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Them and us and NAIDOC

By Ian Nance - posted Thursday, 19 July 2018

We recently experienced National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee Week, so I'm moved to write this opinion piece.

My feeling is of shame that we need to promote this recognition event at all.

Many public commemorations risk becoming ritualistic or token in the belief that simply going through the motions affects the essence of what is being appraised.


Relationship with our first-dwellers should be a normal aspect of our daily pattern, not something observed once a year.

However, holding NAIDOC Week perhaps could serve to remind many folk that they share the land with its original residents who founded it some forty to sixty thousand years ago.

Theirs is the longest-existing civilisation in history. Yet many modern Australian residents have no concept of the incredible cultural depth of our first nationals.

The name "Aboriginal" is derived from two Latin words – "ab" meaning "from" and "origine", meaning beginning.

(For you keen followers of Latin, this word is the singular ablative case of the third declension noun, "origo", meaning "beginning").

We live alongside the world's oldest continuous culture, yet too many of us expect our indigenes to assimilate into our particular way of life, without realising that they have a connection to their own unique style.


Over the last four hundred years, Europeans made the transition from an agrarian to industrial/technological way of life, but our original people retain over forty thousand years of intensive cultural knowledge about their land - its ability to provide food, medicine, shelter, and deep spiritual connection. Their history has not been modified by modernity;

After colonisation, some of us made close contact with our first people to make use of their highly-developed skills such as foraging, hunting, and tracking, but many have regarded these folk as an unequal component of the society which we know and in which we function.

For example, the government's recent rejection of the proposal for some form of constitutional advisory group of aborigines to give advice on innate cultural aspects during the forming of policy and legislation was based on the presumption of a potential 'racial inequality' for whites.

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About the Author

Ian Nance's media career began in radio drama production and news. He took up TV direction of news/current affairs, thence freelance television and film producing, directing and writing. He operated a program and commercial production company, later moving into advertising and marketing.

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