The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'aborigines'
Keeping his promise, Australian PM Kevin Rudd officially apologises to Aborigines on behalf of the Australian nation; the apology was delivered at a special parliamentary session, which was (for the first time) opened with an Aboriginal ceremony, rather than the traditional English one usually used. Former PM John Howard, the hard-right nationalist who steadfastly refused to apologise and sent the rottweilers in to hunt down anyone promulgating a "politically correct black-armband view of history", was nowhere to be seen, though the current opposition leader, Brendan Nelson, joined in the apology, though reportedly caused outrage when adding in his speech that the present generation is not guilty. (That can't be good for his career, alienating both sides and all.)
Australia's Aborigines are split on the apology; by reports, most welcome it as a positive sign, though some say that an apology without reparations is not good enough, as talk is cheap; in the words of one, "the blackfella gets the words, the whitefella keeps the money".
With it being Australia Day, The Age has a raft of articles looking at Australian culture and identity, including one examining the idea of something being "un-Australian" (for the first time since the end of the Howard era):
Current generations might believe that to be un-Australian and its attendant "ism" were coined in the conservative 1990s, when the values debate raged and the then prime minister, John Howard, spearheaded a failed attempt to get the term mateship enshrined in the constitution. But its ancestry goes back much further. Etymologically, it began life as a literal recognition of things that were not Australian in character; the first recorded use, in 1855, described a part of the landscape similar to Britain.
Cultural commentator Hugh Mackay has argued that anything labelled un-Australian is, in fact, Australian: "Surely it's 'Australian' to do whatever Australians do. It's Australian to drink and drive, to get hopelessly into debt, lie to secure an advantage — whether political, commercial or personal — and engage in merciless and slanderous gossip. It's Australian to give vent to our xenophobia through outbreaks of racism, to reserve our nastiest prejudices for indigenous people, and to worship celebrity … It's Australian to do such things because it's human to do them."And there's also a piece titled "I speak Aboriginal every day", about the surfeit of Aboriginal place names in Australia, most of their meanings all but forgotten to most of the people who use them:
Prahran turns out to be an Aboriginal word — a corruption of Birrarung (mist, or land surrounded by water). Dandenong was Tathenong (big mountain). Geelong comes from Tjalang (tongue). Moorabbin means "mother's milk". Looking up a single page in a street directory now to check a spelling (because I know these words better spoken than written), I find Kanooka, Kanowindra, Kanowna, Kantara, Kantiki, Kanu, Kanuka, Kanumbra, Kanyana … and on and on. Forty-five per cent of Victorian place names are Aboriginal.I didn't know that Prahran was an Aboriginal word; if pressed, I would have guessed that it was taken from India, perhaps in honour of some earlier triumph of the British Empire (by analogy to the area near Flemington which is sometimes referred to as Travancore), or alternately came, badly mangled, from some indigenous British minority language.
The latest peril in Australia: Aboriginal prisoners converting to militant Islam, and becoming potential terrorists; or so the federal government says, and would they lie about such important issues?
"We're worried (when) certain prisoners that are doing very long sentences, as an example, denounce their Aboriginality for Islam," he said. "We monitor them very closely ... To us they're not terrorists in the real sense but they talk the talk. So, if we had somebody who was recruiting in a prison ... we keep them away from people that might be susceptible to the conversion."Meanwhile, US air marshals, faced with insufficient likely terrorists to meet their quotas, have reportedly taken to adding innocent people to their watch lists to make up numbers:
The air marshals, whose identities are being concealed, told 7NEWS that they're required to submit at least one report a month. If they don't, there's no raise, no bonus, no awards and no special assignments.
"That could have serious impact ... They could be placed on a watch list. They could wind up on databases that identify them as potential terrorists or a threat to an aircraft. It could be very serious," said Don Strange, a former agent in charge of air marshals in Atlanta. He lost his job attempting to change policies inside the agency.
One example, according to air marshals, occurred on one flight leaving Las Vegas, when an unknowing passenger, most likely a tourist, was identified in an SDR for doing nothing more than taking a photo of the Las Vegas skyline as his plane rolled down the runway.
