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Gen 2:9 -
Issue 7, November 2006, Highlights:
The tourists are moving out. The AFL finals are over. The buildup to the wet season has begun. The school year is rapidly moving towards a conclusion. The mangoes are ripening. There is a sense of change in the air. There have been a number of things to remind us that change might be in the air but ‘on the ground’ some things stay the same.
The recent findings by a Queensland Coroner on the facts of the death in custody on Palm Island of an Aboriginal man have stirred strong reactions on all sides. There are those who still cannot or will not accept that these things could happen; police could not possibly act this way. So there have been attacks on the Coroner’s integrity and a refusal to face the facts.
In the wake of the significant win by the Noongar people in having their claim to Native Title recognized, we have had comments by politicians that did not seem to be helpful. They took us back to the days following the Mabo and Wik decisions when people were told to guard their backyards from possible acquisition by Aboriginal claimants. So there are appeals being launched to test parts of the decision.
The Catholic Bishops of Australia launched their 2006 Social Justice Sunday Statement, reflecting on the words of the late Pope John Paul II during his visit to Alice Springs in 1986 and the progress made on the significant issues he raised at that time. What is striking about the 2006 Statement is that despite the progress made in many areas there is much ‘unfinished business’ mentioned as well. One commentator accused the Bishops of asking ‘biting rhetorical questions’, but stopping ‘short of answering them’, and characterized the Statement as ‘essentially benign’.
It would seem that there is a great deal of projection going on in each of these instances. Those things we discover lurking in the depths of our own hearts, even to a small degree, that we are shocked by and fearful of ever admitting to, are projected upon ‘the other’ as a way of relieving us of any personal responsibility for ever having to deal with them for ourselves. ‘It’s obviously their fault...they are obviously wrong...why don’t they do something about it?’
The dark things we discover in our secret depths could be the ingrained and inherited racism that is just under the surface of many of us who pride ourselves on being tolerant and giving everyone a ‘fair go’. It could be the unaddressed guilt that we feel for what was done illegally two hundred years ago in taking land from those who were the custodians of it, or more recently depriving people of their family life, their language and their culture, while saying we should all be ‘mates’. It could be the shame we feel at not doing enough to redress the appalling social disadvantages suffered by Aboriginal people in particular in this country, despite espousing the value of equality and boasting that we have ‘boundless plains to share’.
There is a need for greater honesty when we are faced with challenges like those mentioned above. When we are asked to articulate what real Australian values are, we need to put them against how we behave. Are the values to be a reflection of who we really are or are they to be aspirations expressing whom we want to become? Whatever the answer, it seems to be a conversation we need to have.