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The issue of the welfare of the Aborigines has been a controversial one in Australia for the longest time. It is a fact beyond doubt that Aborigines were the original occupants of this continent before the arrival of the white man, but today, they live on the periphery of their own land.
Documented history indicates that the Aborigines have been displaced from their land, pushed and relegated to reserve settlements and ghettos where they live under deplorable conditions. They have undergone untold terrors under the hands of the white man since 1788.
It is in the year 1788 that the Aborigines had their initial contact with the British settlers with the docking of the First Fleet in Botany Bay (Pardoe 2006). Some scholars claim that the white man brought with him diseases such as small pox and tuberculosis, and given the fact that the Aborigines have been a closed society with no contact with the outside world, these diseases wiped whole communities out.
This is given that they had no natural immunity against these diseases. As earlier indicated, they were also displaced and their land taken over by the colonialists, who started engaging in agriculture.
Circa 1869 to 1969, children of Aborigines were forcibly removed from their families and placed on mission homes or engaged in forced labour as a result of a government declaration. These are the children that form the infamous “stolen generation” (Edwards 2004).
Many books have been written, many films produced, all depicting the current and past life experiences of the Australian Aborigines. Most of them revolve around the issue of the conflict between the settlers and the Aborigines, and the minority status of the Aborigines in their own land.
One of such writings is Nowra Louis’ 2008 piece titled Indifference has Robbed Generations of our History. This article was published on the Sydney Morning Herald on December 27 2008, and in it, Nowra gives his views about the plight of this community.
Main Issue of the Author
In this article, the major theme that stands out is how latter day Australians are ignorant of the country’s history. This is especially the history detailing the life of the Australian aboriginal.
Nowra (2008) begins the article by giving the story of how he saw a not so sober Aborigine woman nearly getting ran over by a car on a town street. Drunkards in a nearby bar started laughing at the woman, making fun of her race and her drunken stupor.
Nowra (2008) is of the view that these drunkards are a vivid representation of the “general populace’s attitude towards the first Australians- they are indifferent” (p. 4).
This view is of latter day’s Australian ignorance of their history is supported by other scholars such as Callaway (2011), who are of the view that this ignorance is one of the reasons why the Aborigines lead such a deplorable life.
It is a fact beyond doubt that the history of the Australian continent cannot be separated from that of the Aborigines. Nowra (2008) drives this point home when he says that the historical identity of Australians is “inextricably bound up with the Aborigines and the Torres Strait Islanders” (p. 4).
In fact, it can be argued that the history of latter day Australia has been drawn on an Aboriginal’s canvas. The background of the picture itself is the Aboriginal’s who lived here before and after 1788, and the middle ground and foreground of the same picture is made up of shades of the aboriginals together with the British settlers.
Why is the Aboriginal Issue so Important to the Author?
Writers use their work in most cases to communicate and articulate those issues that they feel are important to them. The importance of the issue may draw from the personal experiences of the writer or the experiences of other people around them.
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Nowra’s article is influenced a lot by his personal experience. The issue of the indifference of Australians towards their history emanates from his personal experience in the Australian society, and especially as a white male playwright, novelist and screenwriter.
When he helped in producing the documentary First Australians, depicting the history of Australia, and especially the Aborigines, he expected that a lot of people will watch the series. However, it was only 300,000 who people who were interested in the documentary series.
As he was talking to a friend of his, bemoaning this fact, the friend told him that she had not watched the series. She was honest enough to tell him that “I have no excuse……actually, to be honest, I am totally indifferent to the whole subject of Aborigines” (Nowra 2008; p. 4). This appears to have influenced so much in writing this article.
Why are the Issues in this Article Important to the Course?
Sociology deals with the study of the interaction of people within the society. Nowra’s article is seminal to this end, given the fact that it gives a detailed account of the type of interaction between the Aborigines in Australia and the whites.
Conflict is a major theory in sociology, detailing how different social actors in the society are always in disagreement with each other. This article depicts the conflict between the aborigines and the whites in this country.
According to conflict theorists such as C. Wright Mills and Herbert Spencer, conflict in the society has both positive and negative consequences. One of the positive attributes is the fact that it is a source of internal cohesion among members of the different warring parties.
A negative consequence is the fact that some of the parties are the losers in the conflict, and their life becomes deplorable as a result. This article is important as it depicts the results of the conflict between the aborigines and the whites.
According to Zuckermann (2009), the aborigines are some of the most illiterate individuals in Australia, with school retention beyond primary school standing at less than 20 percent.
This may be attributed to the conflict between the aboriginals and the whites, with the whites taking most of the resources. However, the conflict has led to some sense of togetherness among the aborigines, and this may be well symbolised by the flag that they have adopted.
Values and Assumptions in the Article, and their Implications
In this article, Nowra (2008) makes the assumption that the indifference towards Australian history among the general populace is a matter of personal choice.
He is of the view that it is up to the individual to make a conscious decision to learn the history of their country. He asserts that this indifference and nonchalance attitude can be callous, and to some extent even cruel to the country and the individual at a micro level.
This assumption and value by Nowra (2008) makes him present a strong case for his argument. However, he does not lose sight of the fact that the ignorance may have been passed on from one generation to the other.
Callaway, E 2011. First Aboriginal Genome Sequenced, Nature News, September 22.
Edwards, W H 2004. An Introduction to Aboriginal Societies, New York: Social Science Press.
Nowra, L 2008. Indifference has Robbed Generations of our History, Sydney Morning Herald, December 27.
Pardoe, C 2006. Becoming Australian: Evolutionary Processes and Biological Variation from Ancient to Modern Times, Before Farming, 2006.
Zuckermann, G 2009. Aboriginal Languages Deserve Revival, Australian Higher Education, August 26.