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The guilt trip is a fruitless journey

By Graham Ring - posted Monday, 24 April 2006

Some weeks ago I had a piece published in a mainstream broadsheet newspaper. Aware that the general public doesn't have the same sophisticated grasp of Indigenous justice issues as you clever dicks who read journals like On Line Opinion, I kept it pretty straightforward.

The article gently explored the notion that Australia was “invaded”. I mentioned Jandamarra and the resistance wars, but concluded that it seemed more important to work for a just society than to agonise endlessly over the invasion issue.

I made the fairly unremarkable observation that the “practical reconciliation” ambition to improve outcomes in health, housing, education and employment was important - but that this had to be accompanied by a recognition that Aboriginal people are Australian citizens with rights and entitlements.


That they were here first.

Nothing to raise the hackles here. Just some “line and length” stuff about Indigenous disadvantage and the pressing need to make amends.

A few days later, a letter from A. Correspondent of Seaside Suburb bobbed up on the paper's letters page, pointing out that “with rights come responsibilities”.

Fair enough, too.

But AC ended his letter with the curious observation that “neither hereditary guilt, nor guilt by association has any place in a democracy”.

It struck me as odd, because I'd not even mentioned the “g” word in the piece. Never do.


It's just one that seems to crop up automatically whenever people wag their chins about Indigenous affairs.

Long ago I did a few units of psychology. My progress in this field of endeavour was sadly limited, not least because the tutorial sessions coincided with live bands in the student union building.

But I've watched Jerry and Oprah often enough to play pop psychologist, and my preliminary diagnosis is that the “guilt people” may be suffering from unresolved personal issues.

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First published in the National Indigenous Times, Issue 102, on April 6, 2006.

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About the Author

Graham Ring is an award-winning writer and a fortnightly National Indigenous Times columnist. He is based in Alice Springs.

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