The politically expedient and prideful apology from Kevin Rudd to all Aboriginal people on behalf of all Australians angered me. That it was so popular drove me to despair. I cannot shake off the feeling that this current fad amongst left-wing governments (even the Vatican) to apologise for past wrongs is really scraping the very bottom of the “spin” barrel and is in fact a form of political arrogance that will do more to exacerbate past tragedies than to redress them. The inimitable Theodore Dalrymple suggests:
…official apologies for distant events, however important or pregnant with consequences those events may have been … have bad effects on both those who give them and those who receive them.
The effect on the givers is the creation of a state of spiritual pride. Insofar as the person offering the apology is doing what no one has done before him, he is likely to consider himself the moral superior of his predecessors. He alone has had the moral insight and courage to apologise.
On the other hand, he knows full well that he has absolutely no personal moral responsibility for whatever it is that he is apologising for. In other words, his apology brings him all kudos and no pain.
Plato defined love as the “desire for the perpetual possession of the good”. The classical Greek thinkers disapproved of compassion—they saw it as a type of pity and doubted its reasonableness and therefore its justice. Nietzsche declared that human beings wallow in pity as swine do in mud—that their pity for others was indistinguishable from their pity for themselves and that they must master their compassion in the name of higher considerations. Perversely, it is the left side of politics that has defined a dreadful orthodoxy based on “the good” as compassion and human rights (equality, equity, positive discrimination, affirmative action, social justice, global ethics) together with a deep and pervasive hatred of the world of civilisation and of men. We are now expected to hate ourselves, our country and Western democracies in general, in order to be considered intelligent and humane beings. In order to love Aboriginal people, we must hate Australia, its history, and Australians.
Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word.
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!
For me, just emerging from two decades of the abuse and discrimination meted out by the Family Law Act, Rudd’s maternalistic apology became a nemesis in a life decimated by this left-wing orthodoxy based on compassion. I had spent several years working with Aboriginal people back in the Seventies before my futile attempts at love under the domestic matriarchy, and so I decided to take a teaching position at the isolated Aboriginal community of Wadeye in the Northern Territory, to see first-hand how the Rousseau-inspired Coombsian theories had played out in reality.
In 2008, long before Wadeye’s current troubles saw hundreds flee their homes and feuds conducted with crossbows and machetes, Patrick McCauley reported for Quadrant on his experience as a teacher in the community. Things were bad then. They are much worse today
Wadeye has a population of about 2500 in its general vicinity. The main settlement has an airstrip, a Catholic school, a swimming pool, a Catholic church, a store, an art centre, a museum, a post office, municipal offices, a mechanics shop, locked petrol bowsers ($2.60 per litre) and a Centrelink office. The main street is surrounded by about a square kilometre of solidly-built kit-type houses in various states of repair. Many have been looked after, some even improved with green lush gardens; others, perhaps most, are vandalised, graffitied and surrounded by garbage in the deep terra cotta dust. Most have things like prams on their rooves and mangy dogs hanging around in packs.
Wadeye is one hour’s flight south-west of Darwin—about five hours by road in the dry, via Daly River. This was the place that the anthropologist and linguist W.E.H. Stanner did much of his later work. His best-known book was tellingly titled White Man Got No Dreaming and it is with him that the cultural triumph of these people first found traction.
Some kill their love when they are young,
And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
The dead so soon grow cold.
Wadeye’s Catholic church and the school sealed their fate with a bilingual policy that dominated from 1972 till the mid-Nineties, so people over about forty years of age, who were pre-bilingual education (pre-self-determination, pre-alcoholism, pre-invasion/genocide/stolen generation, pre-apology and pre-“racism”) can still read and write. People under forty, however, cannot speak English, are functionally illiterate and have little idea of numbers.
You need a permit from the Northern Land Council to enter this settlement, and you need permission from the big men here to enter any country which is outside the settlement, off the road to the beach or the road to Daly River, or even the road to the tip. So you are caged in from the moment you arrive. You live in a “donga”, which is a shipping container. The donga is caged, the school is caged—the whole town is caged and locked in. Whitefella teachers walk around with backpacks containing their valuables and great bunches of keys around their necks in the thirty-eight-degree heat. The settlement is caged because of the enormous number of break-ins and the mindless vandalism perpetrated constantly, often by children.
Since about 2002 Wadeye, somehow and to its credit, has been a “dry” settlement in which alcohol is illegal except for those people who have an alcohol permit—overwhelmingly white workers. Marijuana is the drug of choice for the locals, and though the flights in are fairly strictly policed with sniffer dogs, there seems to be significant “gunja” in the community. The white locals who have lived here for a while say the settlement is less violent and there are fewer break-ins when there is sufficient “gunja”—if the dope runs out, the trouble returns.
Sandflies are too small to see with the naked eye. When they bite, they defecate beneath the skin, and if you scratch the bite, it can easily become infected. Some people develop tropical ulcers from these bites. So you must not scratch the sharp irritation, you can only rub it gently and temporarily stop the maddening itch. However, at night I find I have scratched unconsciously in my dreams, bleeding slowly onto the sheets. I learn not to dream. Yet Wadeye is known as a sandfly dreaming place.
The ABC, SBS and academic Australia have created a brutal narrative that has slaughtered our art and our story through a religious ideological belief system based on resentment and blame, yet masquerading as compassion. Not long ago, Kerry O’Brien convinced a governor-general of Australia (Sir William Deane) to apologise on live television for a massacre (not far from Wadeye at Mistake Creek) that was proven to have been perpetrated by an Aboriginal man. Neither of them apologised to my people for this profound cultural insult, yet this too is racism—serious, popular and pervasive.
