As for any obligation to be nothing but respectful of the Aboriginal gerontocracy, I ask: What makes them so special? …Is it not possible to be both an Aboriginal leader, and a vain, obstinate blow hard at the same time?
This most extraordinary tirade was published last week by the outstanding writer Kerryn Pholi in The Spectator. As a once “favoured” Aboriginal woman, Pholi nowadays wants to be treated like everyone else, that is, as an Australian on her merits, and not as some sort of “deserving” Aboriginal.
In one brief article, she exposing the hypocrisy of the Aboriginal Industry on the one hand, and the fawning deference white Australians patronisingly pour onto the “wise” elders on the other.
Given that journalists are supposed to be the most hardboiled of cynics, our national newspaper’s enthusiasm for the cause of Aboriginal constitutional recognition is hard to fathom. Perhaps the Australian is banking on being front and centre when the news of a ‘Yes’ vote drops, to capture the perfect image of grizzled old campaigners doing victorious high-fives all around.
The article appears as Time Gentlemen Please, in the 6th of June Spectator.
The media’s critical faculties tend to shrivel in the presence of Aboriginal leaders, allowing the cultural significance of Aboriginal recognition to expand to mythic proportions. If we are to debate Aboriginal recognition in a sensible way, we need to entertain the possibility that the venerable greybeards pushing for recognition are not infallible. The seniors chasing their own ‘67 moment won’t be the ones living with the aftermath, and the ideals they have long supported might not be shared by those who come after. Perhaps the challenge for the PM is not how to make good on his promise to deliver Aboriginal recognition, but how to provide the present Aboriginal leadership with a satisfying, face-saving, last hurrah.