ABC Darwin filmed the speech and did a lengthy doorstop interview with me afterwards. I’m not sure if was lazy journalism or politically motivated journalism. Perhaps ABC Darwin wanted to paint me as another stereotypical conservative commentator sneering at Indigenous cultures and saying that Indigenous people are lazy so it could get more attention for its news story. Or maybe the content of the speech was simply beyond their comprehension.
I don’t know. All I know is that ABC Darwin’s report resulted in many people thinking I said that traditional culture and ceremony is bullshit and a barrier to employment.
Actually I said the opposite.
The ABC’s report consisted of a few seconds of the doorstop interview (which went for several minutes) and one isolated quote from the speech.
In the doorstop interview part I spoke the words “…it’s become almost a bullshit process to be quite frank …”. This was in response to a specific question about this section of the speech:
“Another misconception is that traditional Indigenous culture is a barrier to employment. A wise Aboriginal woman once said to me - there's whitefella law, there's blackfella law and there's bullshit law. We hear a lot of talk about this or that being cultural. We hear culture is a barrier to school attendance because kids miss school while their parents travel far and wide for weeks on end for funerals.
We hear culture is a barrier to work because adults have to attend ceremony at crucial times or because culture condones humbugging or bludging off others. Let’s get real. Indigenous people have lived on this continent for 40,000 years. The problems of social dysfunction and chronic welfare dependence are mostly problems of the last 40 years. And they were primarily caused by well-intentioned but ultimately failed government policies.
Traditional Indigenous communities revolved around two things – family and work.”
The one quote was “Bludgers weren’t welcome in traditional communities”. This comes from another part of the speech where I said:
“Inter-generational welfare dependence enabled by government isn’t traditional Indigenous culture – it’s a modern Western phenomenon. We see it in Britain, in Europe and in parts of Sydney and Melbourne too.
There are people who claim humbugging is cultural. This is also nonsense. The practice of sharing resources worked because everyone had something to share; people were obliged to give because everyone had something to contribute. These aspects of culture weren’t about taking from others. They were about taking responsibility for others. Bludgers weren’t welcome in traditional communities.”
The ABC chose to misrepresent and sensationalise what I said. In doing so it relied on long held stereotypes about Indigenous people. It’s the ABC which has denigrated Aboriginal culture in this process. In fact my speech was about debunking these myths and stereotypes.