The question of whether it is okay to climb Uluru (Ayers Rock) or not has resurfaced once again with ‘Aunty Pauline’ pushing the boundaries of ‘political correctness’ with anything to do with Aboriginal people as always. It’s nothing new and fits perfectly with her One Nation political ideology. This ideology says that we’re all Australians (whatever that means) and therefore the same, which is to ignore 100,000 years or more of Aboriginal culture, heritage and history.
In Auntie’s view, Aboriginal people do not occupy a special place in Australian society because of our Indigeneity because after all, everyone born in Australia is Indigenous (including herself of course). This simplistic view is crass in its simple application and at worse, cultural genocide. It ignores deeper questions of cultural and social identity, colonisation and history and the reality of race relations in this country. The simple fact is that not all Australians consider us as equal and if they do, it’s often at the expense of the surrender of our identity that strikes at the very heart and soul of our Indigeneity and what it means to be Indigenous in a colonised nation. Indigenous people still suffer from systemic racism in all spheres of Australian society, are disproportionately incarcerated and die much younger than other Australians. So, no Aunty, we are not all the same.
Senator Hanson ignored the request of the local Anangu people not to climb the sacred rock in a recent televised stunt to push her political agenda of sameness. She claims that she “is Indigenous and native to the land” and therefore entitled to climb. As it turned out, Aunty did not complete the climb because it was far too steep.
When asked by Today host Georgie Gardner this morning if she had changed her mind on the climbing ban, Senator Hanson said, “I can see the sense in banning the climbing of the rock due to safety reasons. The fact that she failed to appreciate the cultural and spiritual reasons for not doing so, speaks volumes to her cultural deafness and tone deafness to the numinous.
Although she did ignore the local people’s request not to climb, some kudos must be given to the fact that she did meet with two senior traditional owners beforehand to seek their ‘blessings’. She also claims that the local Elders had expressed concerns about Aboriginal ‘outsiders’ taking local jobs at Uluru. While this may be a genuine concern, the championing of it is fraught with all sorts of difficulties that reek of the ‘half-castes’ are taking over mentality.
That an older, experienced politician should attempt to debate such an important matter with young Aboriginal girls (workers at the resort) reveals a cowardice and reluctance to engage with older, more experienced Aboriginal people. However that may be, they did give her a run for her money and proudly held their own.
Not one to shy away from challenging or difficult conversations, I believe there is still room for dialogue between all Australians on this debate and welcome any discussion that is considered and respectful to everyone.
(c) Evolve Communities, 2020