What do you know about Australia and it's Aborigines? (+ opinions on what you DO know)

For the non-Aussies:
What do you know about the relationship between Aboriginal Australians and non-Aboriginal Australians?
What do you know about our attitudes towards each other?
How our cultures mix?
How intergrated we are in every day life?
What issues come up socially and legally?
What we (we being Aboriginal, or non-Aborignal) discuss privately about the [other]?

For the Aussies:
What do you think about the relationship between Aboriginal Australians and non-Aboriginal Australians?
What do you think about our attitudes towards each other?
What do you think about how our cultures mix?
What do you think about how intergrated we are in every day life?
What issues do you see/think come up socially and legally?
What issues do you think the [other](please specify) discusses mostly about us?

Just what I learned from such timeless films as “Quigley Down Under,” “BMX Bandits,” the “Crocodile Dundee” series, “Wolf Creek,” and of course the classic “Reckless Kelly.”

Non-Aussie here, giving what I think I know, rather than what I’ve checked online or anywhere else:

**What do you know about the relationship between Aboriginal Australians and non-Aboriginal Australians? **

It is less peaceful than the relationship between Maori and Pakeha. I’m not aware of any treaty or other agreement, like the Treaty of Waitangi. There was a time when aboriginal children were taken away from their families and used as servants. I believe the government has never formally apologised for this, but I could be wrong.

What do you know about our attitudes towards each other?

There is a lot of racism towards and from each other.

How our cultures mix?

The Aboriginal culture is quite important to Australian tourism.

I believe Aborigines are over-represented in aspects like low socio-economic status, numbers in social care, jail, etc.

How intergrated we are in every day life?

I have a feeling there are still Aboriginal reservations, so I’m going to say not fully.

What issues come up socially and legally?

There is a large alcohol problem in the Aboriginal community. It seems that Aborigines have a tendency towards alcolohism that is more prevalent than in the non-Aboriginal community.

What we (we being Aboriginal, or non-Aborignal) discuss privately about the [other]?

No idea, I’d imagine it would vary a lot depending on the person, regardless of descent.

I know very little, but offer these two observations from popular culture:

Bill Bryson “In A Sunburned Country” says the aborigines not only don’t talk to non-aborigines but don’t even look at them.

David Bowie song “Let’s Dance” - I heard something about aborigines let into bars through “the doghatch”.

Anything else I pick up is through Pip Wilson’s Almanac, as he is Australian.

I know they drink metho. A LOT of metho.


Metholated spirits?

There is an alcoholism problem, which is bigger than that in the white population, but methylated spirits is not the drink of choice: they will drink beer, cheap wine or spirits like rum or vodka, as long as they or their friends can afford it. They do have taste buds like the rest of us …

I’ve met more Aboriginal people than most Australians, partly through my work. However, those that I’ve met have tended to be those best integrated into white society, so I know they aren’t typical.

Non-Aussie here:

Mix the worse elements of the white American relationship with the Native Americans with the worse elements of the white American relationship with the African Americans, and you get the relationship between white Aussies and Aborigenes.

American here. What do I know about Australian Aborigines? Walkabout, The Last Wave, Beds Are Burning, Crocodile Dundee, and Quigley Down Under. And a little Jared Diamond.

So basically my knowledge is that the Aborigines were hunter-gatherers who lost most of their land to European-descended settlers and are now marginalized in mainstream Australian society. I know that they’re the descendants of people who used to live in Southeast Asia and that their descendants went on to colonize islands in the Southwest Pacific. And I know they have a set of spiritual beliefs centered around dreams.

Non-Australian, went there as a tourist once.

I went on a bus tour of some wineries in South Australia, and an Australian couple a bit younger than me and Mr. Neville was sitting behind us on the bus. We told them we were going to Alice Springs. They said there were lots of aboriginals there, and proceeded to say things (the details of which I have forgotten) that I would have been shocked to hear an American say about black people or Native Americans. I mention their age because I’m less shocked when an older person says stuff like this than I am when a young person says it. I felt like I used to when I talked to my grandfather about black people- squirm uncomfortably, try not to show my discomfort, and figure out how to change the subject as quickly as possible.

In Alice Springs, we went to the Aboriginal Australia Art and Cultural Center, which I liked.

American’s have a MUCH greater respect for the African Americans than we do for our natives.You cant comapre us to you guys… We wouldn’t have a native news reader, commercial spokesman, TV host, serious politician… it’s not happening here at all…

Yeah, that’s pretty much my (American) take on it as well.

