It’s been a very intriguing 24 hours for anyone with a passing interest in indigenous politics in this land we call Australia. The 40th anniversary of the tent embassy in Canberra (on Australia/Invasion/Survival Day) was attended by a number of people who vocally approached the PM and Opposition Leader after the latter made some insensitive remarks about ‘moving on’. Abbott figured that because Aboriginal people obviously have it so good now – only making up quarter of the prison population, dying only a few years younger than everyone else, suffering, well, much higher rates of trachoma, that sort of thing – that calling an end to this form of protest is warranted. Well, that’s obviously how they saw it.
The event highlighted the vast, vast majority of the national media ready to brand the altercation ‘violent’ (although there was limited evidence for this) and, of course, unacceptable – particularly on Australia Day, Channel Seven’s David Koch usefully pointed out. From the tabloids on the right to the ABC and Fairfax opinion pieces, everyone was having a go at the fact some people banged on the window of the restaurant the PM was in, forcing her security detail to drag her out of there. Falluja it was not.
But all of that reaction is predictable. What was most interesting is what seemed like the disbelief amongst many media commentators that there could be more than one viewpoint amongst indigenous Australians. Establishment figures Warren Mundine and Mick Gooda were wheeled out to denounce in pretty strong terms what happened – thank goodness! – and maybe a lot of people felt a bit better. But what a shock that black politics might have a Left and a Right as well as anyone else’s. You can be outraged all you like, but please don’t act surprised. So perhaps it was a watershed moment – but only because something finally clicked in a few non-indigenous heads.
Anyway, I wrapped up some of the early reaction in a formulaic but hopefully balanced package today, above.