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Keeping Our Distance: Non-Indigenous/Aboriginal Relations in Australian Society


Walter, M, Keeping Our Distance: Non-Indigenous/Aboriginal Relations in Australian Society, Australia: Identity, Fear and Governance in the 21st Century, ANU E Press, E Pietsch and H Aarons (ed), Canberra, pp. 15-31. ISBN 9781922144065 (2012) [Research Book Chapter]

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Copyright 2012 ANU E Press

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In February 2008, then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a national apology to members of the Stolen Generations. For Indigenous1 and non-Indigenous Australians alike this was a significant political and social moment. The intense media and public interest in, and scrutiny of, the apology demonstrate that the relationship between the original Australians and those who have arrived since colonisation remains salient, if not central, to who Australians are what Australians and Australia is in the twenty-first century. The terrain of this relationship is key to Australia’s self-concept, its identity as a nation and that of its peoples, old and new.

Yet these relations are also highly contested. The image of Australia reflected here is a two-sided visage. One face—as manifested in the apology, the elevating of Professor Mick Dodson to 2009 Australian of the Year and the groundswell of public action in the March for Reconciliation in 2000—is openly encouraging of reconciliation and acknowledging of a historical legacy of entrenched marginalisation and poverty. The other face forestalls the prospect of formal rapprochement, casting as undeserved and unearned attempts at social, economic or political equity—a position manifested by the now long-stalled reconciliation process and the commonness of publicly expressed negative sentiment towards Indigenous peoples and culture (see, for example, Andrew Bolt’s 2008 blog in relation to the new Indigenous representative body). This distinctively Australian, but contradictory, picture suggests a country and a national identity ill at ease with the place of Indigeneity in its consciousness, one in which Indigeneity remains unreconciled with everyday concepts of Australian society and Australian identity. This uniquely Australian unease is reflected in the often confused and conflicting direction of public attitudes towards Indigenous people, Indigenous culture issues and Indigenous political topics. As with public conversation, supportive and reconciliatory attitudes and substantial levels of anti-Aboriginal sentiment appear to incongruously coexist as the Australian norm.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Sociology
Research Field:Sociology of migration, ethnicity and multiculturalism
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in human society
UTAS Author:Walter, M (Professor Maggie Walter)
ID Code:80604
Year Published:2012
Deposited By:Sociology and Social Work
Deposited On:2012-11-05
Last Modified:2017-11-29
Downloads:1 View Download Statistics

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