24 October, 2022
We’re very happy to be able to open with another lead article by a guest writer. Providing an appropriate ‘voice’ for indigenous peoples is a big and highly sensitive issue in Australia, as also in such countries as Canada, the USA and New Zealand. Gary Johns, one-time Special Minister of State in the Keating government, breaks some new ground in this piece.
THE BURDEN OF CULTURE
There are two groups of Australian Aborigines, those who have an ‘emotional identity’ with their Aboriginality, and little else, and those who have a ‘stubborn adherence’, so much so that it prevents them from doing well. The 80 per cent of Aboriginal men who have never been in gaol, likely those who identify emotionally, are doing about as well as other Australian men. The other 20 per cent, those who have been in gaol, likely those of stubborn adherence, are in big trouble. Fortunately, among the 80 per cent, 70,000 have graduated from TAFE and 50,000 from university. The other 20 per cent Aborigines commit crimes of violence, for which they are given custodial sentences.
Higher proportions of the gaoled group reported high to very high levels of distress and a life-time mental health diagnosis. Some people cannot cope with life because they have difficulty behaving well. Individual capacity, not their identity, may be part of the problem. If so, the implications for policy are profound. The focus must shift to a new level of enquiry: the capacity of individuals to adapt to their circumstances. By contrast, the overblown language of First Nations is a cruel hoax, as many are barely families. And those families are in deep trouble. In the Northern Territory ex-nuptial births are 96 per cent, and paternity is not acknowledged in 50 per cent of cases. Aboriginal culture is ill-suited to modern family formation, the absence of which, in non-traditional settings, is the source of considerable strife.
Family formation also features in a positive way in Aboriginal matters. Intermarriage has been a significant theme of the adjustment of Aborigines to their new world post 1788. There is no greater measure of reconciliation between two races than that people choose to share their lives. The intermarriage rates in Australia between Aborigines and non-Aborigines are very high, Aborigines in Victoria marry outside of their community in very high numbers – 82 per cent for men and women in Melbourne and 72 per cent for men and 75 per cent for women elsewhere in Victoria. Across Australia, almost 60 per cent of partners involving an Aborigine are with a non-Aborigine. These rates are mirrored in those of American Indians and Alaskan natives where multiracial marriage rate are more than 70 per cent. Interestingly, the intermarriage rate for American blacks is less than 30 per cent, although growing strongly in recent years. It seems that deeply ingrained prejudices can be overcome when people are looking for life partners.
There are many days of commemoration and protest in the Aboriginal calendar. These could be dispensed with and replaced by intermarriage day, which would be a more accurate reflection of relations between Aborigines and other Australians. The white missionary Ethel Reeves (nee Gribble) married Fred Wondunna, a trainee Aboriginal preacher and Badjala man of Fraser Island on 30 December 1907. This day should be declared a celebration of reconciliation and known as intermarriage day, it is after all the most common form of relations between black and white in Australia. Much more common than a death in custody or a stint in gaol.
While leaders dream of greatness in expounding their vision for Aborigines the truth is that Aborigines have a choice, to integrate into the wider society, or continue to disintegrate separated from it. The choice is very difficult, and it will not appear to be a choice given that they are resigned to live as they do, for example in very remote locations, but if they do not escape their circumstances, whatever the causes, they will continue to suffer. The ‘industry’ is hell bent on re-racialising Australia and land is a bulwark in the struggle. The problem for Aborigines, however, is that land is not as important in a modern society as ideas and language. The industry must prove that its remedies will solve the problems of those Aborigines who are not doing well. It must admit that Aborigines did not stand a chance of remaining Aboriginal once Australia was settled by more powerful people.
The big mistakes of the last half century in Aboriginal affairs have been by ‘progressives’ and fellow travellers, but the big failures have been by ‘conservatives’. They have declined to argue the case for civilisation and failed to engage in debate about the efficacy of Aboriginal culture, and identity politics. Too many Aboriginal organisations fail to realise that receiving rent for being a ‘first nation’ promotes bad habits: that the only game in town is to squeeze money from others. Aborigines should be recognised as citizens, to recognise them as anything else is racist. A voice (to government) seems to animate commentators, but it will simply reinforce the voice of dependency, the dependent will demand more but remain dependent. What is needed instead are thousands of successful life journeys, and voices of inner strength.
Gary Johns is the author of The Burden of Culture: How to dismantle the Aboriginal Industry and Provide Hope to its Victims, published by Quadrant Books. Dr Johns was a speaker at our 2017 Colloquium.