It is this spin that is now murdering the people of Wadeye. There is a local television station and you can get SBS and the ABC—all of which constantly reaffirm the invasion/genocide/stolen generation/racist version of Australian history. The latest epic, outrageously titled The First Australians, now accuses us of “germ warfare” for the flu epidemics that killed so many Aboriginal people around Sydney Cove in the late eighteenth century (before anything was even known of it as a virus). O’Brien reports on an Aboriginal girl who was raped and murdered after checking herself out of an Alice Springs hospital without the knowledge of the nurse—the nurse is blamed for her demise, not the Aboriginal man who perpetrated the crime. A twenty-nine-year-old Aboriginal man commits suicide after his love affair with a sixteen-year-old girl is outlawed by police—the police are blamed for his death. The enrolment figures of the school at Wadeye do not reflect the number of students attending the school on a daily basis. Batchelor Institute’s standards with regard to their teaching qualification have been seriously questioned by Helen Hughes. Charles Darwin University wants to offer a four-year degree course for indigenous teacher aides in two years, conducted within their communities and overseen by the whitefella teachers employed to teach the children. This is a circus of false compassion.
Some love too little, some too long,
Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears;
And some without a sigh:
For each man kills the thing he loves,
Yet each man does not die.
The school where I am working attempts to teach children to read and write, but exaggerates its attendance figures. It needs to be constantly employing new teachers, as they often only last a matter of days or weeks before they are overwhelmed by the extent of the problem, the complete lack of discipline and the primitive circumstances under which they must work and live. There is no need to play up the extent of the massive social and educational “disadvantage” or more specifically, the mayhem, anger or passive revolution here—it is obvious.
The children who attend school regularly or even irregularly are often tired from lack of sleep, or are hungry and irritable. The school feeds each child breakfast, morning tea and lunch, every day. The teachers are, without exception, exhausted from the huge demand of teaching classes of children, many of whom would be on Ritalin if they were city kids. The teachers live in a constant low-level fear fuelled by intermittent dog attacks, the hardly suppressed resentment and violence within the community, the total lack of respect, mindless vandalism, foul language and “motherfucker” mentality of the children, the difficulty in obtaining basic food supplies and the insufficient, caged and very basic accommodation (which often requires them to be moved around at a moment’s notice), the lack of being able to go for a decent walk out of the township, and lack of sleep due to the all-night noise.
EACH DAY at school is a guess as to what new program might be introduced. There is an unstated assumption that all teachers be apologists—that they accept the black-armband orthodoxy. The teachers hoard and hide supplies of teaching materials in secret places. Too many women and not enough men does not produce a healthy school community, and this is particularly so within a patriarchal semi-tribal isolated Aboriginal community. These Aboriginal people do not like having to deal with whitefellas anyway, and when they do—at the school, Centrelink, the health centre, the store—the whitefellas are overwhelmingly women.
The “difficult kids” I am charged with did not have a room and are housed in the library—where attempted lessons are interrupted constantly as it is used by small groups and is the only space big enough to hold the whole school community. Deaths and funerals close down the school for the day and planning is impossible. Expensive experts in health and education, politicians and public servants arrive on almost every plane to tour the school and community like saviours. There is a discipline policy which is unworkable and unrealistic, with ideas of negotiated “contracts” and “draw your anger”-type activities—and also because the community in general views school like work, a whitefella imposition. There are few real policies at the school, little forward planning—nothing that could resemble a decent long-term strategy—unless it is “bilingual education” or “accelerated literacy” (which does seem to be producing some results).
Consultation does not include the whitefella teachers, yet the untrained “local” teacher aides are “consulted” constantly—one of their suggestions of how to improve the school in the last consultation was to move the statue of the Sacred Heart of the Virgin Mary closer to the road at the front of the school. The indigenous co-principal and the whitefella co-principal attend regular conferences all over Australia. I am told by the Catholic Education Office and the principal that I am “only a guest here” in a very emphatic manner which is pregnant with unexplained meaning. If this school were a private business it would be dragged before ASIC for fraud, and the teachers would have a field day with occupational health and safety issues as well as the lack of any “duty of care” that it seems to show towards its whitefella employees.
The kids I am charged to teach (those “in transition” from the community to the school) who in some cases are survivors of abuse and who cannot fit into normal classrooms, need a structured program in a stable classroom. Because their culture is unfashionably patriarchal, they respond better to men. It takes us a full month to negotiate a room, and even then the program is constantly interrupted. The most influential teacher in the school, who seems to be behind much of the adhockery, is exhausted and bullies both the kids and the teachers at times. She informs me that English is not the first language of this country, and we have no right to expect these kids to speak English at school.
The Catholic Church, which first set up this settlement, gives each child a set of rosary beads for “reconciliation”—the new word for the sacrament of confession, which many children hang around their necks. Aboriginal women build grottos with statues of the Sacred Heart and of the Virgin Mary underneath old blankets in the dusty yards of their houses.
The Italian gas company E&I pays large royalties to the appropriate Aboriginal families. These large sums of money exacerbate tribal differences (there are ten tribes sharing the Wadeye township) by creating an uneven distribution of wealth. Failed CDEP programs exacerbate a corrupt distribution of government money for little or no commitment to work. Last week the principal and co-principal of another isolated Aboriginal school were removed from their jobs by their community, backed by the Territory’s Minister for Education, Marion Scrymgour, after they required their Aboriginal teacher aides to do a full week’s work for a full week’s pay. It is difficult in the face of so much easy money and misplaced public service compassion to convince Aboriginal people of the need to work for a living.
