Little Children Are Sacred

I met my first Aboriginal man about 43 years ago when I was around seven.  I discovered the existence of racial hate the same day!  I was home alone when a very old Aboriginal man came to our back door asking for a glass of water.  I knew he was very old because his hair was the same pure white as my grandfather’s hair and my grandfather was very old.

I had met many men but I had never met one like this white-haired black man.  He was gentle and respectful towards me unlike any white man I had ever met.  I wanted to keep him around so I offered him food and the use of our toilet and bathroom.  He was washing his hands when racial hate in the form of Mr Next Door came barging into our house screaming at the old man that he was going to jail for what he had done to me.  The old man took fright and ran but the neighbour called the police and accused the old man of molesting me.

My mother sorted it out and called off the police hunt but that man would have gone to jail if she had not asked me, in private, for the truth.  If she had been racially prejudiced too the old man would have been in big trouble because I was too frightened of our neighbour to call him a liar to his face.

The old man stayed in my heart though.  He was the only man in my childhood who ever treated me like I was precious rather than just a thing to be used or a nuisance to be ignored.  I instinctively knew then and I am still certain of it now that he would never have harmed me in any way.  He was only with me for about half an hour but I love him still!

There were not many Aboriginals around where I grew up.  I went to school with two young Aboriginal girls but I didn’t hang out with them so I never got to know them and I had no other contact with Aborigines until I moved to the Northern Territory when I was around 30.

When I moved to Darwin in the top end of Australia I had a soft spot in my heart, because of that old man, for Aboriginals.  My experiences in Darwin hardened me though.  After putting up with six years of countless badly behaved Northern Territory Aboriginals my soft spot was nowhere near as soft but I still made excuses for them.

Then I moved to Western Australia where five young Aboriginals attacked me in my own home, terrorized me for almost an hour, stole my car and trashed it along with my life.  They turned me into a frightened, traumatized refugee in my own country of birth!

After that I hated the whole Aboriginal race so much I couldn’t bear to look at one side of a fifty dollar bill because the image of an Aboriginal is on it!  Every time I saw one I was reminded of the terror I endured.  The fear would instantly turn to anger and I would wish we had wiped out the whole Aboriginal race when we had the chance.

Most of my personal experiences with Aboriginals have, I’m afraid, been negative to say the least but the force of that very first encounter will not permit me to just hate them and leave it at that.

Every time I remember how Mr Next Door treated that old man I know, if I had grown up being treated that way, I would be a fairly angry and nasty sort of person.  Every time someone treats an Aboriginal that way I notice it and I noticed it a lot up in Darwin.

I saw the hurt resignation on the old Aboriginal woman’s face when the bus driver lied to her and said the bus was not going to Darwin.  She knew he was lying, I could see it on her face, but she nodded and got off the bus.  Many times I had to force shop attendants to serve the Aboriginal who was in front of me by refusing to let them serve me until they had done so.  One or two tried to serve the person behind me instead but I wouldn’t let them do that either.

Once I completed my studies in psychology and discovered just how great an impact a lousy childhood has I understood even better why they behaved so badly.

We took the children and put them in places where white men and women abused them.  They grew up damaged and ignorant of how to be good parents.

I remember one such Aboriginal mother.  She was in despair.  She had tried so hard to give her children what she never had and, because her teenagers were arguing with her, she felt she had failed to raise them properly.  She was unaware that she had, in fact, managed to raise children who felt safer than she had as a child.

She never argued with her institution care-givers when she was a teenager.  She still bore the physical scars of having committed much less serious offenses than that!  She came to me for treatment, court ordered, for her alcohol problem.  She drank to numb her despair at having failed as a parent amongst other things.

Now Australia’s prime minister, John Howard, is about to do it again!  John Howard is about to subject the Aboriginal race to the exact same prejudicial contempt Mr Next Door dished out to my dear old man!

Mr Next Door did not ASK me OR the old man anything.  He PRESUMED nasty things had happened and he PRESUMED he knew how to deal with it.  I had been molested all right but not by the old man!  Mr Next Door called in the authorities and made my life a misery.  As for the poor old man – he went on the run.  I have no idea how long it would have taken him to stop being afraid!

Now John Howard is calling in the authorities and I wonder how many innocent Aboriginal men are about to go on the run?  How many children’s lives are about to take a turn for the worse?  How many Aboriginal people are going to feel betrayed, yet again, by this response to their co-operation and how many white people are going to wonder when the government will stop ignoring what they are telling them?

I have read the report, “Little Children Are Sacred“, that John Howard is claiming sparked his recent “National Emergency” crisis response and he is doing EXACTLY what the report PLEADS for government NOT to do – act WITHOUT consulting the Aboriginal people first!

