Over the years, when discussing Aboriginal affairs, I have often referred to the Victim Brigade (VB) and been criticised for using that term. That’s fine, I’m not troubled if some VB members take great offence at the label, nor am I disconcerted that daring to disagree with the approved VB narrative opens me to the charge of abetting ‘lateral violence’. Others are confused and don’t, or won’t, grasp my preferred term’s full meaning. This article is for them. So, if you are a VBer and feel an attack of ‘offence’ coming on, I won’t be irked if you leave now and check into your favourite safe space.
Before I continue it is important to distinguish the victim brigade from those Aboriginal people who are true victims. In the book In Black & White: Australians All at the crossroads, I wrote:
Before continuing, let me say I fully acknowledge that there are some Aboriginal people in this country who live in environments that are so toxic and impoverished on most dimensions that it is very difficult for them to even survive without significant outside assistance, let alone fix problems.
In some parts of Australia where there is little chance of meaningful employment, minimal access to basic services, minimal access to fresh and nutritious food, where alcohol abuse is prevalent, and people have known nothing different, then these people are victims of systems and mindsets that are fundamentally toxic. Some communities are victims of an ‘apartheid’ government policy: the Commonwealth refusal to allow leases on Aboriginal lands rules out private property and business enterprise and condemns these Aboriginal people to ‘welfare poison.’
Those described above are true victims and, of course, the VB pay them little attention, except when their lives and predicaments can serve as handy tools for piling blame on the white man. Members of the VB are not victims, though, not as they would have you believe. They know where their next meal is coming from. They live in safe, clean, secure environments and enjoy access to all the amenities you and I and they take for granted.
VBers are easily recognisable and distinguishable. They are likely to be seen at protests amid signs that read “Stop black deaths in custody”. What they and their signs fail to acknowledge is that Aboriginal people in custody are less likely to die than non-Aboriginal people in custody. You also hear them chanting catchy but meaningless slogans — “Sovereignty never ceded”, for example — or claiming to be offended because January 26 is known as Australia Day. The also get upset when a white person wears blackface. They are also likely to tell you they are survivors of ‘genocide’ and targets of government ‘oppression’.
Any Aboriginal person who does not claim to be a victim of genocide and oppression will be accused of being ‘assimilated’ or a ‘sell out’ or ‘coconut.’ They are likely to show their ‘outrage’ at the death of an Aboriginal person when the white man can be implicated but are noticeably silent about black-on-black murder. The VBers raison d’être is to take offence. They live by the creed: “To be offended is to feel important.” They are perpetually angry about something and anything.
But are they genuinely angry? Yes, they are very angry, but not about the issues they claim to be angry about. They are more likely to be angry over the lack of meaning they perceive their lives not to have. The issues they do claim to be angry about — the death of an Aboriginal person, funding, or a perceived act of racism requiring an Olympic gold medal standard of mental gymnastics to discern, are their excuses to play the victim and express that anger which defines them.
Black US author Shelby Steele puts it neatly in his book White Guilt discussing Black Americans: “In both the best and worst sense of the word, black rage is always a kind of opportunism.” That anger, as it is in the US and here, is simply an opportunity for VB members to grab some benefit. It’s also an opportunity to avoid addressing the genuine problems afflicting Aboriginal people — violence, child abuse, unemployment, unsafe living environments, and dysfunctional remote communities. For the VBer, he or she can simply say “it’s the government’s fault and that justifies my anger with the government.” No realistic appraisal is needed, nor any solutions offered.
I oppose the VBers because their message is poison. Although speaking in regard to the American context, the words of Harry Stein in his book tilted No matter what … they’ll call this book racist, helps provide the answer:
Perpetually focussed on past inequities rather than future possibilities, the victim mindset epitomized by affirmative action not only saps energy and initiative, it justifies the absence of energy and initiative.
Focusing on the actions of others may sap the determination necessary to achieve difficult internal changes. De-emphasizing or abandoning the elusive quest for racial justice may in fact be a precondition for real progress … The victim must realise that, although others have wronged him, his fate is in his own hands.
More simply, the endless daily messages of doom and gloom from the VB batallions hold Aboriginal people back. If you are black (or even a distant relative of someone who is), why bother getting out of bed if you have been conditioned to believe ‘white privilege,’ ‘white supremacy’ and other vague abstractions are keeping you down? Why would you even try to invest effort and belief in what modern Australia offers when constantly told such participation is the sin of ‘assimilation’ and makes you an accomplice in ‘genocide’?
If there is any doubt as to the doom and gloom messages, consider the rhetoric of 2015 NAIDOC person of the year, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks:
The assimilation process so far has failed, has failed to the extent that people are taking their own lives because they’ve been made to feel second-class; they’ve been made to feel less of a human being then (sic) the rest of Australians.
In the article whence this quote comes, Rosalie does not bother to define ‘assimilation.’ Was she implying that this ‘assimilation’ (whatever it means) is the cause of the suicides? I can’t help wondering if child sexual abuse could be a reason for the suicides?
She is further reported as saying
Aborigines are not native animals and building houses for them is only another attempt to assimilate indigenous Australians into white society.
Is she implying that someone described Aborigines as “native animals?” I wonder if Rosalie lives in a house?
Fortunately there are many Aboriginal Australians who do not buy into the BS of the VB. They are the type of Australians who, rather than wallowing in fabricated victimhood, go to work, help the broader community and do everything to make this country a better place. They are the ones who want to move hand-in-hand with their non-Aboriginal brothers and sisters. The VBers still attract the majority of headlines and profiles in the media, courtesy of unquestioning reporters, but many others are leaving the VB behind. I am one of them, I guess, but I’m not alone — even if you don’t hear too much about us. But you will.
Anthony Dillon identifies as a part-Aboriginal Australian who is proud of both his Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal ancestries. Originally from Queensland, he now lives in Sydney and is a researcher at the Australian Catholic University. For more, visit www.anthonydillon.com.au
 Hughes, H. & Hughes, M. ‘The Denial of Private Property Rights to Aborigines’ (2012).