Centrelink pays unemployment benefits to almost the entire community of Wadeye without ever breaching a person for not making an effort to find work. In the rest of Australia, people must apply for jobs every week or they lose their benefit. Water meters have recently been installed in all the whitefellas’ houses in Wadeye with a view to charging for the water that is pumped up from the huge underground reservoirs. This is not seen as contravening the Racial Discrimination Act. The recent quarantining and “managing” of welfare payments has only succeeded in creating more resentment and accusations of racism. This is seen as contravening the Racial Discrimination Act.
There are millions of dollars worth of claims presently before the United Nations from Aboriginal people for various accusations of racial discrimination manufactured by a largely white Aboriginal legal industry. The Aboriginal leaders are painfully consumed in an uneducated anger fed by misinformation and ideological groupspeak, reinforced by the vast majority of public servants and teachers who are allowed to enter the community. This orthodoxy is rigidly supported by the Catholic Church. Though well intentioned and compassionate beyond belief, the clergy are also apologists and have invested their holiness in furthering the misinformation and positive discrimination.
Isolated Aboriginal people, like those in Wadeye, have come to be expected to fail in order to achieve further government funding. These Aboriginal people are confined by the remnants of their culture to isolation as “noble savages” with no real idea of themselves as individuals, or the real value of money and work, or the value of things like houses. Many Aboriginal people in Wadeye believe that all Australians are given a free house by the government as a right of citizenship. The indigenous co-principal says it is quite possible to live from birth to death in Wadeye without needing to speak English or to work. “This is my country,” the kids tell me. They have seen and heard Kerry O’Brien on the ABC, they watch Living Black and Message Stick—and they believe in their victimhood. Money is not a problem here. We must pay.
He does not die a death of shame
On a day of dark disgrace,
Nor have a noose about his neck,
Nor a cloth upon his face,
Nor drop feet foremost through the floor
Into an empty space.
The apologist Grade 4 teacher lectures me at a dinner party, four days after my arrival, about the horrible men who have destroyed the institution of marriage, perpetrated invasion, genocide, the stolen generation and our history of racism. A few weeks later, in a fit of pique, she physically relieves me of my job as a note-taker for a meeting which is attempting to discuss a new two-year degree course being developed by Charles Darwin University for indigenous teacher aides. I try to suggest that more male indigenous teacher aides are needed and this offends her.
So now my secret is out. The new teacher is not an apologist—he is a heretic who does not believe in invasion, genocide or the stolen generation or the history of Australian racism, and “hates women”—therefore, he must hate “the indigenous”. I am shunned. The white teachers huddle together behind fences, padlocks and the steel cages around their houses. In their locked classrooms, they fear but pander to the anger that their religious compassion and vain politics have created. Yet they thrill somehow, in the horror, as evidence of white Australian imperialism and racism, and their own revolutionary missionary zeal.
There is a noticeable unfriendliness here. People walk past you as if you were not there. It is impossible to get out of the settlement or go to the beach, or to move heavy things the two kilometres or so between your donga and the school or airstrip. Everybody seems to be in a kind of survival mode, and amongst the whitefellas there is little or no camaraderie, or any form of basic humanity which one would normally expect in such an isolated situation.
They say that the kids run Wadeye, and I can see what they mean. The children throw rocks into the beautiful new blue swimming pool every night, they defecate around the school and in the pool changing rooms as a kind of retribution against the pool manager and teachers, who require them to abide by minimal rules. These Aboriginal people, some of whom are the most physically beautiful human beings I have ever seen, sit elegantly in the dust and the filth and the heat, and their children entertain them with their natural joy and mindless vandalism.
The people of Wadeye mostly treat whitefellas as their servants. First thing in the morning, my students demand that I get their breakfast, and then throw a tantrum if I don’t pick up the rubbish they throw on the ground. The settlement is covered with rubbish all the time and yet it is a candidate in the “Tidy Towns” competition. Two days before the competition is judged, the whitefellas organise a huge clean-up. Any utterance of the word no to the kids at school will produce a tantrum which can go all the way to physical violence if not handled sensitively. Last week three of the “transition” kids I teach (average age about twelve) wrecked the library as three teachers tried to herd them, screeching with laughter, out the door.
“READ this, Michael: ‘I can see the fish’.”
“Don’t say that, Michael. Try again—‘I can see the fish’.”
“Fuck you, motherfucker.”
Teachers here have trouble keeping up with the latest fashions in language. Words must reflect the orthodoxy, otherwise the offending teacher is thought of as a heretic (read right-wing fascist) and variously punished. Each time a whitefella teacher needs to refer to an Aboriginal person, there is a short but perceptible silence as they decide on the appropriate word—usually it is “the locals” or “a local”, however “the indigenous” has been upgraded from an adjective and is now used as a noun. The same applies to the word culture. The word Aboriginal has somehow been outlawed and is a certain way to be branded as a heretic.
A letter from the “Co-ordinator of Indigenous Teacher Training and Educational Capacity Building” (really!) at the Catholic Education Office refers to graduate certificates available to “Indigenous and Non Indigenous staff” (teachers?) and to contact her for further information. When I contact her to explain that I need a course to help me teach eleven- and twelve-year-old indigenous children who have no English literacy at all, she obfuscates infuriatingly and then tells me she has a “masters in ESL”. Finally she hangs up. Her superior then rings my co-principal to tell her that “she is concerned about me”. By week three I have been required to apologise to four different women on the staff or in the Catholic Education Office for what I consider basic questions I have asked in order to solve one problem or other. It seems the Northern Territory education system is full of highly qualified acronym-writing female geniuses who do not have the time to waste on my petty problems.