ILLITERACY IN SCHOOLS
Such is the situation in many schools now that the writer of the following short piece prefers not to be named. The elimination of bullying is a constant preoccupation of the present age, but the sad truth is that bullying (under another name, of course) is an increasingly common means of suppressing opinions that do not fit the accepted ‘narrative’.
LITERACY IN DECLINE
‘A NSW Teacher’
The illiteracy is also due to the fact that many families don’t encourage reading in their kids. The bedtime story has been replaced by play station or tiktok videos. Most primary teachers I have met actually do work extremely hard to further literacy. The huge problem, however, is that the literacy programs, built around ‘genres,’ just happen to be thematically related to fashionable progressive left topics such as: aboriginals and the nasty white men who colonized them and gave them something more than a nomadic lifestyle; Phil and Steve and not Adam and Eve; ethnic races and their escape from authority. But there’s nothing about brave soldiers from the west defending democracy, nothing from the great authors of western civilization; instead all the texts are from such as neo-marxist fashionistas and ‘anti-colonial’ writers, the ones who have been so ‘oppressed’ by western civilization they have attended the best schools and universities, lived under the rule of law and in an economy where they could improve their lot. And the ‘poets’ and their ‘poetry’, if you can call it that, are all diatribes with predictable topics that don’t celebrate anything but resentment, that nurture hatred for the very thing that has brought so many benefits: western civilization.
We welcome offers from others who would like to write for our newsletter or our website.
IMPORTANT NOTICE ON SUMMER SCHOOLS
Unfortunately all three of our summer schools are undersubscribed and we shall have to consider cancelling one or more of them if further enrolments are not forthcoming soon. I suppose this is a consequence of the Pandemic, and the growing expectation that everything can be done at home and online. We don’t have the resources to do this at a polished and professional standard and we don’t believe that anything less than that is worth doing. Nor do we believe that online teaching can ever be a proper substitute for the personal encounter between teacher and students.
With best wishes to all our readers,
JOHN HALDANE TO SPEAK IN HOBART
Eminent Scottish philosopher Prof John Haldane will speak on Religious art and religious understanding (an illustrated introduction to art as a medium of philosophical/theological reflection) in Hobart at 6.00 pm on Thursday 10 November.
Where and When?
Thursday 10 November, 6.00 pm
The Italian Club,
77 Federal Street, North Hobart.
The cost is $35 per person, which includes a two-course dinner (drinks are extra). Some free parking is available within the club grounds, and street parking is free after 6.00 pm.
EDUCATION: RETURNING TO BASICS
In previous issues we’ve published links to several schools and colleges that are striving to regain the centre (in the sense of Yeats’s ‘the centre cannot hold’). Another very promising new venture is Pacific Online, a NSW-based secondary school in the Protestant tradition.
SYDNEY DINNER 27 OCTOBER
If you live in the Sydney area, you are invited to our very first major Sydney function, a dinner on Thursday 27 October at the Royal Automobile Club of Australia. The Director will speak on Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition. This has now been fully booked.
SUMMER SCHOOLS JANUARY 2023
The Dawson Centre will once again offer three summer schools. A FULL DESCRIPTION OF EACH COURSE IS AVAILABLE HERE.
16 – 20 January
THE WESTERN TRADITION: AN OVERVIEW OF 2000 YEARS OF HISTORY, LITERATURE, PHILOSOPHY, THEOLOGY AND ART.
23 – 27 January
NEW TESTAMENT GREEK: AN INTENSIVE INTRODUCTORY COURSE FOR BEGINNERS.
‘The Holy Church has cultivated and kept in highest honour the source texts of this wisdom, and especially the Greek and Latin languages, as if they were a sort of golden robe clothing Wisdom itself.’ (Pope John XXIII)
9 – 13 January
MEDIEVAL AND LATER LATIN: A READING COURSE IN SACRED AND SECULAR POETRY AND PROSE FOR PEOPLE WITH SOME PRIOR KNOWLEDGE OF THE LANGUAGE.
‘The Latin language is assuredly worthy of being defended with great care instead of being scorned; for the Latin Church it is the most abundant source of Christian civilization and the richest treasury of piety. We must not hold in low esteem these traditions of our fathers which were our glory for centuries. (Pope Paul VI)
Each school extends from Monday to Friday inclusive. Bookings can be made directly by email or on Eventbrite.