Hopefully this thread can steer away from the bad things we taught the Abs - or imposed on them - let's discuss the positives we gained - with or without realising it - or should have gained - from that culture.
And let's not treat the Abs as a "trivial minority". More than 400,000 people of 21 million now claim some Aboriginality - about 2% of Aussies. Using this definition, there are now more Aboriginal people in Australia than at any time in the continent's history.
respect for nature..Who Are Aborigines?
Aborigines are Australia's indigenous people. Recent government statistics counted approximately 400,000 aboriginal people, or about 2% of Australia's total population.
Australian Aborigines migrated from somewhere in Asia at least 30,000 years ago. Though they comprise 500–600 distinct groups, aboriginal people possess some unifying links. Among these are strong spiritual beliefs that tie them to the land; a tribal culture of storytelling and art; and, like other indigenous populations, a difficult colonial history.
An unusual one - story telling - (oral history as Kev Karmady would describe it) - as quoted by Germaine GreerAboriginal spirituality entails a close relationship between humans and the land. Aborigines call the beginning of the world the "Dreaming," or "Dreamtime." In the "Dreamtime," aboriginal "Ancestors" rose from below the earth to form various parts of nature including animal species, bodies of water, and the sky.
Obviously the first major point (where the Abs were better than us) is the management of the land - the Abs do a perfect job for 30,000 years plus - and we turn much of it into salt in 200.Though self-revelation is unwelcome and uninvited by Australians of all hues, yarning is a social duty. Australians used to take trouble to spin a good yarn; the best are those in which some incident in real life is expertly spun into something almost mythical. ....
I once heard Tid Dignam, father of the actor Arthur Dignam, describe a game of ping-pong in such dramatic detail that it became a mini-Trojan war. It took me some years to register that Tid was part-Aboriginal and that the making of memorable stories was part of Aboriginal culture many aeons before whitefellas started doing it round the boree log.
our vocab ..The settlers toiled like madmen to remove the scrub, bush and trees that stood in the way of cultivation. They no more realised that the newly denuded land would be vulnerable to extremes of heat and cold, drought and flood, than they realised that the rising of the water table would bring the stored salts to the surface, gradually poisoning the land. Nor did they realise that the willows they planted along the waterways would spread through entire river systems, until the flows were clogged, or that their garden flowers would become a curse. The settlers imagined that they were redeeming a land the original inhabitants had failed to manage in any rational fashion, and that they could turn it into a new Canaan.
Ultimately, rural Australia ended up emptier than it was before it was "opened up". Australia has now become the most highly urbanised population of any country in the world. The whitefellas who tried to make a living in the bush soon fled from it, and wound up as far from the interior as they could get, on the continent's very edge, where they built themselves houses that faced outwards and away, across the ocean. Happiness is now a house in a seaside suburb with not a single native plant in sight. Most Australians would these days deny that they hate the land, but actions speak louder than words.
Back to land managementAustralian English is studded with Aboriginal words; the unmistakable intonation and accent bear the imprint of Aboriginality. The Anglo-Celt settlers came with Scotch and Irish brogues, and the burrs of provincial England. The Australian accent bears scant resemblance to any of these. When I first heard blackfellas speak, I stupidly thought that they were imitating the way whitefellas speak, which just shows how upside-down gubbas' assumptions can be. The transfer must have happened the other way about; the broad flat vowels, complex diphthongs and murmuring nasalities of spoken Australian English must have come to us from Aboriginal languages.
The leaseholders of the major part of Australian land historically speculated, devastated, and disappeared. The traveller across inland Australia will move from abandoned homestead to abandoned homestead, along lines of collapsed fences, past heaps of machinery rusting into the ground, to abandoned townships that once had churches and law courts, concert halls and racetracks, and are now no more than truck stops.
Sheep replaced wheat in the arid inland, and in turn withdrew. None of the whitefellas who once made a living as stockmen, tank-sinkers, hawkers, shearers, policemen, hoteliers or bullockies, felt sufficient attachment to the country to stay there through drought and flood, or even to return when times got better. If the country couldn't earn its keep, the white man wanted none of it. And even when he could make a profit, the white man tended to take his money and run. Only the Aborigines stayed.
Of all the transitory devastators of country, miners must be the worst. They arrived like locusts, stripping every vestige of vegetation off the ground, riddling it with holes and tunnels, and pimpling it with mullock heaps. Behind them came those who preyed on them, tax-collectors, publicans, prostitutes. Nowadays mining is not a matter of fossickers and battlers staking individual claims but of corporations investing in massively industrialised open-cut mining. The ore is carted away along temporary railway tracks laid across the desert. The miners live in trailer camps that will move when they do.
Even the most important provincial towns, such as Broken Hill, where billions of dollars' worth of precious metals have been extracted from the ground, are withering. Their huge hotels are cavernous and empty. The flight from the inland continues; these days not even a new gold rush would get the people back again.
Australians now travel throughout Australia as tourists; in recreational vehicles of all kinds, they penetrate into the remotest areas, driving thousands of kilometres to see funny-shaped rocks, taking photographs of the rocks and themselves with the rocks. They are on safari in their own land, treating their birthplace as if it were an exotic, thrillingly foreign wilderness, travelling from well-appointed campsite or hotel to another campsite or hotel. The people who stay longest in these remote places, and take jobs servicing the itinerant Australian tourist in Australia, are not indigenous, or native Australians, or even residents, but British backpackers.
If we climbed out of the recreational vehicle and sat on the ground, we might begin to get the message that we can't afford to hear, the message that, since contact, Aborigines have never stopped transmitting. The land is the source of everything; if we rip it up and sell it off, we will perish with it, or else move on in our restless European way to devastate someone else's country - or planet. .......
© Germaine Greer, 2004