There is a direct relationship between pain and learning which somehow involves a kind of acceptance of pain. This then facilitates a proportional acceleration in “learning”. There are those who are “learned” and there are those who are “learning”. These can be differentiated by the acceptance of vulnerability. Accepted pain becomes tolerable. Unaccepted pain is intolerable and can take the individual into areas of disease which accepted pain will not. Accepted pain opens the individual to healing. Unaccepted pain denies and fights against healing, opening the individual to further disease. Those in the state of learning are open to transformation.
The point I wish to make is that the orthodoxy which is representative of recent left-wing thinking has disabled its acolytes silently, massively and dangerously. Aboriginal politics in Australia, for example, is not necessarily focused on Aborigines—it may be focused on the “learned” stagnation (decadence) of its adherents. It is a battle between a fundamentalism and a “learning”, between an orthodoxy and “freethinking”, between bigotry and the facts. The teachers at Wadeye school are fundamentally good intelligent Australian citizens trying to turn around the problem of Aboriginal illiteracy—yet they are all unable to escape their condition of being “learned” people, and therefore unable to enter the condition of “learning”. They carry the huge weight of the orthodoxy and attempt to teach within a space that confines them as the invader teaching the invaded.
This school must be one of the most expensive schools in Australia to keep running due to its isolation and the vandalism and the stealing. If something is broken it is replaced—a leg of a barbecue was lost, so three new barbecues were ordered. At Christmas time the entire basketball court is piled high with presents for the children. There is a magnificent swimming pool with a full-time pool manager trained in life-saving and pool chemistry. Yet the school is run behind its cages without the slightest possibility of discipline; without the slightest possibility of demanding that only English be spoken by the children while at school; without any possibility of a creative curriculum that might encompass, say Art, as a conduit through which literacy might be accessed more easily. Why, for example, should the school be responsible for the teaching of Aboriginal “culture” or Aboriginal “language”?
The administration of the school is mightily concerned that teachers sign on at 8 a.m. and sign off at 4 p.m. and that they attend meetings (more like moral lectures) after school. Recently the co-principal lectured the teachers on the selfishness of expressing an opinion against the policies of management—she used the analogy of learning to high jump—that until you know the various methods of jumping you will be unable to achieve your best result. That day the temperature had been about thirty-eight degrees since 11 a.m. The students had ceased learning anything by about lunchtime, due to the heat, their lack of ability to concentrate, and for all sorts of other reasons including their cultural freedom. Yet the school continued in chaos and screaming attempts at crowd control until three o’clock—then the meeting/lecture on “selfishness”. It seems to be more important that the teachers be made to work under insufferable conditions and to be seen to be working than it is to come up with creative or even traditional ideas to improve the learning environment.
All sorts of forms and other bureaucratic requirements have to be filled out to do anything. Parents need to sign for kids to be taken off campus, yet parents can rarely be found, though it is certain that they would have all the resources and knowledge to take legal action should a teacher not cover themselves completely. Assessment has become a task so massive and impossible that it interferes with learning and actual lessons. Bilingual education still struggles on, though it has failed completely to teach a full generation of students at Wadeye even basic literacy. “Accelerated literacy”, a formulated basic rote-learning approach to reading and writing, has had more success in the past two years than the ideologically driven bilingual approach had in the previous twenty years.
There is no greater example of the failure of bilingual education than the community of Wadeye. Yet the Education Officer from the Catholic Education Office claims that the bilingual program was not implemented properly—it did not have the resources of a proper “media centre” to type up stories in Murrinhpatha and produce the books necessary to conduct the program. These centres require a linguist, IT personnel, significant computer resources and book-making equipment. So it is an expensive, slow process. Even then it requires teachers trained in ESL. It is difficult to get any trained teachers to stay in a place like Wadeye. New stories relevant to this Aboriginal culture must be written, illustrated and produced in age-appropriate language. So it is no wonder and easily predictable that a bilingual program instituted here in Wadeye might fail.
There is no greater example of the evil of the mis-information and false histories of the orthodoxy than Wadeye, and there is no greater example of the failure of CDEP, self-determination, reconciliation and all the other welfare-based, falsely compassionate, anti-Australian, civilisation-hating doctrines, than Wadeye. The school at Wadeye has a very big problem—however, for all sorts of embarrassing reasons, it refuses to admit it has a problem. If you don’t have a problem you don’t have to fix it. Dalrymple says:
But even when money is not involved, there are deleterious effects on the recipients of what one might call class-action apologies. Just as those who give them become convinced of their own virtue, so do those who receive them. It is enough that they should be considered victims for them to conclude that they can do no wrong, or at any rate no wrong worth talking about. For what is a personal peccadillo to set beside a great historical wrong?
An apology of this kind, then, or even the supposition that such an apology ought to be forthcoming, exerts a liberating, that is to say loosening, effect upon personal morals. For what can I do wrong to compare with the wrongs that my ancestors suffered at the hands of your ancestors? How dare you even mention it, you hypocrite!
Whitefellas are tearing their own culture to small pieces in their furious need to stay in the condition of “the learned” and resist the pain of re-entering the state of “learning”. Western civilisation in general—Australia and our clumsy, sometimes embarrassing history—is hated by the orthodoxy in a remarkably furious way. The more this fury grows the more open to further disease we become. This is not about a denial of history—this is about finding new ways to be racist by not admitting that the orthodox processes have failed obviously and miserably. They have killed the things we love. Those who create history to reflect their ideologies yet remain adamant that their precious processes are unconnected to the miserable outcomes, have done more harm in thirty years than the policies of integration did in two hundred.