Of course, when you visit Australia as a tourist, the aboriginal stuff is great–they play and sell those ultra-cool didgeridoos and all of the coolest artwork, and many of the tours (especially at Uluru) are either led by aboriginals or focus on aboriginal life and culture.

But I’m well aware of the horrible history, bigotry, and many current-day problems.

(Also mentioned by Bill Bryson) it’s been estimated the original Aboriginal people arrived on the Australian continent by boat, anywhere from 40,000 - 125,000 years ago. The how-and-why I find mysterious and amazing, the fact that they managed to establish themselves and live there in such a harsh climate - equally amazing.

It could just be a demographic issue. Aborines are a smaller percentage of Australia’s population (2.7%) than blacks are a percentage of America’s (12.8%). Their smaller presense makes it easier to marginalize and exclude them from the mainstream.

They play cool movies like Rabbit Proof Fence on the planes going to Australia. There are T-shirts with aboriginal art designs on them.

They didn’t live in a harsh climate originally. Like the American natives, the Aborigines settled mainly in the best parts of the continent. But when the Europeans came along, the natives were pushed into the badlands and deserts.

I visited Aus last year for the first time. Prior to the trip, not having thought about it particularly, I had the superficial impression that Aussie race relations where similar to the UK, just 20 years behind. So you’d go to the footie and people would make monkey noises when a black guy got the ball, or say ‘hard lines, nigger’, ‘good effort, nigger’ etc. The type of thing I heard Liverpool fans saying to their own players in the mid 80s in the UK, or you might hear in Spain today.

After visiting I realise that it goes far deeper than that, both ways. The UK has undergone massive evolution of race relations in the last 10, 20 years - but that’s immigration. The aboriginal - settler dichotomy is just a totally different league. I only saw snippets of it in my actual visit, e.g. News articles about aboriginal communities having a serious child abuse problem and this being an extremely politically-charged issue that couldn’t be resolved in any sort of commensensical manner; middle class Sydney folk dropping un-PC comments about Uluru - also known as Ayers rock; taking a wrong turn in the camper van and driving around a complete shit hole of an aboriginal community etc.

None of these things is particularly meaningful in isolation - there’s child abuse issues localised to particular cultures / people who rail against PC speech / shithole estates, everywhere. Taken as a whole, I admit it did make an impression. I was also struck by a museum we went to in Sydney. I forget the name, it was a general Aus-themed one directly adjacent to the large oblong park right in the centre of Sydney. It was full of fawning, credulous bullshit about aboriginal culture that seemed really imbalanced to me. It did both modern Aus culture and abo culture (can you say abo?) a disservice IMHO.

The above is just a fly-by-3 weeks impression, obviously all countries have their own distinct issues and Lord knows the UK does. But I did get the feeling that the Aussie race issue was a huge consideration quite distinct from the general racial to-an-fro you find elsewhere. Whether it is surmountable or not would depend on integration issues and rates of change that only an Aussie could speak to.

As some others have said, much of what I know (“know”) comes from Bill Bryson. I remember he said something about them having one of the longest, uninterrupted cultures in the world - so that, for example, a modern Aborigine could look at cave paintings from tens of thousands of years ago and understand them as if they were made yesterday. (Or something like that.)

I knew that there was a real history of racism and oppression between Aborigines and white Australians, but I’d assumed these days things were vastly improved, and not as bad as generally claimed. (Not coincidentally, I tend to have similar views of American race relations.) So I’m a bit surprised to hear in this thread that that might not be the case…

American. I think of white/Aboriginal relations as paralleling white/Native American relations in the US and Canada where the North American tribes were weakest. (I’ve been in some of those areas; don’t underestimate the nastiness of the prejudice that some people have.) I think of issues of racism, alcoholism, suppression of native languages, and forced removal of children from parents. Although I really like the work of a number of modern Aboriginal artists (I have a poster from the Yiribana Gallery of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art framed in my office) my knowledge of Aboriginal culture really just comes down to a few words like “didgeridoo,” “dreamtime,” and walkabout, all of which I understand only superficially. I did read the most popular history of transportation-era Australia, the name of which currently escapes me, so I have some general knowledge of how the settlers displaced and sometimes killed Aborigines. I know that there was pretty much a deliberate genocide in Tasmania. That’s about it.