Not Sorry for not Saying ‘Sorry’

As a young man — a boy, really, trying to be a man — and revelling in the joy of being beyond the discipline of schoolmasters and the constraints of parental control, I was working on a grazing property in central Queensland, where I received some advice from an old shearer. During a lunch-break discussion about the then conflict between the AWU, which represents shearers, and graziers, he said: “The only satisfactory resolution to a dispute is when both parties walk away unhappy.” It required some very basic life experiences and growth of the ‘wisdom factor’ to appreciate the truth of his observation.

That memory is relevant today because of the cacophonous argument between vocal Aboriginal leaders and, effectively, the rest of society — a society that has given Aboriginal people assistance on the path to better lives and personal achievement for over 200 years. But it seems to me that any acceptable resolution is further away than at any previous date in my lifetime.

As I contemplate the history of Aboriginal people as I have witnessed it over 80-plus years, It seems the more the people of Australia give to those who now call themselves “the first peoples,” the more that is demanded. A culture of entitlement has supplanted a more reasoned outcome. This entitlement culture is all encompassing and breeds a false belief that prior to European settlement and even after settlement the aboriginal people lived a life of achievement and plenty. They did not. They were scavengers on a fire ravaged landscape and living under the most disgusting cultural practices.

In 50,000 years of living on the Australian continent, give or take a decamillennium, they built nothing, they achieved no progress, they developed nothing beyond that most unmelodic instrument, the didgeridoo, ever known.The forebears of those now claiming sovereignty over most of Australia were always going to be taken over by a more civilised society with a focus on the growth of material progress. That takeover, which began in 1788 with Governor Phillips settlement in Port Jackson, has been nothing but beneficial. rather than, as passionately claimed, prejudicial to Aboriginal people. From, shortly after settlement the Aboriginal people came to rely on settlers for food, clothing and later housing, education and health care. These days Australian taxpayers even pick up the tab for Aboriginal dog care.

During the 200-plus years since British settlement the majority of Aboriginal people have successfully made the transition from a short, brutal and generally terrible tribal lives to joining what has become the very successful mainstream Australian. To them we say, ‘Welcome, Mate, and should you need a hand just let us know.’ Of the now-claimed 900,000 professing to be of Aboriginal descent, around 740,000 fall into this category and most have the right to take a full measure of pride, as might we all, in self-sufficiency. However, that leaves us with around 160,000 who, by their own decisions, are living the bludgers’ life of indolence and mendicant hopelessness. To these people I say, your future is in your hands and meaningful reconciliation can only happen when you wisely walk away from the present dysfunction. Resolving the differences in our society can only happen when Aboriginal people consign the ragged and toxic remnants of tradition culture to the garbage bin of history. Into that same bin should be consigned the divisive Aboriginal flag. Aboriginal people must accept that they are no more indigenous than anyone else born in Australia.

Rudely offensive is the recently begun welcome to country ceremonies and even more offensive are the various and expanding Aboriginal claims of rights to landmarks like Uluru, Mount Warning and the Grampians. These and all other landmarks belong to all Australians and the visitors whom we welcome here. They are not the sole property of Aboriginal people. Only when Aborigines and those purporting on the strength of the most slender genetic connection accept they are part of Australian society, with the same obligations and responsibilities incumbent on all Australians,  will we have genuine reconciliation.

In May next year, when the next Sorry Day rolls around, it should be Aboriginal people saying sorry. Sorry for not being thankful for what European settlers have done on their behalf. Sorry for not appreciating the educational, housing and health services freely supplied. Sorry for accepting preference in health services and employment opportunities. Sorry for constantly expecting help and hand-outs not available to other Australians.

Reconciliation requires input from all sides and the giving away of unacceptable positions. On that day we will see the dawn of an egalitarian and united country whose opportunities are open to every citizen. Then we will need no more Sorry Days.

Ron Pike is a water consultant and third-generation irrigation farmer

10 thoughts on “Not Sorry for not Saying ‘Sorry’

  • rosross says:

    Great article Ron.

    Sorry for what? Ending infanticide, killing babies at horrific levels?

    Ending cannibalism?

    Ending women as slaves and packhorses?

    Ending child marriage where little girls were prepared for their old husbands, the clan chiefs, by adult males using their own equipment or sticks?

    Ending brutal initiation practices for boys and girls which often killed them or left them infertile?

    Ending a primitive stone-age, hunter-gatherer life which had most dead by the age of 40?

    Gifting to those Aboriginal peoples a modern nation, the first nation to ever exist on this land, and one of the best places in the world to live?

    Those with aboriginal ancestry should be paying the rest for what they have been given.

    • NarelleG says:

      How can we ever get the actual ‘culture’ learned by the masses?
      Until then – we can never get a sorry.

      Vincent Lingiari and the Wave Hill Walk Off – which I believe was orchestrated by a Labor union person? – was the ultimate downfall and the beginning of the cycle of sit down money.
      Now the the resultant expectations from those 160,000 living in self imposed conditions which I will not feel empathy for.
      It’s in their hands to change the status quo and while ever the millions pour in, then nothing will change.
      (The billions got to the urban aboriginal organisations for people living the same lifestyle as the rest of Australia – except in many cases better than the average.).

      We had respectful relationships between black and white till Lingiari was hijacked and used to the unions means as we know.
      Blacks worked for a living and had respect for themselves – a place and purpose.

      Thank you @Ron Pike – those of us who lived that Australia will take it to our graves.
      Grateful that I was born in the 40’s and schooling was side by side with black friends.
      The monthly school magazines in NSW had a large section based on Aborigines – from comic section to social studies and poetry about the aborigine.

      We watched 35mm films in black and white on the Aborigine – remember the newsreels in George Street cinemas – Aborigines featured.

      • Botswana O'Hooligan says:

        May I second that Narelle G for I also was born in the bush in ’41 and my two nannies were skinny old lubra’s, plug tobacco pipe smoking ones at that and I think that they loved me as much or even more than my mother did. Lovely old ladies and a far cry from the present day ratbags in general. Ironically, Wave Hill and perhaps Wattie Creek where it all started had no indigenes last time I was there and If one may be forgiven for using language, bloody Labor!!

      • Brian Boru says:

        “while ever the millions pour in, then nothing will change.” Agreed but the situations on the stations where (as I understand it) Aborigiines worked for next to nothing and the tribe was fed could not continue. A variation on the slavery theme?
        In my guess the problem started when it was decided to put those people “on country” instead of proceeding with assimilation into the wider community. I believe the only solution is still that; assimilation into the wider community. The alternative is to keep burning billions of dollars.

        • rosross says:

          Aborigines worked for next to nothing you say? Not really when you factor in that a station would support a group of 20-30, out of whom a quarter might work, sometimes. Because of the habit of wandering off, the community could, usually, provide someone else to step in and do the job. Of course they could not afford to pay the same rates when in essence they were paying for so many. It was not a variation on slavery at all.

          And yes, correct, the outstation idea has been a total disaster. Assimilation was and is the only solution.

  • John Cook says:

    Right on, Ron!

  • IanL2 says:

    so when the Truth telling happens, whose truth will it be? A few good men comes to mind.

  • wdr says:

    The Aborigines should pay reparations to the white man for bringing them from the Stone Age to the 21st century. White liberals who attack Australian society over the Aborigines should put their money where their mouth is, and give their house, in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, or wherever, back to the Aboriginal tribe they stole it from. How can these paragons bear to live even one more day in property they stole from someone else? Somehow, I don’t think the Aborigines can expect to receive even a dog house from the white liberals.

  • Lonsdale says:

    Sorry, sorry – when is Happy Day?

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