The anger and vitriol in which the orthodoxy holds men, homophobes, misogynists and racists (undead white heterosexual males) is intense and widespread. Not all discussion and debate about Aboriginal politics from “freethinkers” such as those in the Bennelong Society or Keith Windschuttle or Helen Hughes can sensibly be accused of racism—yet they are. The only really clear, intelligent, problem-solving thinking on Aboriginal issues in the past thirty years has come from the aforementioned and people such as Noel Pearson, Roger Sandall, Peter Sutton and Warren Mundine, who have all been accused of racism and vilified as racists by the orthodoxy. Yet Rai Gaita would claim that Robert Manne has been vilified—he has not, he has been strenuously debated, but not accused of racism.
Wadeye is a community that is between life and death. It would seem that the blackfellas cannot get it to live and the whitefellas cannot allow it to die. It is between heaven and hell and is the embodiment of an argument whitefellas are having about their own history and their own morality. It is the physical incarnation of the argument between the Left and the Right, between the demands of a civilised society and the rights of an Aboriginal culture. The Aboriginal people of Wadeye are largely illiterate and unaware of the dynamics of the white cultural elite—the intelligentsia who are fuelling the debate for their own selfish purposes. Yet they are savvy enough to maintain their innocence. It is like the dream within a dream that you cannot awake from—the heat that keeps you just awake in the days and just asleep in the nights—too tired to walk on, too agitated to lie down. In this place compassion means nothing. It is every man, woman and child for themselves. Something big is dying and sinking here—it is where the whole of Australia is being defeated by a decadent idea of primitivism cloaked in compassion.
The addiction, child abuse and violence that it has spawned are real, and both Christianity and the compassionate Left are standing by watching. It is only a matter of time before this place will be abandoned completely by human thought because the Left cannot bring itself to confront the uselessness of its compassion. It is probably impossible for either side of the political debate to turn the situation here around. The process that is now in place is irreversible.
Whatever is wounded here will travel to every nook and cranny of the Australian mind and will wound everybody for generations to come. There is no saving Wadeye. The children should be shipped out to their relatives and sent to special schools to attempt the best recovery possible. The adults will have to be supported until they die. Their land has little use other than the culture of ownership, the Aboriginal people no longer have the skills to survive on it. This settlement has become a refugee camp without guards—if there are guards, they are the public intellectuals, the writers and artists, the journalists. Kerry O’Brien and the ABC may be the guards of this camp of refugees. Look around, there is only crime and hatred of Australia here—exhausted women trying to be Christian in a community of thieves and vandals where almost every child is somehow abused. With freedom they have chosen addiction and violence; through welfare they have chosen sloth and burglary; through bilingual education and retention of their language they have chosen ignorance; and through the wealth of their land they have chosen to blackmail any private enterprise for easy money.
Any long-term effort to teach literacy, numeracy and commerce would require a decade or two of massive discipline and paternalism. Adults would have to be required to work, children would have to not only go to school, but also be prepared to submit to the discipline necessary to learn. The whitefellas would have to have the wherewithal to teach white culture and English. But the United Nations would view such an effort as an abuse of human rights and we would be vilified, condemned and subjected to massive litigation. They would call any school like this “a re-education camp”, and the world will no longer tolerate such things.
Civilisation is in fact a very delicate thing. It can be lost in a matter of weeks. If commerce fell, so would compassion. Without the wealth to create leisure time, caught in the daily grind of survival, civilisation begins to slip. Violence becomes an option when your children are starving. Addiction becomes compulsory for those not versed in the art of the soul.
The Intervention is viewed as racist, yet all the “positive discrimination” policies towards Aboriginal peoples over the past thirty years that have produced this terrible situation are not viewed as racist. The orthodoxy is merciless in its accusations against any citizens who dare indulge sober, problem-solving, achievable, alternative thought in these discussions—they are banished and shunned as heretics. It sees itself as “learned” and seems willing to sacrifice love as Plato defined it, to maintain with excruciating arrogance the huge burden weighing down Wadeye in delivering basic literacy to the emerging generation of Aboriginal children.
Some love too little, some too long.
THE DOOF-DOOF marijuana beat of adolescence goes all night—some nights with shouting, some nights with dogs—in the hot build-up to the wet. Aboriginal boys mostly do not survive the boredom of female-dominated primary school education. Women, with the best of intentions, exert control and power differently from men. Many women are sticklers for rules. I was told by an Education Department woman consultant to ask boys to “draw” their anger on paper after they had been sent to the “time out” room. (The co-principal of the Wadeye Catholic School also has an “anger drawing” component in her undeveloped “Consequences” policy.) Women see “anger” in boys as “against the rules”. Boys are not allowed to be angry in Australian primary schools. This is a bit like telling a human being to stop feeling sad. Defathered boys are bound to be angry at times, particularly under the tyranny of feminine power in primary schools. Anger is okay. What is not okay is to act out the anger with violence—but anger itself is okay. Women teachers for the most part do not understand this.
Aboriginal boys reject these feminised, politically correct goody-goodies of the primary school system. Boys learn to hate the mindless female exercise of authority at home without their fathers, and at school fuelled by frustrated suburban feminism, and many may even decide on a life of homosexuality or succumb to diseases such as ADHD rather than submit to a lifetime of such an unreasonable and authoritarian matriarchy.
One usually notices the small places where love exists. Love fuels a difficult life with something like hope. Without hope, there is no point in life. We hope for something better than constant pain. I can’t see much evidence of hope here amongst the Wadeye people. Those who have some left to give are in survival mode and are exhausted. The orthodoxy exhausts itself with maintaining its “learned” status in the face of such failure—it can love nothing but itself and expends all energy holding back a growing, growling doof-doofing juggernaut of the utter truth.
The Northern Territory is full of public servants with tertiary degrees and masters degrees of one thing or another who are uninterested in anything but their own careers, and when faced with difficult problems such as the one in Wadeye, fall into denial and uselessness.
