Australia Day 2012 and the following couple of days were a mixture of the extremes of the emotional spectrum for me.
Australia Day dawned as a very special day for the Robert's family, my Dad and namesake, Mr Allan 'Max' Roberts was honoured with the Baw Baw Shire citizen of the year for his contribution of over thirty years voluntary service to his community. Our family sat in the front row of the Warragul Arts Centre and watched with such great pride as our Dad, Grandad and Brother humbly received an award for his endeavors within his community. The 'old boy' is a pretty special character, he tirelessly gives his time to his community and to those within it, he does not give a fat rats cracker where you have come from, what your background is or what your socio-economic status is. He just gives without a second thought, a simple 'thanks Max' is all he asks for his efforts. He got one hell of a big thanks when the town and old friends surprised him with a dinner at the local club last night and an even bigger one when he was interviewed by ABC radio this morning.
Well that's the happy part of this little rant...
When we got home from the civic reception on Australia day I turned the TV on and saw the sight of our Prime Minister and Opposition leader being bundled into a car to escape the clutches of a group of rowdy demonstrators. Lets set the background here, our two leaders where at an official Australia Day function to honour emergency service volunteers who had made significant contributions in the recent floods and fires that have devastated many communities within Australia, these people are genuine hero's. When they interviewed on of these so called activists the comment that came from the uneducated mouth was that 'they are not our heros', well I am sorry but I am sure if it was you tax payer funded housing, car or your family under threat you would be calling these very people who you class as not your hero's.
I am not a racist, I do not give a crap where you come from or how long you have been here, I try to treat everyone and everything with respect. All I ask is that you do the same, if you do we will get along like a house on fire.
I tend to agree with Mr Abbot, the indigenous tent embassy in our nations capital has served it's time, I think we as a community are aware that we need to acknowledge our first Australians. But the time for talk is over and we need to start demonstrating some real actions which in turn result in some sustainable outcomes. We are a multicultural society and to achieve this in reality it needs to be a level playing field for all Australians regardless of whether you were here first or chose to make this country your home. I will not be held to ransom to say an apology for what occurred after the first fleet landed and the proceeding years, yes I do have empathy for what occurred but the time to reconcile and move on has well and truly passed with no definable outcome. I have a thought about how to remove aspects of racism from our society, stick with me folks it is rather radical...wait for it. How about we remove the question that is on every form we fill out, "are you of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander decent?" Racism to me is the promotion/neglect of one race or creed over another. The health and social welfare budget for indigenous Australians per head of population is 3 to 4 times that of the rest of Australia, how is this equal. Is it fair that we have crumbling State hospital systems and on the other hand we are pouring money into the Aboriginal health system, why cant we just have one well funded health system that treats all Australians in a fair and compassionate manner? We have Aboriginal co-ops and groups that cannot account for millions of dollars of missing money and funding, if we as a taxpayers wanted this to be investigated or audited we would be labelled as racist or inflammatory. But this is not the case, the law is the law and it should be applied fairly and equally to all Australians.
I am not saying we should not acknowledge that some aspects of indigenous health, social welfare and education are different to mainstream Australia but surely by actioning these within a secular system it would promote understanding and tolerance. But by having separate school, medical and social welfare programs we are creating a wall that prevents social inclusion and the achievement of a harmonious society. I know at my son's school the history and culture of our indigenous Australians is taught, and rightly so. It is important that we understand our past, but we also need to understand and acknowledge all the other cultures that have bought so much to this great country we call home and who have chosen to become a part of our society. To me it appears that certain aspects of our indigenous society will never want to integrate and will always be hell bent on being militant, calling for Aboriginal sovereignty, great idea in theory but who is going to fund it???? Unfortunately decades of poor management of indigenous affairs has led to a severe welfare mentality and a 'you owe me' attitude. I am sorry I owe you diddly squat, I have studied and worked hard to get where I am, you owe it to yourself and your community to achieve and better yourself. Opportunities within education are plentiful in this country, the only thing stopping certain sectors within the indigenous community is the above attitude, a sense of reverse racism for the want of a better term. To the young lass who was on the front page of every paper proudly displaying our Prime Ministers shoe, how about you buy a matching one and get a job, become a role model within your community by demonstrating that you can acknowledge your culture but also achieve within society as a whole.
To see the flag that my Grandfather fought under in WW2, the flag that my Dad's uncle fought and died under in WW1 and flag that my Father in-law pledged allegiance to when he became an Australian citizen being burnt made my stomach turn. Especially when it was being lit by a 15yr old girl, how sad...did she really have a concept of what she was doing or was she being spurred along by militant and ungrateful Australians? Imagine if that flag had fallen and Australia was invaded in the North during WW2, I wonder where our indigenous society would be now?
I am not racist....I am just an Australian.