FAREWELL NATIONAL INDIGENOUS TIMES and COLLEAGUES by Dr Marcus Woolombi Waters - courtesy of The National Indigenous Times and 98.9FM Lets Talk Program - Yannaay gabayiindah gaalanha ganu nhama gandjarra (Goodbye thank you and all the best) - Last article for The National Indigenous Times columnist by Dr Woolombi Waters
I received a call from an undisclosed friend over the weekend telling me I would no longer be writing for the National Indigenous Times after this week. Like all blackfellas in this country we all have mob in opposing camps.
I wasn’t surprised. The Australian newspaper printed an article also over the weekend by Andrew Burrell, the WA chief reporter, stating a syndicate of pro-business Aboriginal leaders including Marcia Langton had put in a bid for the paper.
It was nothing we didn’t already know – as I said Blackfella’s have loose lips and confidentiality has always been a problem. The sharks had been circling for a while and Marcia Langton had already taken to Twitter over the weekend commenting: “National Indigenous Times is over 95% owned by white people. The business model=government advertising+defamation of Indig leaders #auspol
I cannot say I am surprised to see those within the group who will take over the new leadership, as well as Marcia Langton included former Kimberley Land Council chief Wayne Bergmann, Western Australian Indigenous businessman Clinton Wolf, both of whom have interests in mining.
What’s missing in all this is the story behind the story ... how good people are now left to pick up the pieces after having invested 14 years of their lives in a newspaper out of support of their own Aboriginal grandchildren.
These are good people who don’t deserve to be labelled as simply “White” by the many who joined Marcia in malicious twitter conversations over the weekend.
John and Beverley are the human face of this litigation – they are loving grandparents of Aboriginal children. They are hard working and sacrificed everything to keep the paper alive as long as they did.
I can’t help but wonder how better off Australia would be if other non-Indigenous Australians embraced our culture and children the way John and Beverley had embraced their grandchildren’s culture and family. They deserve better.
There were also claims by some that in representing the voice of this paper we went over the line in practicing lateral violence by defaming “Aboriginal leaders”.
Lateral violence is not about those who feel oppressed demonstrating their frustration and anger against those who appear to be making the decisions that maintain this oppression. Lateral violence is the silencing of others less powerful through intimidation and bullying.
Aboriginal people suffer the highest suicide rates in the world along with high incarceration rates and are forced to live in Third World conditions – to then deny these people the right to debate this situation is dangerous to our civil liberties and human rights.
Attempts to shame, blame and to socially isolate others throughout what has been in effect a hostile takeover is a classic demonstration of lateral violence against people who believed in what they were doing in giving a voice to the most vulnerable in Australia.
Marcia Langton herself wrote in The Australian newspaper the following day:
“Demanding the impossible is not helpful. It gets them into the media cycle for 48 hours and generates a bit of heat but the end result is that people in the system are deterred from acting because they feel intimidated. Being the subject of juvenile accusations of “colonial oppressor” or “assimilated” is nothing more than lateral violence and lightweight political theatre.”
The United Nations’ State of the Indigenous Peoples Report (2009) disagrees with Professor Langton – observing that both oppression and assimilation are two of the greatest problems faced by our people today and contribute significantly to the catastrophic effects we are witnessing in Australia.
The report said:
“Indigenous peoples suffer from the consequences of historic injustice, including colonisation, dispossession of their lands, territories and resources, oppression and discrimination as well as lack of control over their own ways of life. Their right to development has been largely denied by colonial and modern states in the pursuit of economic growth. As a consequence, Indigenous peoples often lose out to more powerful actors, becoming among the most impoverished groups in their respective countries. Indigenous languages have been dying, not only as a result of unintended consequences of colonisation and globalisation but also because of deliberate assimilation policies that sought to deny Indigenous peoples their own identities and cultures.”
So is it lateral violence when we question statements made which are not supported by evidence-based research but instead by ego, position and power because there is a lot of that type of governance going on right now in Australia.
Some of these Blackfella’s have been influential in advising policy and government for over twenty years. You can’t claim Aboriginal leadership and then in the same breathe state any criticism against you is defaming your position.
It was the National Indigenous Times which raised issue of self-harm, incarceration and suicide long before they became national concerns. It was the National Indigenous Times that covered the death in custody of Ms Dhu arrested and held for three days in a police cell over an unpaid fine before dying with broken ribs and blood-filled lungs.
It was the National Indigenous Times that raised the alarm about the consequences of the Western Australian Government closing down more than 100 remote and primarily Indigenous communities.
And in reporting what is really happening to our people, yes some of the Aboriginal “leaders” who have aligned with non-Indigenous governance, which has had undeniably catastrophic effects on our people, were asked to be accountable.
And now that voice looks like it is gone.
Dr Woolombi Waters is a Kamilaroi language speaker and writer and is a lecturer at Griffith University. He used to write a weekly column for the National Indigenous Times.
I have also included a link for an interview given with Uncle Tiga yesterday as this is a battle that must continue at every level…