Reconciliation

Hi all,

With government making a good deal of noise in recent years about the concept of ‘reconciliation’ between Aboriginal Australia and the non-aboriginal community, it has been on my mind quite a bit as well. I must state straight up that I don’t really know a great deal about the issue and I’m certain its a complex one. My limited view is inevitably based on some huge assumptions and I concede that my whole idea could therefore be simplistic and naïve. I’d like to apologise ahead of time, if anyone is in any way offended by me having my (possibly misguided) say. But one of the wonderful things about being an Australian is that, for now at least, we are free to HAVE a say.

It seems to me that if there is ever to be any kind of reconciliation between two disparate groups, it can only occur when those groups come together and create some common ground. The obvious problem that I see is that the vast majority of Australians are city dwellers whilst the overwhelming majority of Aboriginal people live in the bush. The only experience that many non-aboriginal Australians ever have of the Aboriginal community, is limited to the information presented to them by the media, the visual implementation of government policies (like the Aboriginal flag flying from public buildings) and seeing the wonderful contribution that Aboriginal athletes make to Australian sport.

I reckon that most Australians are decent people and we tend to take people as we find them. The problem that exists for Aboriginal and non-aboriginal Australians is that they have little opportunity to actually interact. I think that any government (both aboriginal and non) that is serious about achieving reconciliation, needs to take every possible opportunity to foster a coming together of their people. Most of us are far more realistic and objective towards the people we know personally, than we are towards total strangers who we have only seen from afar or heard about in the media.

I understand that many Aboriginal people might have little interest in interacting with non-aboriginals and when one looks back at the shameful history of this country, I don’t think any thinking person would fail to understand why. I don’t believe that these folks should be forced or coerced in any way whatever and, if they wish to be left alone, then that wish should certainly be respected.

But I’m aware too, that many aboriginal communities are actively seeking to find a new way forward in this changing world and some of them are turning to tourism, as a means of providing income and employment opportunities for their people. Like every business initiative by independent minded souls who are looking to provide for themselves, I think the tourism initiative is really wonderful. And I think that the government should be making every effort to maximise the chances of these initiatives succeeding.

That brings me to the point of this post. We’ve seen lots of ‘initiatives’ in recent years, aimed at solving all sorts of environmental and financial woes. Free money to all (the so-called economic stimulus package), the home insulation scheme and recently the solar electricity supplements. Also, there’s a cost equalisation transport subsidy scheme, aimed at ensuring that Tasmania, as a state of the nation, isn’t disadvantaged by its geographical separation. While I’m not saying that any of these initiatives are good or bad, I wonder how much progress might be made towards cultural reconciliation, if the government was to actively assist the aboriginal tourism industry, as well as pursuing every other avenue to facilitate a coming together of aboriginal and non-aboriginal people. And if all of the things that I’m about to suggest are already happening, my views are no less relevant. If they are already happening to some degree, then they need to happen MORE!

For example, why not introduce a scheme whereby tourism to those aboriginal communities that desire it, is actually subsidised by the government? The communities could charge fees for entry to those areas of their lands where visits by non-aboriginal folks is considered acceptable.   And they can charge fees for accommodation and other services that they might provide to tourists (all of this is already happening to some degree) and  all of this could be subsidised by the government.  Instead of non-aboriginal Australians having to cough up on the spot for these things, it could all be handled by appropriate administrative arrangements behind the scenes.

This would have the effect of making tourism to Aboriginal destinations more affordable and attractive for ordinary people and also reduce any feelings of resentment that we all experience, at being charged on-the-spot for entrance to tourist areas (anyone who has been charged for entrance to a National Park will know what I mean). I reckon the government should be ready and willing to subsidise every aspect of the aboriginal tourism industry, including its promotion in the media. The benefits to the communities involved, as well as to Australians undertaking domestic tourism would be a win/win for everybody.

But the real benefit isn’t financial. The real benefit is that more Aboriginal Australians and more non-Aboriginal Australians would have the opportunity of getting to know each other personally. And if there’s one thing I believe about Australians, its that they look out for their mates.

I can almost see the advertising campaign now ….. “Called in at me brother’s while I was away. Gees, he’s got an awesome backyard!” ……. OK, so I’m not going to make it in the advertising game 🙂 But I’d so love to see our government doing more to foster personal contact between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Australians.  And if we are serious about one nation, I think we are flying one flag too many on our public buildings.  I’d be happier if we all shared just the one, no matter what form it took.

Cheers,

Andrew Caddle

andrewcaddle.com 20130808

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