There is a direct, proportional and intimate connection between the lies perpetrated under the Bringing Them Home report and the atrocities described in the Little Children are Sacred report. After a month, I too begin wishing that the kids would not come to school tomorrow.
The school has about thirty teachers and with the other support staff and administration, a potential staff of about sixty. On most days there would be no more than 150 children at the school. On census day however, the brightly decorated school bus and two “troopies” handing out lollies and trinkets (not dissimilar to those that John Batman offered the Yarra Yarra people two centuries ago) drove around the settlement picking up every child possible. It was not that this was not done every morning, but that on census day there was also a showbag of lollies and other small enticements to be had at the end of the day. The census was the benchmark for the funding made available to the school for the following year, so it was important to get as many children to school as possible. On census day it was recorded that there were over 400 children attending the school.
On the first day of 2008, there were 731 children enrolled in the school (this figure is quoted in all the school literature and is, I suspect, the figure that the school is funded on)—but the number dropped to about 350 within a week. Unlike elsewhere in Australia, here Aboriginal families are not subject to truancy laws if their children do not attend school. Most children in Wadeye do not want to come to school. Their parents did not come to school and did not work, although most of their grandparents were made to come to school by the missionaries, and worked hard on the cattle stations and in the gardens around Wadeye which provided most of their food. Their parents, quite logically, do not see the point in work, as they have been supported by welfare from the Australian taxpayer all their lives. The orthodoxy maintains its support for this as a form of compensation and retribution. E&I are offering “the locals” a take-home weekly pay cheque of $1750 for workers at the construction of the gas pipeline, five kilometres out of town; so far there have been few takers.
If Zimbabwe is a “failed state”, it is not as “failed” as this place. Wadeye produces nothing, all the functioning business is run by whitefellas, and most is funded by our government. The locals maintain their anger and resentment fuelled entirely by the black-armband orthodoxy. The school, the church and this government remain sympathetic to this passive cultural revolution. We white Australians are paying for it, and the Wadeye children are paying for their ignorance of the world with abuse, disease and short lives. This recurring failure is about the most certain way to continue to attract more government funding. The federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs promised Wadeye a significant increase in houses during her two-day visit here in October. The Intervention has changed nothing. Most (I have found only two other heretics) whitefellas view it as past tense, and a right-wing conspiracy based in racism, which they encourage Aboriginal people to resist.
Last week two female teachers lectured a group of about thirty Aboriginal women on their reaction to the Intervention; they referred to it as racist politics, and coached the group in anticipation of a future meeting with the Intervention task force. The orthodoxy seems prepared to interfere with some aspects of “culture” such as the rights of women, yet continues to tolerate and compound the appalling levels of illiteracy by pandering to “culture” with regard to language, school attendance, work, and the “bilingual” program.
Today, a young boy, maybe two years old, naked, held his third finger up at me with a hateful sneer and called out “motherfucker” as I stood outside his house trying to convince his older brother to come to school. All day I battled with beautiful children who muttered at me in Murrinhpatha—they have maybe only twenty words of English. When I insisted that they concentrate on the task at hand, which in this case was to make a coil pot out of clay, one kid translated what another kid said to me in Murrinhpatha as “I will kill you.” Their regular teacher ran around the room three times during an hour’s lesson passing out lollies for their excellent behaviour. Big supplies of lollies are kept in the vice-principal’s office—in a way, the buckets of money available to the school submission writers are also “lollies”. All day I unlocked and locked cages surrounding classrooms to keep students in or out.
Most of the trees (providing valuable shade from the brutal Territory sun) around this school have been cut down in the last three weeks because a branch of a tree fell on a child in Darwin and killed him. Litigation is the messenger of a failed community—the people of Wadeye have learned that they can access large sums of money through simply remaining where they are and trading on their Aboriginality supported by an army of liberation lawyers eager to display their compassion.
Even though this is one of the best-funded schools in Australia, with almost endless sums of money available to it, there are no pencils in the classrooms, no paper, the computers don’t work, the internet connection is the slowest I have ever seen, there is no art room, the huge “trade” block is closed because there are no students, and the school has “lost” the keys to its locks. The minute your back is turned, the kids are stealing or vandalising anything they can lay their hands on. The school is broken into every week. At night those who have been told “no” during the day’s lessons come to defecate outside your classroom door or urinate through broken louvres in the classroom windows. All the chooks in the school’s henhouse were slaughtered by the children during a term break. There are no consequences for any of this vandalism.
There is a level of resentment up here at Wadeye that makes it dangerous to think the way I think—to hold political views which do not support the orthodoxy. It is similar to the state of affairs I faced in Katherine in 1974, when I believed in the left-wing politics of liberation for Aboriginal people, and involved myself in helping the Gurindji people, who had at that stage been on strike at Wattie Creek for eight years. Then, it was the whitefellas—the station owners, ringers and stockmen—who made life difficult in Katherine.
This was a time just before Whitlam granted the Gurindji the first land rights in Australia, and Aboriginal stockmen were demanding equal wages to white stockmen. This “liberation” turned out to be the finish of the last great employment opportunities for Aboriginal people on the big cattle stations. Helicopter mustering became more economically viable than employing the excellent Aboriginal stockmen who had previously helped establish and maintain the huge Territory cattle industry.
