
 
I know it seems daunting, but below is a very important issue that we think everyone should be aware of, so please take those few extra minutes to read this. We were so affected by this film and this experience, we decided to post this and fill in the gaps of our journey as later. Thank you for reading!

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Leaving a premiere screening of the documentary Our Generation I am having trouble with my emotions, so bear with me as I try to explain. As we depart the Deckchair Cinema in Darwin this evening I feel both an unrelenting sadness and a literal tingling energy, a hope, a desire to share what I’ve learned with the world.

We are in the midst of a modern genocide, a full force civil rights movement that has gone overlooked not only on a global scale but also, more shockingly, at a local one here in Australia. It does not surprise me (though it’s a shame) that the international public is not aware of the great injustices being inflicted upon the indigenous people of Australia, as the world seems to leave Australia to its own corner of the globe. Rather more offensive is some of the non-indigenous Australian public’s lack of acknowledgment encapsulated in either bystander racism or blunt, obstinate racism. Also disturbing is Australia’s so-called democratic government that for the past three years has undermined their own English common laws put in place to protect Aboriginal (Yolngu) rights and culture through a mandate named the Northern Territory Emergency Response Intervention.


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This Intervention began under the guise of a noble cause, a political Trojan horse regarding potential child abuse and the “Little Children are Sacred” report. Much like the WMD’s of George W. Bush’s Iraq, not only did a vague, unresearched threat become an emotionally manipulative ploy for government control and a hidden agenda, but also the threat itself was never found or documented. Basically, in 1975 (yes that recently) the Aboriginal people were returned control of large sections of homeland in the Northern Territory. In 2007, after documentation surfaced regarding the absolute poverty, overcrowding, and health issues within “modernized” Aboriginal communities (most were remnants of colonization and missionaries restricting the Nomadic First People to fixed penned areas mimicking western communities) it was brought forth to the government that these circumstances were unacceptable and could lead to instances of child sexual abuse, among other things. The government took the report and ran with it, undermining the land treaty of 1975, reclaiming control of Aboriginal homesteads, banning substances such as alcohol and pornography, as if such things were an indigenous introduced problem and solely an indigenous issue.

Not only that, but before and after going in with their proverbial guns blazing, the Northern Territory and Australian governments ignored the heavily recommended advice by the original proponents of the child safety report to consult the Aboriginal elders and communities and they did not look for consent for the measures they took. They disrespected the Yolngu people by seizing control and claiming them unfit to care for the well being of their own children (frighteningly recalling the “Lost Generation” when between 1910 and 1970, white Australians forcibly removed Yolngu children from their families to integrate them into white society). 


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These accusations and historical atrocities have brought great shame and pain to the Yolngu people. Family and community is at the forefront of their culture, so much so that a mother in the film who participated in the Q&A emphasized that unlike much of western culture which looks after children until they are 16 or 18, the Aboriginal people are in their children’s lives until the day they die. She said that accusing them of neglect, of abuse is not only a lie, but pains her as if she were to tear out part of her mind or her heart.

Even though former PM Kevin Rudd made the leap to make the first apology from the government towards the Aborigines in 2009, he did not do anything to revoke the illegal underhanded Intervention. Whatever good intentions they had in terms of improving housing and health conditions in these communities has still yet to be seen. After 3 years and several hundred billion dollars of funding supposedly being put towards housing for Aboriginal communities, only 11 houses were built in all of the N.T. Communities are being bribed by the government, which is promising 50 homes if the people will lease their land back to the government for 99 years. Deplorable. Australia has a huge mining industry and an incredible amount of the world’s natural minerals come from the Northern Territory, which if the Intervention continues and the government keeps reclaiming land and relocating families, the government will no doubt drill baby drill. Sound familiar? I am overwhelmed by a deep pain, a deep aching rooted from my center and radiating to my fingers and toes, when I think about how much greed, how much hurt, how much complete disregard for the lives of other individuals certain people can wield. 