(via Boing Boing)
Cross-cultural artefact of the day: ABC guidelines on how to refer to deceased Aboriginal people (PDF), referring to the common Aboriginal tradition prohibiting the use of the personal names of the recently deceased:
People who share the personal name of the deceased person--including English names--will very often temporarily or permanently adopt another personal name.
In central Australia, the construction "Kumanjayi"--and variants--are used to replace the personal name of the deceased, and is very commonly taken on by people who share the same or similar sounding personal name&emdash... Again as an example, the main town of central Australia was referred to by members of some communities as "Kumanjayi Springs", after the death of a woman called Alice. In the latter case, it could hardly be expected a media organisation should follow this practice!
I once read that one reason why the vocabularies Australian Aboriginal languages changed relatively rapidly was that often the names for various things would be changed if they sounded much like the names of recently deceased people.
(via ABC MediaWatch)
The Graun has published an extract of Germaine Greer's latest polemic, "Whitefella Jump Up". In it (originally published as a Quarterly Essay, and now reprinted by another publisher), she argues that to achieve nationhood, Australia should declare itself an Aboriginal Republic, replacing the head of state with "the Aboriginal people", and allowing anybody in Australia to call themselves "Aboriginal":
The second step in the journey is a second statement to the self in the mirror. "I was born in an Aboriginal country, therefore I must be considered Aboriginal." This is a tougher proposition, as long as Aboriginality is thought of as racial, but if we think of Aboriginality as a nationality, it suddenly becomes easier. It would not involve the assumption of a phoney ethnicity or the appropriation of the history of any particular Aboriginal people. The owners of specific dreamings would continue to be so still, and would continue to pass them on according to their law as it applies to those concerned.
Greer then goes on to argue that the Australian national character owes more to Aboriginal traditions than to the British character; that Australia's British settlers and their descendents gradually "went native" without realising it, adopting everything from the broad, nasal Australian accent to the egalitarian tradition, from backpacking and "feral" dance parties (which came from "going walkabout" and corroborees) to the tradition of telling exaggerated yarns, from the continent's first inhabitants; meanwhile, the gulf between Australia and Britain is vast:
Observers of white Australian life are struck by the degree of segregation between the sexes, which cannot be explained by the prevailing mores of the countries they came from. Aboriginal society, too, is deeply segregated; men and women are used to spending long periods in the company of their own sex. The more important the occasion and the larger the gathering, the more likely it is that women will gather in one area and men in another, just as white Australian men gather round the beer keg, leaving the women to talk among themselves. One explanation of the Australian mania for sport of all kinds is that sport is the only remaining area of human activity that is still rigorously segregated.
Funny that she mentions this, because none other than Jeremy Paxman pointed out (in his book The English: A Portrait of a People) the great degree of segregation between the sexes in English society (as compared to other European societies and/or America, undoubtedly). This has probably changed somewhat over the past few decades, though to say that Australian blokes' tendencies to watch the footy with a tinny of VB in hand while the sheilas talk in the kitchen about their kids/the last episode of Neighbors comes from Aboriginal customs of "secret (wo)men's business" seems more far-fetched than attributing it to how English society was in decades or centuries past.
Snopes looks at what the word "Moomba" really means:
The parade was to be held on the Labour Day holiday, thereby undermining the Trade Unions march and the historic significance of the day.
Bill & Eric ran an Aboriginal artifacts stall in the Dandenongs, but were staunch unionists in their younger days.
Bill had a dry sense of humour. He agreed to provide a suitable name for the parade. Friends were surprised at this, knowing how Bill felt about the City Fathers and their business promotion parade.
When he offered the name Moomba, and the organisers accepted it, Bill gave the Aboriginal community a great gift. It has been the trigger for spontaneous laughter for many years since.
While the Moomba organisers, in blissful ignorance, give the translation as "let's get together and have fun," every Koori knows that "Moom" means backside, and "ba" means . . . well, um, hole . . .