How much of our relationship with Aborigines is hypocrisy?


2595 Jakub Baranski & Renata Baranska OK

Renata Baranska and Jakub Baranski at The Rock

Sir – Last January we decided to visit Alice Springs, this autumn we did.
Around this time I came across the Alice Springs News Online and I became an avid reader. For almost nine months I became an Alice Springs citizen correspondent.
Now the holiday is gone, however there is something which I cannot forget so I’ve decided to share my thoughts with you.
To understand what I am on about I just mention that we drove from Darwin to Adelaide through Mereenie Loop, Uluru and Oodnadatta track, then to Melbourne, Canberra and finally Sydney.
What strikes me most is the relationship towards Aboriginal people. The hypocrisy is nauseating.
Obviously the places we did see Aboriginal people are Tennant Creek, Alice Springs and remote settlements in the Red Centre. Nowhere else.
But wherever else we went we were up for the lecture about how Australia respects and looks after its Indigenous population.
Our tour guides in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra all started their respective tours with a speech about values and concerns put towards Aboriginal people.
The Parliament guide in Canberra spent a good part of his introduction speech on the same subject.
The same goes for museums. Every one we visited had some exposition about the subject to the point where it became embarrassing.
I do understand why there is an Aboriginal section in the Australian Museum in Canberra. I might understand same could apply to the Immigration Museum in Melbourne but the Maritime Museum in Sydney, really?
I see no point in having a dugout canoe in between a destroyer, submarine and modern machinery unless someone wanted to make deliberate joke.
To sum up, seeing settlements such as Finke or Hermannsburg, not to mention Alice Springs after dark, and then listening to the hymns of how Australia looks after its First Nation people gives one some contradictory feelings, to say at least.
Of course as a foreigner and tourist I am not criticizing or complaining in any way. I am just presenting my observations which may be shallow and incorrect.
However, as mentioned before, I did read magazines for a few months and somehow became interested in the place, and people, and problems.
Jakub Baranski
Warsaw, Poland


  1. Good on you, Mr Baranski.
    We need to hear such feedback from visitors like you to help us understand the things we need to change so as to become more a part of the modern world, instead of somewhere that Time has forgotten.
    I’d like to add that, fortunately, many fellow-Territorians do not support the backward, racist thinking of many of our political decision-makers, and are fighting for changes.
    Keep on reading the Alice Springs News Online to keep in touch.

  2. I haven’t seen the display at the Maritime Museum but I can imagine why a dugout canoe would be part of such a display if it is presenting an overview of Australian maritime history, for Indigenous watercraft were Australia’s original boats and Indigenous people, the first Australian seafarers.
    I see from the museum’s website that it has a substantial collection of Indigenous watercraft (46 objects), as part of its Australian Register of Historic Vessels, which strives to be “the definitive online registry of historic vessels in Australia”. Inclusion of Indigenous watercraft is thus essential.

  3. Jakub Baranski. Thank you for your view on Aboriginal dugout canoes. It is historically interesting.
    I have had an interest since my youth in Matthew Flinders’ amazing circumnavigation of Australia in a tiny boat.
    Then in 2003 I visited Japan and stumbled across a small maritime museum on the coast 80 km north of Tokyo. I was astounded to see a huge 12th century map outline of the eastern Australian coastline from the tip of Cape Yorke down to approximately the border of present day Victoria.
    The young with-it Japanese curator told me that local fishing boats went fishing all the way down the Australian coast for centuries before the emperors banned overseas sailing after the Divine Wind attempted invasion by the Chinese.
    Suspended from the three storey ceiling was a replica of one of those original fishing boats. Tiny. My mind boggled.
    It would be terrific education for an Australian maritime museum to display such boats from different peoples and countries during these eras.
    It would give us a greater appreciation of the comparative maritime brilliance of the different cultures.

  4. The battle to fall over ones feet in the race to show how much Australia respects it’s Aboriginal people is nauseating to me, and obviously also to Mr Baranski.
    The Welcome to Country ceremonies that are no more than tokenistic gestures for tourists are everywhere and are unfortunately portrayed as a long held traditional cultural ceremony, when in fact they were invented in 1984 in part by Ernie Dingo.
    The Aboriginal people in suits nod along when our so called leaders play this game and the fee of sometimes thousands of dollars is paid.
    Sadly it makes no difference at all to the lives of the traditional Aboriginal people who struggle to successfully integrate with our modern society.
    Same with the divisive acknowledgment of country where we humble pay respect to Aboriginal elders or leaders past, present and in a crystal ball moment, those of the future as well.
    They fail to mention anything about the hard work, determination, resourcefulness and hardships endured by the pioneers and explorers that made the country what it is today, failing to mention them is blatant hypocricy and once again there seems to be no real advantage for the bush Aboriginie who should somehow appear greatful they live in the town that boasts one of the biggest renal dialysis facilities in the southern hemisphere.
    So much rhetoric and time is spent on issues of the past so the politicians and handwringers feel good they have paid respects, but how many of them, or these tour guides have sat down with real traditional people and understood that they really don’t care to much for tokenistic gestures, because they do nothing for them.
    On the surface in the big cities with all the billboards about Aboriginal history, place names, tribal groups makes it seem that all is well, then people see what is really like for the traditional Aboriginal, as opposed to those of mixed heritage.
    I quite often attend sporting events and occasionally officiate at them, and to look out at the crowd to see black and white sitting together shoulder to shoulder demonstrates that this is probably one of the least racist towns I have lived in.
    Many social outings in this town have a lot of blacks and whites just mixing as workmates, team mates of simply as friends.
    Unfortunately the current political PC rubbish is causing more of a divide than anything.
    I just wish they would forget their apologist ideals and self flagellation, and accept that we all make up this country, and we should give understanding and respect to everyone that lives here, not hold up one as more important, or more deserving of acknowlegement than the other.

