Unsurprisingly Tony Abbott has won few sympathetic hearers with his
appropriation of the term “paternalism” in proposing a revolution in
indigenous policy. However the Minister’s crude vocabulary should not
be allowed to obscure some weighty and thoughtful questions, which
merit careful answers rather than peevish dismissal.
To just what extent we can positively manage the lives of indigenous
Australians in the midst of a culture vastly at odds with their own,
I know not. But considering how manifestly ineffective most efforts
to date have been, much debate on the subject is distinctly lacking
in humility. Workable solutions require open and patient discussion.
Now is not the time for zealous blame-shifting or glib defensiveness.
I don’t know whether Federal government moves to increase legislative
and bureaucratic control of Aboriginal communities is really in the
people’s best interests. But I also wonder whether the cry for
self-determination at all costs represents considered strategies for
the well-being of our indigenous brothers and sisters, or whether
it’s merely a mantra serving no end but political correctness.
We expect indigenous culture to simply live within our own. We need
fresh, creative and life-giving ways for this to happen. We’ve had
enough political ideology from all sides.