Comic Cinderella, tragic embassy: On Gillard’s shoe, the Tent Embassy and patriotism

January 31, 2012
Aboriginal Tent Embassy commemoration, January 26. Photo: Peter Boyle

Political establishment and mass media ill will towards the Aboriginal Tent Embassy should not confuse us. The real and valid question is still the past, present and future of Aboriginal Australians.

On January 26, Australia Day, I started a jog of nearly five hours with my family, from Darling Harbour to The Rocks and Circular Quay then along George Street back to Town Hall. Ironically, this day was labelled as a day of “unity”. The only Aboriginal person I encountered was the regular busker at the corner of Circular Quay. Obviously this was not a day of jubilation for Aboriginal people as they have correctly been marking it as a “Mourning Day”.

Yet the rest of us — “boat people” from different backgrounds — were celebrating the land of “honey and milk”. I felt appalled and ashamed.

At the same time, in the capital city of this occupied land, Julia Gillard, the PM who became the comic Cinderella of rulers, lost her shoe while the security forces shoved her into her parked vehicle. Tony Abbott, predicted as Gillard’s successor, was behind her under the umbrella of a group of police.

I believe what happened next, or who was behind the news leak or precisely who tipped off protesters on Abbott’s whereabouts, is a callous effort that merely tries to divert public attention from the real question: the fate of Aboriginal people.

The ruling class represented by the Liberal and Labor parties have been contributing to the misery in which Aboriginals live today. The political establishment and the media typically have focused on the hectic, "heroic" evacuation of Gillard and Abbott.

The media also pumped up the flag burning that took place outside parliament the next day. And there is a political reason behind the media attacks. As historian and author Henry Steele Commager once said: “Men in authority will always think that criticism of their policies is dangerous. They will always equate their policies with patriotism, and find criticism subversive.”

The Australian flag is one of the strongest symbols of patriotism. The ABC reported on January 24: “People who fly Australian flags on their cars have more racist views than the rest of the population, a new study has found.”

Furthermore, author William H Boyer once said: “Blind patriotism has been kept intact by rewriting history to provide people with moral consolation and a psychological basis for denial.”

The flag that Aboriginal kids and activists burnt last week is still decorated with a colonial symbol: the British Union Jack. Under this flag, the first “boat people” arrived here and soon after mass killings of Aboriginals started. Under this flag, Aboriginal children have been stolen, their land and their basic rights have been taken away. Recently, Aboriginal people have faced the infamous and racist “income management” and “intervention” policies designed, approved and executed by successive Liberal and Labor governments.

As Gillard lost her shoe in the police shamble (the so-called rescue mission), the mass media shifted the public's attention into creation of a new version of the Cinderella fairytale. The victim was the Aboriginal cause, again.

[Mansour Raghazi is a state organiser with the NSW CFMEU.]


Good article and on time. happy writing comrade
Excellent article to read. Its good to see some real news still being posted/published.

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