  5. Jakub from far away again.
    Now, I’ve read my comment again I regret not editing it. It seems more like rambling than intelligent observation. Please bear in mind I’ve learned English in school and that was many years ago.
    Everything else aside, in places when there are no Aboriginal people you hear a lot about them.
    In places where they are you are being ID scanned for a beer, get only Opal fuel and see that no one cares.
    Giving away benefits seems like saying get the money and drink yourself to death.
    I understand Aborigines have problems with substance abuse but I would too if I were to live the same life.
    Please do not concentrate on my dugout canoe comments. Perhaps they were not appropriate.
    Obviously we discussed the subject with friends back home. Immediately parallels are drawn with Native Americans and first Nation in Canada but it’s better not to go on with discussion there because it will open another can of worms.
    In terms of average wealth, Australia ranks second in the world after Switzerland. So, obviously money is there. Now it’s time to find the idea.
    I am the last person who would advocate giving away money but looking after education perhaps. There are people who know what to do, are there?

  6. Dependency on government handouts is rife in Australia. It destroys the will to work.
    Crime stats show many more Indigenous people incarcerated. 65,000 years is long enough to integrate socially – and earn respect.
    European settlers history has shown many wars and so on, but they have moved on in historical terms.

  7. Seeing how some Australians with Aboriginal ancestry live in Alice Springs etc., gives a distorted perception of how the majority of the roughly 600,000 Australians who register this ancestry are living and have been for a long time.
    Most are doing fine and are well integrated into the broader community Aboriginal in ancestry which further confuses the whys and wherefores of dysfunction in a minority.

  8. @ Kieran Finnane: Since all humans, African, European, Asian etc., at the same stone-age level of development had primitive canoes as Aborigines possessed in 1788, then why do we not also include those forms of maritime travel in all exhibits?
    Indeed, the many different Aboriginal peoples who lived close to water were more than happy to accept the better-made canoes offered by the British.
    No doubt they should be included in the exhibit along with the carved bark shapes which made do as canoes for Aborigines.

  9. @ Jakub Baranski: The majority of the roughly 600,000 Australians, out of 24 million, who register Aboriginal ancestry are doing fine. Many better than the average.
    On your journey you saw more of the tiny minority who are struggling. Similar struggles are seen in the United States and Canada with their native peoples for the same sorts of reasons – lack of integration into the broader community.
    One reason why most are doing fine in Australia is that in the past integration / assimilation was expected. Indeed, it was seen as a positive thing to move from a stone-age tribal life into the then modern world.
    The irony is while some now criticise the British for striving to help Aborigines achieve this in the past, we spend millions still trying to help those living in Third World countries, do the same thing.
    In the 19th century someone half Aboriginal and half European was considered to be European unless they lived a traditional Aboriginal lifestyle where extra support and benefits were provided. Once someone was self-sufficient they could leave this category behind and be like anyone else. Most did.
    Today someone may be eligible for benefits with so little Aboriginal ancestry it is ridiculous for them to label themselves as such. But some do.
    The issue is vastly more complex that you would have found it on your journey but your observations are worth reading.

  10. G’day to you Mr Jakub Baranski of Warsaw, Poland.
    I met a woman who came to the Alice and her main reason was to help the Aboriginal people.
    I found that interesting because a lot of people who wish to do this have never spoken to an Aboriginal Australian and a lot of their information had come from people who had done a bit of touring and were under the impression that they were made to live on reservations.
    Nothing could be further from the truth not knowing that there are homelands scattered throughout Australia mostly funded by the Australian taxpayer.
    These people live there because they wanted to in the first place.
    Now this woman I spoke about, well a week later I bumped into her and she was asking me if I could help her get hold of a truck to take food out to the people on communities who she had been told were starving as the government gave them no food. OMG!
    Just how ignorant and misinformed can a person be? Look I could go on for hours as I have first hand knowledge, having lived and worked on such communities for seven years solid and have had quite some dealings with some of the incompetents in various government departments.
    I did however find your letter most interesting.

  11. I must add to my other writing that things have not always been as good for Aboriginal Australians and may no one take that as that they are perfect, (by crikey, things are not perfect for the average White Australian either) but in some ways they have a lot of good happening.
    Also, white Australia is not – I repeat, not – responsible for what happened many years ago and as such I take great aversion to Rudd’s apology saying he apologized for all Australians because for me I will not ever apologize.

  12. Interesting comments Jakub Baranski. Some years ago I was at a world conference in Canada where I met people who had no idea there were Indigenous people in Australia.
    You’re correct about the hypocrisy. Some people believe Aboriginal people need to assimilate without those same people with such beliefs learning about or even understanding anything about Aboriginal peoples or culture that thrived for 60,000 years or more in the this country.
    It’s always a one way street that people expect Aboriginal people to simply take up something of 200 years or so and just forget about their own of 60,000 years.
    After seven years on Aboriginal communities one would expect to learn and understand the wrongs done to Aboriginal people in the past and present, not deny any wrong doing altogether.
    Such are the hypocrisies.

  13. Is my refusing to apologise for any wrongs done to Aboriginal since white settlement hypocrisy?
    No, it is not. Now David, give me one reason why it is and show me why living and working on an Aboriginal community makes me a hypocrite?
    Should I grovel like Krudd or be a man? I will say this, Aboriginal people have no respect for people who grovel to them and I will go on to say that the initiated men that I have dealt with have my respect more than most of the two faced whites I have had dealings with.
    And I am man enough to put my name up, because I am a Rennie and proud.


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