Johns reinforces the colonialist view that we being invaded was really a blessing in disguise

Response to an article ‘Special treatment is the new black’ by Gary Johns in ‘The Australian’

once again the australian offers its pages to allow its white-blindfolded pundits to highlight their racist and wasp-ish views of an assimilationist australia. the arguments differ little in content and context from those other 'saviours' such as bolt, devine, mundine or pearson, who want nothing more than to have 'those uppity blacks' properly put in their (hidden) place.

gary johns, as i have stated before, was a mediocre politician in the keating government and quickly faded away when he lost his seat. his bitterness over the intervening years has made him a most vitriolic and vituperative individual whose hatemongering is only outdone by andrew bolt.

johns open his polemic with a twisted view of what the 1967 referendum was all about, 'a vote by the common man in a white-bread era for aborigines to join the common weal.' nothing, of course, could be further from the truth of the reasons for the referendum. the first point was to remove the racist clauses in the constitution that disallowed us to be treated as full australian citizens. the second point was to allow us to be equal with the cattle and the sheep of this country and be counted in the census. simple as that.

it is my belief, and argument, that without taking away any of the good and extraordinary work done by dedicated aborigines, islanders and whites, the result of the referendum was successful only because of the understandings or misunderstandings of each society. we wanted a citizen equality and a recognition that we had our inherent human rights also. whilst there were voices raising land rights, among other rights, basically we first needed to be recognised at the federal level as being human beings.

white society, on the other hand, believed that the federal government should be responsible for all matters aboriginal and torres strait islander. this, they thought, would be the answer that was required to take the 'aboriginal problem' out of the hands of state and territory governments and the absolute waste of funding that was being given to the 'aboriginal problem.' they wanted the federal government to take the problem and make it disappear altogether. proving that the people really have no power in the political game the federal politicians accepted the power to make changes. they did nothing really for many years and they eventually devolved the power back to the states and territories in 1973 during the whitlam government.

for our mobs little changed from 1967 to 1972 when whitlam gained power and ended the gurindji strike at gadaragu by giving land, but only a small piece, to vincent lingiari and his mob. but for the greater majority there was little change and the racism continued unbounded as we were mainly just left to rot.

there was most certainly no offer, real or imagined, of joining the common weal. the common weal was strictly reserved for white society even though it came from aboriginal lands and resources.

johns then moves on to analyse our rights as the traditional owners to our historic way of life, including language, culture and religion, as a claim for 'special attention', for 'positive advancement.' well, yes we do want that but it is not seeking to be different to other australians, it is only a wish to be equal, and accepted, as the descendants of the pre-invasion aborigines. all people know that we are a multicultural country and we want nothing less than to be able to practice that culture without being expected or forced to assimilate. totally. we have of course assimilated in several areas such as in speaking australian, in being educated away from our history, from changing our diet, and so on and so forth. but we draw the line at accepting the loss of our lands and their resources, of accepting some clayton's type of white-blindfold history whereby the assimilationist practices of the 19th and 20th century are brought to fruition, of accepting as fact that we will always be treated as second or third class people in our own lands.

the johns blindfold argument merely reinforces the old colonialist view, and one that was strongly supported by the religions of the day, that we being invaded was really a blessing in disguise and we should not only accept it but we must actually rejoice in that fact.

the u.n. has produced the declaration on the rights of the world's indigenous peoples that puts paid to that buccaneer view. we still exist and as the high court legally found that we were never terra nullius, so too we have not lost all of our innate rights as long as we continue to exist as a separate entity. our identification as aborigines gives us those rights under the u.n. declaration. the government’s desperate policies and push to assimilate will take us away from our legal rights. history and invasion have granted us those rights and we will not forgo them.

in a lather of righteousness and virtue johns quotes rob knight, a nt minister, who was upset about the burning of the australian flag and aboriginal youth spitting on it. desecration! gross and vile insult! how dare they! we do dare. we dare to remind the governments and white society of what has been perpetrated against our people for 224 years. we have suffered the vile atrocity of genocide, of land theft, of resources theft, the theft of our children, the theft of our wages we slaved for, the continuing discrimination and racism that has been our historical lot and still continuous today. we dare to tell you this and so much more.