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Dr Djiniyini on the far left
Before we were aware of who he was, Ben spotted the Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra (first name pr: “Geniyini”) across the cinema grounds and stated, “He looks like a wise man.” Ben could not have been more correct. One of the most prominent interviewees in the documentary and one of only two Aboriginals to recently approach the U.N. in Geneva regarding the racist policies of Australian government, he was a man, an elder, so articulate that with every sentence you could feel the weight of 10,000 generations of ancient wisdom saturate you. He sat through the film with the crowd and afterwards stepped up to be part of a Q&A. With tears in his eyes, (this profoundly intelligent elderly man with tears streaming down his cheeks), he urged the audience (and indirectly White Australia and the world) to feel his pain, the pain of his people, of the Aboriginal people. To share in that pain, that sorrow, to acknowledge it, embrace it, and in doing so open our hearts to respect and embrace the culture of his people, the First People of Australia and rebuild the country hand in hand. He said, “to my brothers and sisters, don’t say you’ll stand by me, you can stand with me for all eternity and watch me fall and crumble; the time for standing is over, this is a struggle. This is our time to take action, to change our world and how the world sees us, so that the world sees us.“


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Part of Darwin Festival - screening of indigenous films
An indigenous woman in the crowd stood during the Q&A, fervently screaming in the microphone to the absent government officials that she was angry. Why, she said, do internationals get rights and become assimilated as Australian citizens when Aborigines, the First People of this nation, the original owners of Australian soil, get treated as second-class citizens, as animals. Why, so many individuals in the film asked, does the Australian government and for that matter the voting Australian public, think it’s acceptable to come into Aboriginal homes, communities, properties, and demand that they change their ways, insist that they need to do things differently, that they don’t know how to raise their own children, they don’t know how to live their lives? I would not come into your home and do that to you, one aboriginal man said.

 


In no other industrialized, westernized, modern country is this happening. Australia is the only colonized country whose government has NEVER acknowledged that the Aborigines are the traditional owners of the land and the only colonized country NEVER to have issued any treaty to the Aborigines for the ownership of land. When the British first landed, they said Australia was a people-less country, and didn’t acknowledge the locals as human. AND Australia is the only democratic nation not to have a Bill of Rights and to have no laws protecting indigenous people in their Constitution, which was written in 1900 to keep white men in control. “Treaty now!” was often repeated in the film and amongst the audience.
One of the things that struck me most was when they spoke about Yolngu laws, which do not change, and have not changed for at least the past 10,000 years; white (Balanda) laws however, are always changing, governments are always changing but not indigenous law. When they spoke I got the impression that their laws, their knowledge, their dreamtime stories, songs, and dances, are part of an ancient wisdom that reaches back to the beginning of creation. All of these things are passed on orally and if this culture, if these ways are eradicated by western modernization and the Australian government, then I feel we will witness the greatest tragedy the world has ever experienced – the loss of the oldest living knowledge, the oldest living culture, a connection between humanity and the earth that in western society we seem to have lost long ago.
The Aborigines say that you don’t just own the land, the land owns you. We have forgotten this second part. We go against the grain and struggle with this inevitability, this strength of the natural world. Aborigines and the land that we call Australia lived in harmony for millennia. They were the caretakers of this rich landscape and it thrived and they thrived. Then the British arrived and quickly wiped out over 200 species of animals and plants, brought pollution, sickness and disease. The oldest living culture and the youngest are living side-by-side, clashing so horribly, seemingly so incompatible. How can you live amongst the oldest living culture on earth and not give a shit about it? Why do we not want to learn how they have lived with such grace and beauty so successfully for longer than any of our ancestral cultures? Are we so devoid of culture ourselves that we are afraid of it? Can we only tolerate it through books and history after it’s already extinct? The Dreamtime stories, the oral tradition of the Aborigines, they said that in itself is creation, the world will always be, but without this knowledge that they possess we can not continue creating, we cannot continue being.

In short, the Deckchair Cinema was beautiful, the film was incredibly powerful, and the people are amazing. See this film if you can, go to the website, do what you can to take action!

http://www.ourgeneration.org.au/

mum
9/27/2010

Thanks for sharing this story. How is it possible that man's inhumanity to man can somehow be justified, that exploitation can be recharacterised as taking the moral high ground? The worth of the ancient wisdoms in this culture is beyond measure or price and should be respected for its intrinsic value. It is truly a crime that "civilized" man uses trumped up causes as a guise for self-serving behavior. There is no way to put a price on this culture's value to our world. The loss of their culture would certainly be tragic.

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