From The Age:
John Howard always bemoaned the “black armband” view of history, the one historian Geoffrey Blainey said was the pendulum swinging too far in the Aboriginal direction. Howard didn’t want to wake up each day facing stories of our racist, bigoted past. Poor John. He wanted to see the great achievements. There are, indeed, many, none attributable to him or his opponent’s policies: national and international regard for Aboriginal art work, music, dance, theatre, cinema, television production, literature and, certainly, sporting achievement. From nine university students in 1969 to well over 12,000 by 2009 is a tremendous leap. Aboriginal doctors have enough members to sustain their own medical association. Lawyers are present even if they don’t exactly “abound”. Professors, university centres of excellence, are visible and often effective. The pleasing upside doesn’t cancel the endemic downside.
Looking at Aboriginal policy and practice over the past 50 years produces a stark conclusion: that any real positive change in Aboriginal and Islander life has come about through recourse to law rather than to the political process. In short, progress has to be sued for, gouged out and clawed from the system because rarely, if ever, is anything granted or given for its own sake.
Colin Tatz is visiting fellow in the College of Arts and Social Sciences at the Australian National University. He has been an analyst of Aboriginal affairs since 1961.
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