i know the anger and ongoing resentment of my people and i can understand the actions done that day. for 224 years our people have grieved a collective trauma and we will go to actions that may appear to be self-defeating to a lot of people but will be accepted by most aborigines. the australian flag is the flag of the invader and always will be until it is changed to exclude the union jack of england. it is as much of a sick and rancid joke to us as the misnamed national anthem or the celebration of the english invasion on 26 january, 1788.

but! my personal view, as an aborigine and as an australian, is i would have preferred it not to have happened. what i see arising now will be rednecked hate-mongerers will now burn our flag as an australia day protest against us. will it be a desecration to us? will it be a gross and vile insult to us? will we cry how dare they? of course we will. will we then move on to worse insults as each of us tries to outdo the other? probably.

i am also personally disturbed by the burning of the flag. my white australian father married my aboriginal mother and i was one of the progeny of that marriage. my father at the time of my birth was in the australian army. during the fighting between our soldiers and the japanese forces on the kokoda track my father died whilst protecting this country, and, by extension, his aboriginal wife and children. this duty as he saw it was under the australian flag. hundreds of aborigines and torres strait islanders who have fought in every foreign war since the boer war, have also died under the australian flag. the southern cross in the flag of australia is the same southern cross our ancestors lived under and told stories to explain its existence.

in several discussions i have had with friends about this episode i have told them of my ambivalence about the burning but one thing i am not ambivalent about is aboriginal men using our youth in times of protest. after the death of tj hickey in 2004 and the so-called redfern riots (that were arranged by the redfern cops to take the focus off tj) adults set the kids up to attack the cops whilst they hid around the corner. we only needed one gun-happy copper that night and we would have lost another of our precious youth. similarly at the tent some youths, i wont name them, were set up by unnamed adults to put on a show for a rabid media looking for something to excite the masses after the rangarella incident at the coffee shop that was nothing more than a complete beat-up by the media bored with our discussion processes towards sovereignty.

we do have our pricks who do tell us with all attempts at seriousness that 'it is all over brother, and etc.' and the australian gives them all the space required to do so. noel pearson springs to mind as does warren mundine and marcia langton. sue gordon also, among those who are comfortable in their own little coconut worlds. i do not see too much space being given to those who have an alternative view.

johns then falls into the old mode of if you have nothing intelligent to say, then become insulting. long after gary johns becomes a nonentity and is forgotten by all, our pat dodson will be well remembered and truly respected for his handling of aboriginal issues. some aborigines think otherwise but whilst i would not put him in the mahatma ghandi class he is far more worthy of respect than johns will ever be.

he then veers off to another completely unrelated argument by quoting professor manning clark, again with a sneer, that i think breaks down as to the interpretative meaning of 'civilisations.' no time for that here though.

then comes the not unexpected bolt identification analysis. all very old hat now as bolt lost and our mob won. hooray! the tired point is resuscitated once more that white blackfellers or concrete kooris as i describe myself only identify for position, prestige and money in a white world. i've made mention of this subject before but suffice to say, gary, is that i became an open and out of the cultural closet koori because your society told me i could not be! i'm as black as they come, gary, and you better just accept it and cop it sweet. but please, do not assimilate into our culture. we do not accept your racist identification processes that measure people by fractions of how much white blood we may have. we have our own vigorous identification processes and we will decide who is aboriginal and how that identification is made.

mr johns, please go away and allow us to settle our outcomes in our own way. it is called self-determination and one day we will practice it as it should be and not as you think it should be. you are still ruled by a british queen! and you raise issues of identification.

go away.


ray jackson
indigenous social justice association
(m) 0450 651 063
(p) 02 9318 0947
address 1303/200 pitt street waterloo 2017

we live and work on the stolen lands of the gadigal people.

sovereignty treaty social justice