Aborigines are the ‘Biggest Losers’ in the human race

Politicians say some stupid stuff sometimes. It’s part of the compromise. Part of the game. If you want to be in charge of a group of 22 million odd people, then you have to ‘say the right thing’ I guess. The right thing, being what appeals to the majority.

 Murris know this best. Murris know that you have to live with the rhetoric floating around out there, the rhetoric about you and your life, your kids, how you live, what you say, what you look like…..

All the while you get on the business of being a person.

Occasionallly a White pollie will get it right. Paul Keating’s Redfern speech is the one that sticks in my mind.

And Julie Gillard’s comments today? Well. She may as well be John Howard. I have to admit, JG scared the crap out of me on the first day, ‘I believe in a government that rewards those who work the hardest, not those that complain the loudest’. Oh God help us!

And well, yesterday she nailed it,

“A call to every person, to every family, to every community: to take care of your children; to take a job when you find one; to create a safe environment; to send your kids to school, pay your rent, save up for a home; to respect good social norms and to respect the law; and to reach out to other Australians,”

I remember the first time I heard about Closing the Gap. Aunty Jeanie Phillips was handed me a wristband about this new program that her church was working with. It was years ago at Musgrave Park. It seemed like a reasonable enough idea.

But now, Closing the Gap, has turned into a judgement show. A voyeristic, paternalistic, victim-blaming, finger-pointing farce. Reading JG’s speech, reinforces how policy is framed around the Aborigine as freak. If you behave outside of the ‘norm’, then YOU are at fault. Like the  ‘Biggest Loser’ contestant who is positioned as a gross, slothenly slovenly, fat, lazy, sub-standard person, who if they ‘altered their behaviour’, would become acceptable, Aborigines in JG’s framing, are responsible for their own situation.


  • I’m not Racist but, you should send your kids to school.
  • I’m not Racist but, you should behave like us….

The easiest way to abbrogate responsibility is to make the victim the one to blame. Once again, Aboriginal People don’t get to be human – to have emotions, shortcomings and strengths, triumphs and tragedies, love and hate, to experience joy and sorry. Like the subjects of the anthropologists’ studies over the past two centuries, Aborigines continue, to be the subjects in someone else’s story, and losing contestants in someone else’s game show.

Update: Bev Manton, Chairwoman of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council also responded to Julie Gillard’s Speech in an article, A national disaster waiting to happen on The Drum.

You can view the speech on YouTube here.

4 thoughts on “Aborigines are the ‘Biggest Losers’ in the human race”

  1. Good on you Leesa, raw post is best post!

    Essentialising, evocation of a mythical 'Or-stral-e-unh' (as JG would pronounce it) & 'common sense' rhetoric are well known devices are used by (and also against!) pollies too. White, black, pink … no matter what colour. It's junk food for the soul – quick, convenient, cheap, shiny but leads to you know where and what.

    Exactly why we have to grow, allow and nurture a habit in people, and especially kids (!), to stop and ask things like: What do you mean by 'respect good social norms'? Apartheid was once considered a 'good social norm' too, should we have respected it?

    Let our goal be development of bullshit detectors and giving people confidence to use them (the first pollie that says something like that I will campaign for, gladly).

    Let not our goal be a mythical sameness and 'equality' that increasingly presumes some kind of 'even opportunities at the start of a race' (yeah, right…). Let our goal be equity instead, where equality of outcomes matters.

    I've always told the kids in class:
    Beware the truth-providers and well-wishers. Or in the more eloquent words of C.S. Lewis: 'Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive… those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.'

    Keep at it Leesa, you are making a difference to someone, somewhere and most of the time you have no idea you're doing it 😉


  2. Excellent piece. Especially loved this: "A voyeristic, paternalistic, victim-blaming, finger-pointing farce. Reading JG's speech, reinforces how policy is framed around the Aborigine as freak. If you behave outside of the 'norm', then YOU are at fault."

    Nailed it.

    1. Sorry for not replying sooner. Thanks for your comment. It feels funny to read over something that I wrote so longer. It was nice to come back to it again. Though sad that not that much seems to have changed since then. Cheers, L

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