Dr Aaron Hollins (@WePublicHealth)
Earlier I asked this re acknowledging elders and traditional owners pic.twitter.com/KUb7tJW7GD
Classified as: reflective journal - advocacy
This tweet today from Aaron Hollins as @WePublicHealth inspired this post.
It's a relevant question for organisations and individuals. Some make an acknowledgement before formal events, some don't. I like to make an acknowledgement, and as a non-Indigenous person I've consulted with Indigenous colleagues on this. They seem to suggest it is good to do this if you genuinely want to do it (otherwise I guess it can become tokenism).
My belief is that non-Indigenous people in this country owe everything we have to Indigenous people and we should be glad to acknowledge it. This is illustrated most starkly by the fact that in the nineteenth century, the Indigenous population died at pretty much the same rate as the white population increased, as shown in the graph below.
The Indigenous population didn't start to grow again until the early twentieth century and even then they faced (and still face) the consequences of dispossession and institutionalised racism. The people's health has still not recovered fully, though hopefully it will continue to do so.
The Aboriginal people were the guardians of this land for thousands of years. Historical and archeological records tell us that they managed it in a sustainable way: they cared for the land and they shared what it gave them. William Thomas, the original so-called "Protector of Aborigines" (who could not and did not protect them, even though he came to partially understand and respect their way of life) wrote that amongst the Bunurong people, in contrast to Europeans:
" ... none lacketh while others have it, nor is the gift considered as a favour, but a right brought to the needy ..."
Non-Indigenous people owe all our prosperity to these custodians of the land, and our prosperity came at great cost to them. Potentially it will also be at great cost to the land and all of us, if we don't start to live more sustainability.
I think we non-Indigenous people can learn a huge amount from Indigenous people, and we should proud to acknowledge what we owe them and what we can learn from them, whenever we have the opportunity to do so.
The graph was drawn by me, using data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics
Main historical references are:
Papers of William Thomas in the La Trobe Library Collection
Gammadge, Bill The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia 2011