Bringing to the fore Indigenous voices the media ignore

Invasion Day march in Sydney in 2017.

Driving Disunity: The Business Council Against Aboriginal Community
By Lindy Nolan
Bexley: Spirit of Eureka, 2017

In reviewing this important - but not self-important - book by Lindy Nolan, I can hardly do better than start by quoting Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, Northern Territory Australian of the Year in 2015 and Amatjere Elder, from the backcover of the book: “Such deep and fearless truth.”

Award-winning journalist Jeff McMullen, meanwhile notes: “This important study highlights destructive strategies in the neoliberal era that undermine Aboriginal progress through the age old tactic of divide and conquer.”

The book deals with the divisive role played by the Business Council of Australia (BCA) in Aboriginal communities as it seeks to advance corporate interests.

The writing is lively and the book is short, really a booklet of 86 pages with the Barunga Statement appendix and chapter notes. It is well researched, but has no academic pretence of impartiality.

Lindy Nolan is an activist in the Stop The Intervention Collective Sydney (STICS). This is a small but talented group of people who organise events against the NT Intervention, now 11 years since its disastrous and fraudulent imposition by by the John Howard government.

Nolan spends some time on the astroturf Constitutional Recognition campaign that, despite having a lot of money behind it, failed. It was driven by Noel Pearson and others.

Pearson’s name comes up often. He comes from the Cape York Peninsula. He was educated in a white boarding school from an early age, and has come to love British institutions and the English language. He appears as an essentially tragic figure, who has swallowed the corporate line “hook, line and sinker”.

I have a friend who regularly sends me Pearson’s writings in The Australian, which I read but do not keep. I liken an Indigenous person writing for Rupert Murdoch’s Australian, as like a Jew writing for the Nazi’s anti-Semitic Der Sturmer.

It is not only the late Bill Leak’s offensively racist cartoons, but the whole corporate agenda of privatising and then taking Indigenous land that dominates in Murdoch’s paper. And it is impossible to forget The Australian’s 25-year defence of Indonesia’s illegal military occupation of East Timor. Pearson is Murdoch’s chosen Indigenous leader.

Nolan shares many examples of Indigenous people who have been flattered or purchased by the BCA and mainstream media to retail and give approval of for the policies of the government, including the destructive NT Intervention. The list includes the likes of Marcia Langton and Bess Nungayarri Price.

Nolan gives many other Indigenous voices that counter theirs. These bear out the terrible statistics of what the Howard government forced on the NT Indigenous communities in 2007, such as increases in suicides.

Nolan has written a book full of Indigenous voices that most people will not have heard, because the mainstream media has been mainly accepting Murdoch’s anointed “leaders”.

Nolan tells us about the treaty Scandinavian countries have made with the Indigenous Sami people, who established their own government in 1989, which has increased its powers since then.

Much of what the BCA has engineered since 1988 and the Barunga Statement’s coherent, intelligent demand for self-determination, is a way of denying, and diverting from, proper discussion of a treaty. As McMullen writes, Australia has made over 200 treaties with other countries, but none with the people it invaded and occupied.

I hope you buy or borrow Driving Disunity – and read it. It is full of Indigenous voices you simply will not hear in the mainstream.