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If any doubted the rightness of the February 2008 Apology…

26 Oct

mp_adtrc_5 … they could have no doubts or reservations left after seeing tonight’s episode of The First Australians. I have mentioned this wonderful show twice before: here and here. Tonight we had stories from people still living who went through the trauma of forced separation, including Sue Gordon, who, you may recall, was close to the Howard government.

Tonight we were also told that a book of the series is to be published on the 1 November, and that the DVD will be available from Marcom very soon.

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7 responses to “If any doubted the rightness of the February 2008 Apology…

  1. Martin

    October 27, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    I’m sorry but I’m beginning to see this series more and more as overly didactic and repetitive and as triumphalist and partisan ALP propaganda. Those of us who have watched the whole series so far really don’t need to hear the same definition of “protection” according to a single modern scholar more than once. That’s an example either of bad editing or deliberate repetition for some provocative didactic reason that leaves me cold.

    The apology was equally right when it was made by John Howard personally and by the six state (and two territory?) governments that were essentially responsible for the most egregious policies most of the time.

    Symbolism may suit the non-scientific romantics who want to discount reality but “practical reconciliation” has always made so much more sense to me and where are we with that?

     
  2. Neil

    October 27, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    I see no contradiction between the Practical and the Symbolic, and never have. I think that was a most unfortunate distinction made by the previous government, motivated by two things: 1) fear of possible compensation and 2) ideology.

    The SBS series has advertised itself as telling the story for the first time in a systematic way from an Indigenous perspective, and in that there will be degrees of anger and even at times perhaps misjudgement. I still think it is a worthwhile project, and I find “triumphalism” a very odd word in relation to what I have seen so far.

    I did find it interesting that Sue Gordon, who was very much identified with the previous government, did not spare us or gild the lily in telling her own very powerful story.

    Look, I am not wallowing in guilt or romanticism. I am just interested in hearing these stories.

     
  3. Jim Belshaw

    October 27, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    I don’t know Neil,I really don’t. I watched the episode last night with a feeling of depression. I am still not sure that this series is not going to conceal things in another set of myths.

    One reaction was the desire to know more about Mr Neville. A second reaction was to try to match dates with what I knew was happening in NSW in the same period. I have tried to argue that there were differential effects across Australia.

    I don’t share Martin’s view that this is ALP propaganda. I do feel that the program has begun to stand between me and a proper understanding of Australian history.

    The individual stories that the program tells are important. I have learned new things here. But what I really want is a transcript of the program so that I can check facts and cross-tabulate.

    Perhaps the most depressing thing is that I am not sure that I want to watch another episode. If I do, it will be because the program contains material that I should know independent of the wrapping.

    Sorry about this, but it all kind of reinforces my earlier desire to pull out of discussion on indigenous issues. I am not sure that there is anything useful that I can say whether as a historian or policy wank. I still feel that the issues are important, but I am just too far outside the frame set by current discussion for my views to be of much relevance.

    I will still look at New England history and issues, because there I can at least provide information that is relevant while educating myself. Beyond that, there seems little point.

     
  4. Neil

    October 27, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    I first came across Mr Neville in 1988 when teaching one of the plays of Jack Davis at Masada College. His career is very well documented, and it is fair to say he was a bit of an extremist even in his own time. That said, the presentation of him that I saw last night was pretty much in tune with much the man himself wrote and did.

    It is depressing, Jim, but it is certainly part of the picture, and it doesn’t hurt to be reminded.

     
  5. Jim Belshaw

    October 27, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    Points noted, Neil. Thanks.

     
  6. Martin

    October 27, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    I am not and have never been a supporter of the previous government – practical and symbolic (to the extent symbolism can be shown to have a practical benefit) should certainly not be contradictory (my atheism notwithstanding) but there is surely a valid distinction.

    Thanks for letting what I had to say stand. It was possibly a little over the top and I must say that I find the series both educational and generally well- made (as well as depressing for what it reveals about colonialism in action). I must declare that I am not a believer in this type of colonialism by any means. I also generally find your blog a well-reasoned and informative read (though I’m not a theist as I’ve said). I just had to take issue with what I see as a teleological slant in the series that seems to culminate with the Rudd apology that I was feeling disappointed that (I thought) you were buying into.

    Though triumphalism is probably the wrong word, I was perhaps looking for the satisfaction proclaimed by a hypochondriac who feels s/he has finally found a doctor who believes along with her/him in a certain unreal diagnosis – victimhood (the ONLY treatment being the Rudd apology). As the ALP has taken the most interest in one form of “treatment” and the Coalition in others (to date all essentially unproven on both sides), I see now that the makers of the film had to take an apparently “partisan” point of view in order to have ANY point of view.

    I’m sure I’ve overreacted to your headline Neil. I’m just finding the series a little harrowing and felt you (and perhaps the series) were tending to attach undue significance to one simple gesture – the Rudd apology – which certainly won’t be sufficient regardless of whether it was, in fact, necessary.

     
  7. Neil

    October 27, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    I still think the Apology was a very necessary step. Here is how I felt on the day. Of course it has not miraculously solved all issues, but I do think we are all on a better footing because of it.

    Yes, the series is harrowing, but it can also be inspiring. I think particularly of Episode 3, which I link to in the post.

     
 
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