Government has a long history of imposing solutions on Aboriginal people.  It doesn’t work and this, the report quotes an Aboriginal elder saying, is because:

“The impression is given to them that they are idiots and that people outside of their community are more qualified to deal with their problems. As a result of this general attitude people become apathetic and take no interest in dealing with the problems.”
Alyawerre Elder (P 51 of the report)

John Howard thinks if he wields the whip of financial benefits that will motivate them to take an interest in dealing with the problems.  He could not be more mistaken!

What he will do is provoke increased ELDER abuse!  If the money for alcohol and drugs is not available to people with children those who want money for these things will target people whose income is not tied to children!

He thinks imposing a ban on alcohol will stop abusers from drinking.  Wrong!  They are already selling themselves and their children to white bootleggers – they will simply sell more children to meet the higher prices they will be charged!

He thinks abolishing the permit system will get him extra votes from people who resent being forced to get permission to go on Aboriginal land.  That is probably true but it will also make it even easier for predators to get to vulnerable Aboriginal children!  There will be no need to go to Asian countries to buy children when they are for sale right here in good old Australia for drugs, alcohol, and money!

Before the reader starts ranting about how that just proves Aboriginal parents are unfit you should read the report – in many cases the CHILDREN are selling themselves so THEY can get drugs, alcohol and money!

The contrast between what this report is recommending and what John Howard is about to do is heart breaking!

“Another common theme throughout the Inquiry’s consultations was the lack of ongoing support for many programs. While initial support to commence a program could often be obtained, continuing support was much more difficult to obtain.

‘We have a 20-year history of six-month programs’
Gunbalunya resident.

‘We have been piloting pilots for long enough’
Yolngu Elder.

The Inquiry heard that often programs, which were viewed by the relevant community as being successful, were discontinued without evaluation or consultation and this left the community feeling further disempowered:

‘Every time something like a Law and Justice Committee falls over, it breaks people’s spirits, disempowers them further and brings shame in the eyes of the community.’
Yolngu Elder”

Now John Howard is going to come charging in with a, you guessed it, six month ban on all alcohol!  Yay – another six months of suffering to add to the past 20 years worth!

The people who prepared this report worked hard to win the co-operation of the people they are trying to help.  Their efforts resulted in igniting a little spark of hope in a race that is destroying itself, and anyone who gets in their way, at a truly alarming rate.

“The Inquiry was told a number of times during its consultations that the meetings it conducted were the “best” that the community “had ever had”.  Many communities wanted it to be the first of many similar meetings.

‘We never have meetings like this. If we have more meetings like this we will have more answers.’ Walpiri Elder” (P 52 of the report)

“It is time that the government accepts that Aboriginal people need to have some control and that we need to at least be given the opportunity to fail.
Yolngu Elder” (P 53 of the report)

The government response to this?  Take more control away from them!  Punish them for letting the white report writers into their communities to find out what state they are in.  Punish them for believing this time someone would LISTEN to them and help them to help themselves!

Another quote from the report – this time from a remote area health professional.

“It’s patently unfair to continually say to Aboriginal people to take responsibility for their problems while at the same time always interfering and overriding their decisions and authority.” (P 53 of the report)

For those who still think the fault lies wholly with the Aboriginal people, think again, white society is corrupt and it corrupts.  It begins when we tell our children lies are bad and they must not lie.  Then we contradict ourselves by telling them some lies, like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy, are GOOD lies!

It doesn’t take us long to discover, as we grow up, it is “one law for the poor and another for the rich” and that “justice” is an illusion.  You can buy your way out of anything up to and including murder if you can afford the lawyers fees.

The corruption in our society reaches its ultimate and most visible peak when politicians make promises to get elected then break them and we accept them lying because “that’s what politicians do”.  Is it at all surprising that:

“The Inquiry was also told that many (Aboriginal) youth today have an erroneous(?) belief that the wider Australian society is lawless. They believe that:

‘it is acting within “white fella” law when being abusive.  A thinking that began with the systemic undermining of our own law with the colonization of Australia and the atrocities that followed. It is now reinforced by TV, movies, pornography and drugs brought into our community from wider Australia.’

Rev. Djiniyini Gondarra press release, 19 May 2006″ (P 51 of the report)”

Aboriginal children are being systematically neglected, beaten, raped, sold, used and abused in just about every way possible.  Mr Howard is pointing the finger of blame at parents and plans to force them to become “good” parents by cutting off the money they need to buy the alcohol they are addicted to.

Wealthy predators must be dancing with glee at this news.  I wonder how many of Australia’s paedophiles are planning a trip to remote Aboriginal communities to feast on the children of a race who, generation after generation, ever since the white man came and showed them how powerless they really are – has never known HOW to protect their children.

The report states most abuse is the result of neglect.  The children are hungry for food and affection and this makes them easy prey.  The teenagers are hungry for money, alcohol and drugs and this make them even easier prey.