HERE IN WADEYE I am again threatened, this time from the totalitarian Left, because I cannot accept their manufactured histories and apologist orthodoxy. I have not changed my views about the need to treat Aboriginal people the same as any other Australian citizen, nor on land rights, nor on education. However, I have been told I am unwelcome at various whitefella houses. Last week I was prevented from putting my views about the school at a staff meeting because one of the teachers looked as if she was about to have a heart attack when I suggested she treat an Aboriginal teacher the same as any other teacher. These teachers believe I hate “the indigenous” because I do not hold to the orthodoxy. The school business manager asked me what I was doing here, why I came here, if I do not believe in invasion, genocide and the stolen generation. In 2008, I am again experiencing the same status as “heretic” that I experienced from the other side of politics in Katherine thirty-four years ago. This should and does tell me something about myself. I too may be accused of killing the thing I love.
Since the great “liberation” of the 1970s—the liberation of women, the liberation of marriage laws, the liberation of sexuality, the liberation of social welfare, the liberation of gender and race and ethnicity, the liberation of the global economy, the liberation of social justice and human rights and global ethics, and all the other small liberations such as the liberation of children from their parents—we have grown poor and angry and resentful and greedy and insatiable and fat and comfortable beyond any measure of sanity or safety. We believe we can legislate for the “right to be safe”, for God’s sake. We do not seem to have found the faith to transform or manage our fear, and we cannot wean large parts of our citizenry from addiction. We seem to be imploding. Wadeye seems to be imploding—it seems to be a place in which what is good is being overcome by whatever is not good. Sometimes I feel like a frightened man who has lost his faith—his courage to be decent and civilised—to look for the beauty in life.
You need courage to remain innocent in the face of brutal guilt and decadence—in places which are dark and may harbour evil. Thirty years ago you could see the good growing with the gardens and the work at this place, which was then called Port Keats. Thirty years ago the global relationship between men and women produced families that could love and stay together until their children had grown up in a reasonably healthy fashion. These days, since the liberation, the family too seems to be imploding. Intelligent citizens demand that the state do something about child obesity and teenage binge drinking and Aboriginal life expectancy—without considering what they themselves could do. Thirty years ago, before the liberation, love was our driving force. We had kept the Japanese from our shores by the constant work of our entire citizenry during a war—we could say then that we had a “desire for the perpetual possession of the good”.
The False Apology Syndrome flourishes wherever there has been a shift in the traditional locus of moral concern. At one time, a man probably felt most morally responsible for his own actions. He was adjudged (and judged himself) good or bad by how he conducted himself toward those in his immediate circle. From its centre rippled circles of ever-decreasing moral concern, of which he was also increasingly ignorant. Now, however, it is the other way round. Under the influence of the media of mass communication and the spread of sociological ways of thinking, a man is most likely to judge himself and others by the opinions he and they hold on political, social, and economic questions that are far distant from his immediate circle. A man may be an irresponsible father, but that is more than compensated for by his deep concern about global warming, or foreign policy, or the food situation in Africa.
I come home from school one night to pick up a fuzzy interrupted program on SBS television called The Circuit. I see Gary Sweet as a magistrate and an Aboriginal lawyer defending various Aboriginal people who have been accused by racist police of various crimes. A white stirrer from the south is fined $2000 by the magistrate for handing out literature which claims that Aboriginal people do not want to work and get “sit down” money which they spend on alcohol. The Aboriginal lawyer crashes the television interview of the “white stirrer” and tells the interviewer that Aboriginal people do not in fact have an alcohol problem and that a higher percentage of Aboriginal people do not drink alcohol than white people. The program then goes on to outline how the Aboriginal lawyer continues to help liberate various other Aboriginal people from the clutches of racist white law. The program has some mind-bendingly false facts and statements, and again I can see how these people at Wadeye have come to hate whitefellas.
I START the first of a series of sculptures depicting the various disabled children of Wadeye with angel’s wings. The first is of “Harry”, a twelve-year-old boy who can neither speak nor hear. The next will be of “Morris”, who suffers from foetal alcohol syndrome. These will be the “Angels of Wadeye” created by the policies of the orthodoxy over the last thirty years or so. I hope to be able to show someone here, someone indigenous, a simple method to cast a piece of sculpture in a cement or resin. I am thinking of making a plaster mould of a turtle shell and casting some in a fondue cement. The “locals” could paint or glaze slip casts of them and sell such pieces for ten times the price I could get, simply because they are “indigenous”. Industry is the only possibility—and art is the best possible avenue into industry—for an isolated pre-literate people.
After a day of being called a “motherfucker”, being spat at, serving breakfast, morning tea and lunch, picking up rubbish, cleaning up faeces—which is every day you teach here—my “desire for the perpetual possession of the good”, the basic idea we need for the development of democracy, is weakened.
There is no obvious or easy answer to the problem of a Stone Age people who come into close contact with a vastly superior material culture. Neither total assimilation nor preservation in what amounts to a living ethnographic museum is a complete or satisfactory solution; probably such a solution does not exist, which is the tragedy. But a blanket apology and the granting of group economic privileges is hardly the way to cultivate a sense of personal responsibility in a population now decimated by alcoholism and brutalized by family violence. Quite the contrary: psychologically, if not in strict logic, it will allow a man to beat his wife and blame history.
Last year at the Melbourne Writers Festival I asked Robert Manne if he truly believed that the Aboriginal peoples were a non-violent people before the whitefellas arrived. Yes, he said, apart from issues to do with women the Aboriginal people were a non-violent race. This is so easily proven to be wrong that it defies belief. It is these significant small lies, and equally Rai Gaita’s discourses on the meaning and definitions of genocide, that have led to the hatred that the people at Wadeye now have for every white person. Manne stood in front of about a hundred middle-class women at the festival and made them believe that white people had taught Aboriginal people to be violent. Germaine Greer has also lectured us from her comfortableness on Aboriginal male “rage”. Doesn’t she recognise white male rage? Alcoholism is another word for rage.
