Wednesday, 11 June 2014

"I am not the problem", plus threats to renewable energy, health cuts ..

Classified as: reflective journal - Indigenous perspectives, discourse, politics

 "I am not the problem"

A wonderful moment from Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, talking on the ABC's Q and A program on Monday 9 June 2014

I am not the problem

I have copied her words below because they are so wonderful, but it is even better to watch her in person (the link above has the video excerpt)

"You know, I have a culture. I am a cultured person. (Speaking Arrernte) I’m talking another language. And my language is alive. I am not something that fell out of the sky for the pleasure of somebody putting another culture into this cultured being. John [Pilger*] shows what is an ongoing denial of me. I am not an Aboriginal or, indeed, Indigenous. I am Arrernte, Alyawarre, First Nations person, a sovereign person from this country. (Speaking Arrernte) This is the country I came out from. I didn’t come from overseas. I came from here. My language, in spite of whiteness trying to penetrate into my brain by assimilationists – I am alive, I am here and now – and I speak my language. I practise my cultural essence of me. Don’t try and suppress me and don’t call me a problem. I am not the problem. I have never left my country nor have I ceded any part of it. Nobody has entered into a treaty or talked to me about who I am. I am Arrernte Alyawarre female elder from this country. Please remember that. I am not the problem."

This is such an important point - the people who experience or suffer from oppression, are not the problem - the problem is the oppression and the people who practise it or benefit from it. All white people in Australia have benefited from this oppression one way or another (as I've noted in a previous post). We need to acknowledge this.


Another thing I saw on the ABC news last night was a piece about the possible impact on Hepburn Wind if the Renewable Energy Target (RET) is removed by the Abbott government. I've discussed in a previous post how Hepburn Wind is a model for community energy projects, and how after years of work it has just come close to breaking even.

There is more information about the RET review and the possible impact on renewable energy and community energy projects from the Coalition for Community Energy.

I looked at some of the submissions on the RET review, including one from my energy provider, Origin. Origin is calling for the RET to be lowered - and I am thinking about whether I should change my energy provider! At least they are not calling for it to be abolished, but even lowering it is a foolish step backwards.

One thing that makes me quite angry about the position of Origin and also that of the Electricity Suppliers Association of Australia, is that they talk a lot about the costs of renewable energy to the general public, through the RET and the carbon price, but there are two things they don't seem to mention:
  • People on low to average incomes in Australia were in general over-compensated for the costs of the carbon price - they received more in payments from the government than the costs that the carbon price was estimated to cause households.
  • Energy companies make a profit from current household solar. Early Feed-in Tarriffs (FITs), which are the price the energy companies pay people for the electricity that they feed in to the main grid from their solar panels, were quite high, to encourage take up of solar panels. However, they have now been reduced,  and electricity companies now sell the electricity for more than they pay for it. For example, Origin pays me 8c per Kilowatt hour (KwH) for energy from my solar panels, and sells it to other people for 22c per KwH.
 It seems to me that they are not being entirely honest.

Final quick point - I'm sure everyone knows, in general terms, about the huge cuts to health that are proposed in the federal budget, plus the co-payments for doctor visits and medications. It is also worth noting that health promotion has particularly been targeted. The Australian Health Promotion Association (AHPA) are advocating on these issues. See advocacy information and letters here.

I would like to write more about the impact of the budget on health promotion soon, but in the meantime I urge everyone to support the work of the AHPA.


* John Pilger, maker of the documentary Utopia, which was being discussed.


Valerie Kay said...


Gary Fry said...

Hello Kay
Your comment around Rosalie's statement on Q&A is sound. It is a matter of perspective. As one who lived in Alice Springs for many years, I would daily see evidence of how the dominant culture would disadvantage central Australian Aboriginal people. That disadvantage was rarely delivered by someone with that outcome in mind, but was from within a framework that no other outcome could be expected. In other words, the non-thinking among us were perpetrators, whether willing or not. Consequently, those who did wish to be oppressors, knew they were licensed to be so.
So Rosalie is correct. We often hear of the 'problem', speak of the 'problem', as we strive for some form of assimilation which will favour few. Instead, notwithstanding those principles of fairness and equality, we should be striving for a space in which difference is celebrated and tolerated, if not understood. It will require some deep thinking and courage and leadership to get there, but the current journey has proven messy so many times, that no thinking person could continue to advocate for it.
I look forward to reading through your blog as time allows. Your PhD subject intrigues me a lot.

Valerie Kay said...

Thanks Gary, much appreciated and I am interested in your perspective as one who has lived in Alice Springs. I'm very interested in this idea of valuing difference and making space for people to live in different ways. Also of course there is a lot modern industrialised society can learn from Indigenous people's about how to look after and live with our environment rather than see it as something to be used.

In health promotion and community development, we often focus on working with "disadvantaged" groups, when I think we should put more effort into challenging the power structures that make some people disadvantaged. And of course finding ways that people can live differently, that aren't unequal and unfair.
Thanks again