Overcrowding and pornography is exposing children to sights they are not supposed to see but nobody is telling their parents they are not supposed to see these things let alone telling them how to stop the children from seeing them!

“First, in one Central Australian community, the clinic nurse told us the following story:

‘I was attending to a mother in the waiting room area one day when her three-year-old daughter, who was naked, laid down on the floor in front of a young boy. This three-year-old girl then spread her legs wide apart and motioned the boy to her vagina.

There was no evidence this girl had been sexually abused but clearly she had been exposed to sexual behaviour and it had made her a vulnerable target.'” (P 65 of the report)

You can’t stop this by cutting off the alcohol or the money.  You can’t stop it by throwing money or land at it either.

Every Aboriginal man I ever treated for substance abuse in Darwin prison said more or less the exact same thing:

“I want to be a better man but I can’t change unless every member of my family changes too.”

Every one of them felt helpless and powerless to do anything to change anything at all.  It is not an individualistic culture – they do things together or not at all.  They don’t, for example, believe they can stop drinking if their family does not stop at the same time too.

Nothing we do is going to stop them from self-destructing!  The only way that can happen is if we are somehow able to convince them, family by family, that they CAN change and build a better life for themselves.

One of the biggest resentments I saw in white people was the fact that Aboriginal people do not have to work.

During one group substance abuse treatment session with remote area Aboriginal men I got them to express their goals.  I started off by expressing mine – a home of my own and a nice car.  Almost all the men there said that would be nice and they would like those things too.

Three of those men sat up and said it was not as simple for them as it would be for me.

“Every couple of months we get mining royalties”, they said, “every couple of months we get enough money to buy a house and a car but we can’t do it.  There is no point in doing it.”

I asked them why and this is what one said.

“If I buy a house all my family will own it too and they will all come to live in it with me and they will wreck it.  That’s what happened to everyone I know who did get a house.”

When an Aboriginal person talks about family he is not referring to one Mother, one father and a couple of brothers and sisters.  Every woman with the same “skin” as his mother, even women he has never met, are also his mothers!  His immediate family can consist of dozens of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts and uncles.

How hard would YOU work if every cent you earned had to be shared with dead-beat drunken and abusive relatives?  How keen would YOU be to own something of your own if there was no way to stop your own Mother’s and father’s from selling it to buy alcohol or trashing it in a fit of drunken anger?

There is not a snowballs chance in hell that we, with our tiny little immediate family and our individualistic focus, can EVER find the answers Aboriginal people need!  They are the ones who need to do it because they are the ones who really understand all the sides of the problem.

The only reason they don’t have the answers is because we have never really put the problem in their hands and encouraged them to believe THEY can find the solutions!  We repeatedly single out some INDIVIDUALS to act on their behalf and those individuals ACT ON BEHALF OF THEIR OWN CLAN leaving the hundreds of other clans resentful and resistant to anything they try to do.

We repeatedly make the mistake of doing it white man style – appoint a leader or leaders, give them all the power, then bitch when it doesn’t work.  When we do that we effectively cut the “leader” off from the rest and they fall by the wayside.  This is a communal race and the answers MUST come from each community as a group.  If they don’t ALL do it none of them can do it.

I believe they CAN do it!  I believe it’s time we accepted their salvation is in their hands and give them a chance to do it their way.

I know how Aboriginal people USED to treat children!

Fourty three years ago an old Aboriginal man made me feel more precious, more respected, more safe and more loved in thirty short minutes than I have ever felt before or since with any member, male or female, of our white society!

I think that is because he was a traditional Aboriginal.  He thought and acted the way they used to think and act and he lived according to the laws of his people.

The report I have been referring to in this entry is titled:

Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle
Little Children are Sacred

The title is explained thus:

“In our Law children are very sacred because they carry the two spring wells of water from our country within them.”

That old man I met as a child made me feel sacred.  He handled everything about me from my person to my childish chatter with gentle, respectful, loving responses.  He built me up.  When I apologised for not being able to butter the bread without making holes in it he convinced me that his most favourite food in all the world was bread with holes made exactly that way!  I still remember that and how it was such a contrast to my Mother’s criticism and other people’s ridicule of my bread-buttering abilities.

How must he have felt to be accused of wanting to pollute what, to him, was a sacred well?

How must his descendants feel hearing our condemnation and knowing, far better than we do, just how far from grace their race has fallen?

It would surely be enough to drive anyone to drink and have we, the white race, got the slightest idea of how to meet the Aboriginal people even half way yet?

Not if “The Australian” newspaper reporter Nicholas Rothwell is anything to go by.  He shows subtle contempt for the traditional Aboriginal view of children by referring to this report as “rather over-sweetly titled”.

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