Tonight I can see the young Wadeye children who have been abused by these lies. I can see them limping home to a filthy house, built for them by whitefellas, throwing their garbage on the ground, unable to read and write and unable to speak English—these are the spears they now throw at the whitefellas—but most of all, I can see that they will be unable to love. They are sick with hatred and resentment, and they have learned this violence against themselves, from whitefellas.
The school at Wadeye needs to admit it has a problem because each new generation of uneducated, illiterate, welfare-dependent Aboriginal people is likely to be worse than the one before it. At present we have one full generation who cannot read or write in any language and have lived off welfare all of their short lives. The next generation are likely to live shorter lives, sink deeper into addiction, be even further removed from reality and require even greater welfare than their parents. We need something like a Doctors without Borders—perhaps a “Teachers without Politics” might do, an Army Education Unit or a determined group of Christian Brothers or Jesuits who can apply the discipline necessary for these Wadeye people to achieve the self-discipline to learn. Somehow we have to find the ticker in our nation to see this through, and the Aboriginal people of Wadeye have to find the heart necessary to forgive what they have been led to believe—enough anyhow to reduce their present levels of resentment.
The country around Wadeye has plenty of water and could become a new food bowl for the Northern Territory. Many Aboriginal people learn better in a practical situation than they do sitting in classrooms. There is a great need up here for innovative thinking from educators and business, to help develop a sustainable community. There is a great need for environmentally savvy architects to develop building materials and designs suitable to both the climate and the tribal nature of the people who live here.
Australia needs to have enough backbone to claim Wadeye as part of the nation and to help its people develop their potential. However, “consultation” with Aboriginal leaders who are illiterate, and have never worked or been to school, and are sold on the apology and the orthodoxy, may be an impossible task. If Wadeye is to survive, something has to give somewhere.
Australian Aboriginal politics is not about Aborigines. It is about who we are—a discussion that falls somewhere between reconciliation and retribution. It is about the real meaning of compassion without the self-pity, and without the ambitious CV-developing Aboriginal industry. We also need “Historians without Politics”—even “Anthropologists without Politics”, “Linguists without Politics”—in fact, “Academics without Politics”. Aboriginal politics has now also evolved into ideologies desperate for a connection to spiritual intelligence. It is about environment and the examination of conscience. It is about what and who should do penance. It is about the place where Christianity has dropped us off. Those aggrieved of equality over the centuries demand compensation and retribution in much the same mode as Christianity demanded penance from the sinners—that we demand punishment for a crime. Social justice demands compensation to be paid by the future to the past, in present time.
We have stretched the concept of justice out over the centuries and we demand that the punishment for the crime be visited upon the children and grandchildren of those who have been accused. Our media kangaroo courts rely on a system of popularity and global convention, without any due process even being considered. The evidence is gathered by ordinary academics heavily committed to the orthodoxy—the new religious fundamentalism—and writing their own CVs. Those who act for the prosecution appear to be not only granted instant absolution from the crimes of their own ancestors, but also be offered careers in hunting down further perpetrators and indeed in discovering further crimes—they gain their salvation by purchasing “indulgences”. The various oppressed minorities who claim to have suffered oppression are granted positive discrimination for the rest of their lives—as well as freedom from work, free houses, cultural integrity, special citizenship. The rest of us must work even harder to absolve these huge loads of sin.
The nation of Australia did not exist before the whitefellas came and made it. Australia was manufactured through hard work, argument and agreement. Australia is a relationship between a landscape and an idea. The Aboriginal peoples were not the “First Australians”. They were fundamentally unconnected—about 500 language groups who had no federation and no knowledge of even the full map of the Australian land mass. They had no name for Australia. The first Australians came here as refugees from overcrowded, crime-ridden and poverty-stricken England.
Self-determination is not a process; it is an outcome, an “end” which requires sophisticated education as a means to achieve it. Because the land “owned” the Aboriginal people, they had no knowledge of self-determination. Reconciliation is also an outcome requiring a process to achieve it. Left thinking has presented both these outcomes as processes—this is a fundamental error.
Aboriginal politics has become invaded by a global left-wing exceptionalism which demands that Aboriginal cultural integrity be maintained at the moral and financial expense of all Australians. So it seems that places like Wadeye want it both ways. They do not operate under our democracy in Wadeye. All forms of corruption are rife, including the discrimination they have come to expect as a right and as a form of retribution. Arguably then, Aboriginal people demand not to be Australian at all, let alone the “First Australians”. The orthodoxy and the apologists would have better arguments for us to join the Aboriginal culture than for the Aboriginal people to join ours. Yet it would seem that the welfare policies of self-determination and reconciliation have also killed the thing they loved. The real essence of a tragedy is its inevitability.
David Hicks came from the thinking of resentment that is fostered by the Left. Though Dick Smith may forgive David Hicks, David Hicks does not forgive Dick Smith. Neither is their much hope that the Aboriginal people of Wadeye will ever forgive us for our existence. The cultural warriors of the Aboriginal people would actually give reconciliation traction if they were able to thank the whitefellas for the food, the housing and the electricity that keeps the dark at bay every night in settlements such as Wadeye.
If we could dare to seek the truth unencumbered by politics, we might begin to heal. Apology does not heal tragedy. When the Aboriginal leadership can encompass a vision of the whitefellas that allows it to view white settlement as a form of enlightenment we will take the first tentative steps towards a real reconciliation, and the children of Wadeye might be allowed to learn to read and write in English. Dare we dream of such an idea of reconciliation?
Patrick McCauley contributed “Genocide by Suicide” in the December 2007 issue. Quotations in this article are from “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” by Oscar Wilde, and “False Apology Syndrome: I’m Sorry for Your Sins” by Theodore Dalrymple, from the Fall 2008 issue of In Character.