Feb 13, 2011

Even after the stolen generation

We were all taught as part of mandatory Australian history about the stolen generation, about how Aboriginal children were taken away from their family and sent to Christian missionaries. We know that they were treated badly, used as cheap labor and abused physically, and sometimes, sexually. Yesterday when going over Samson and Delilah, there was a part of the summary that said Gonzo "found accommodation with Christians". My English tutor made a comment that it might be taken in a negative light, and told me something experienced by a friend of his.

This happened about 30 years ago, so it's a while after the stolen generation, and he (the friend) was taken away from his family and forced to lived with priests with other Aboriginal children. He was definitely physically abused and beaten, but he himself was not sexually abused. A priest tried to groom him, pretending to treat him nicely and trying to distance him from his family.

The priest would say to him that "I saw your father at the pub today and he was very drunk, he's a very bad man." The friend would protest and say that his father wasn't like that and he stopped that years ago. The priest would hit him and keep insisting that he really did see his father at the pub, very drunk, and that the father was a very bad man. The friend would hear all this from the priest and there were no one else who could tell him information about them. But he always knew that it wasn't right and the grooming didn't work on him.

However, he had seen boys go into brothers' rooms, the door closes and who know what goes on in there. A boy came to him crying and they both went and complained to the head priest, but nothing was done. My tutor said that even now, those places are very closed-doored sort of places. They protect their own and often we don't know what happens behind closed doors.

Someone high up in the church was being criticised because the media found a letter written by him to tell priest to keep the case of sexual abuse quiet and to not tell anyone about it. He later tried to say that he didn't mean to protect him but only means that they want to deal with him before giving him over to the authorities, but really, that's not the right thing to do either.

In Samson and Delilah, there were scenes that particularly struck me as to how hypocritical we are. When Delilah painted a traditional Aboriginal painting and tried to sell it to the white people outside a cafe, everyone shrunk away from her. While in the Native Affairs' Gallery, a painting by her Nana, which she got only $200 for, was selling for $22 000!

How ironic and hypocritical is it that we would buy, for so much money, an Aboriginal painting to show off how much we care for Aboriginals to our friends from a white man's shop. But when an Aboriginal people holding an dot art painting comes up to us, we would wave them away!

When the blight of the Aboriginal people are on the news, on documentaries, we're all pity them and swear to help them. But when they're in our comfort zone, when there isn't a screen between us and them, if we see an Aboriginal on the streets, needing our help, I doubt many of us would go up and ask them what's wrong.

My English tutor said that he saw something like this happen. He saw an Aboriginal man with a traditional Aboriginal painting in the tunnels in Central station. But everyone simply walked past him. We're so uncomfortable when confronted face to face about these realities. it's not just the Aboriginals, what about the homeless people!

We would give donations to them, learn about them, but when in a position where they can so easily touch us and where we can so easily help them, most of us won't. We care about them in a way so detached and so impersonal that when the the cold hard reality of it is shoved into our faces we close off and shrink away.

They say a million is just a statistic, but we're more comfortable helping a statistic than a living, breathing human being right in front of us.

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