The absurdity of the arguments on last night’s SBS Insight Aboriginal or Not programme are best summed up by Sir Damo’s tweet. There was so much reference to blood quantum issues, are collapsing of skin-based racism versus cultural racism, as well as an over emphasis on “benefits”. I was so surprised that there was a focus on Confirmations of Aboriginality.

Let’s get this straight:

  • The receipt of “benefits” has nothing to do with Aboriginality. A person can be a millionaire and still be Aboriginal. They are two separate things.
  • “Benefits” are actually basic social programmes (like housing, immunisations, tutoring support, health checks, language and cultural programmes) that are designed to redress over 200 years of overt racism, discrimination, and oppression.
  • Skin-based racism is VERY real, and impacts on many Australians. There is skin-based racism where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are specifically targeted. But other Peoples in Australia also experience this type of racism.
  • Cultural racism, for me, is where a person’s culture is challenged or discriminated against. This is about world-views, epistemologies, ontologies etc. This type of racism has less to do with skin-colour, than about ‘how one is in the world’.
  • And yes, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people come in all colours and have all kinds of needs. Assuming that Aboriginal people are the Γ³ne colour’ is absurd and fails to acknowledge the experience of colonisation throughout Australia.
  • And Confirmations of Aboriginality? WTF? Why was there so much of an emphasis on this topic? It’s such a small part of people’s lives. Of course there is ridiculous-ness in the implementation of these things. That’s because the system is freaking flawed. Most Aboriginal organisations are too under-staffed and under-resourced to effectively deal with Confirmations. And many organisations refuse to even do them because they take them away from their core businesses. And yes, if you’re not part of the community, or if you’re unknown, what on earth are people expected to do? It must be difficult if you don’t have an understanding of how organisations work. I can appreciate what it must look like when you’re on the outside looking in. But honestly, they’re run by PEOPLE, ordinary people, who need to take time to get to know you and for you to get to know them. Use a rejection as a sign that you need to get to know people, rather than some kind of rejection of you and your life.

Sadly this programme will do nothing to help Aboriginal people. It will cement old prejudices, and create new divides. It also further alienated Indigenous voices from participation in mainstream media. There were many smart people in that audience who will further reject participating in that type of programme in the future as it was a very unsafe space to deal with big issues.

Bring on independent Indigenous media (and Deadly Bloggers) I say.

Update: 14th August, 2012: Others have written on this topic. Here are a few of the posts I have found [Disclaimer: I DO NOT agree with all the posts below. Am linking to them to provide context to the discussion]

A number of Global Mail articles have relevance to this topic that readers may find interesting:


10 thoughts on “#InsightSBS”

  1. Leesa, well-scoped critique, the blood quantum (BQ) focus shows progress is slow, and often goes backwards. Your point too about mainstream media's ineffectiveness in enabling genuine dialogue is also spot on. Broadly, I think the emphasis on "benefits" is the whole rub, targetting Aboriginality is part of rolling back what is sometimes referred to as Affirmative Action. IE muddy the waters, churn people up, and make it seem administratively insurmountable and politically unsavoury to have Indigenous-dedicated initiatives. Yet again, we have to rise above these timeworn tactics of a dominating society.

  2. Thanks S. Many, on other platforms, have expressed that it was poorly researched, and I'm inclined to agree. The focus on Certificates was an effective way find victims & villains. And you're right, the focus on "benefits" in this era of individualism, is a trigger for ACA-inspired stories of system rorters, and backyard deals.

    1. Cheers, Leesa, it's such a limiting forum. There were so many solid mob in the studio, there was never going to be enough time to hear the great thoughts they would have had, irrespective of how much background research was done. Yes, keeping it stupidly simple is the bottom line of Gotcha! 'journalism' – which I actually don't think this episode was an example of, but I think we probably should brace ourselves for some Gotcha! door-banging, street-chasing crapola.

    2. I felt that because the forum had no outcome apart from being televised that it allowed for that great negativity to happen.
      Also the moderator was not an Aboriginal person Anton's knowledge is very limited to understand the make up of an Aboriginal community or our history.
      I hope NITV do a follow up on the forum with a focus on solutions new ideas and maybe some hard hitting stories of lateral violence in communities.

    3. Good points, Maydina, although I'm not sure TV is the right method whoever produces and presents. Is your Mum, Bronwyn? All best, Sandra

  3. I believe that SBS producers took on more than they understood about the issue. The topic is an important one but very diverse in all areas of Australia.
    There were many stories regarding Identity that I believed was obvious lateral violence including Dallas' story.
    The proof of Aboriginality does service a purpose, I do agree that there needs to be some changes in how this is approached across the board.
    The forum got a bit out of hand with many wanting to share their stories or have there opinions heard that didn't get that chance. I hope that a group such as NITV do some follow up around Identity and lateral violence and look at case studies where its working well and how we can move forward.

    1. Thanks Maydina (awesome name BTW) for commenting on my post. I don't think we can under-estimate how difficult it is for people who are on the outside and looking in. The "rules" of connection can be so subjective and are based on long-term relationships – family and friendships. Very little is set in stone and black and white. We must be sympathetic, I think, to all people's feelings so that they can be better supported and allow us to more effectively to communicate with folks.

    2. Too true Lessa ! there needs to be some real talk and movement in this area.
      I find there is a real fear in the community to take action out of fear of reprimanded as an individual. Which is why it takes so long for the communities I belong to to move forward and create change for the better.
      I also picked up that as Aboriginal people we are so different and diverse in our own culture and that isn't something that as Aboriginal people we have much understanding or information on. At 24 I am finding that I know very little about the western tribal ways and cultures that has shocked me.

    3. Also thanks for the name complement, my mum named me after Maydina "The Shadow" from the Women of the Sun serious and book. I've very lucky to have a name that has great meaning and culture behind it. My twin sisters name is also Yaltara meaning Sparkles

    4. Well, you have a very deadly mum. Maydina, like Alinta & Nerida – was a wonderful, strong and brave character, as I'm sure you are too. πŸ™‚

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