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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Kev Carmody & Neil Murray on Racism

Green Left Weekly'
s JOHN TOGNOLINI interviewed singer-songwriters KEV CARMODY and NEIL MURRAY about their views on the Olympics, the stolen generations, native title, reconciliation and racism.

Togs: It's only a few years since Sydney won the Olympics. Remember when they were saying this would be the multicultural, non-racist Olympics? Now there's been this open racism in the past 18 months.

Neil: I love sport and athletics. I like to see Australia do well, but the Olympics is like the bloody casino in Melbourne. It's like the Grand Prix. It's easy to get these big circus events ahead of real social, environmental or cultural reforms. The energy is not being put into really important things.

Kev: The fundamental questions are not being addressed.

Neil: You just can't go on ignoring the terrible bloody crimes that have happened in this country. Some people assume that Aboriginal people are going to stop progress. That is not the case at all. There's plenty of Aboriginal groups that have got pastoral stations.

They want their economic independence. All they want is their rights to be recognised and to be equal partners at the negotiating table, to be able to speak for themselves and decide what to do with their land. As Pat Dodson was trying to say, they're really not about kicking pastoralists off. They want their rights preserved.

There wouldn't have been a pastoral industry in this country without Aboriginal labour. They provided the cheap labour -- virtually slave labour, just living on rations -- to get the hard work done to get these properties established.

Kev: The “brave explorers” wouldn't have gotten 100 kilometres away from the nearest town without the blackfellas.

Togs: The 10-point plan that Howard has put forward is really the second dispossession of Aboriginal people.

Kev: What they're trying to do is to legitimise Aborigines' insecurity as far as land tenure goes. Pastoralists were granted leases for pastoral purposes, but they've done more than that.

Neil: They're actually going for a land grab now. They want more rights than they're supposed to have. They're the greedy bunch.

Kev: The way the country where I was raised has been vandalised is just phenomenal. Whole water systems 3000 or 4000 kilometres long have been killed. It's just dead, dead water from here to over the Queensland border.

Let's get back to the rise of racism in the last 18 months or so. Xenophobia -- the dictionary definition is the morbid fear of other races -- is still entrenched in this country. Some people feel isolated and alienated because they're a European-based society between Africa, South America and Asia. There's that insecurity. They've treated the land the same way they've treated the indigenous people.

Togs: Is Australia a new pariah? Is there going to be a boycott of the Olympic games?

Neil: There could well be boycotts the way things are heading. I remain an optimist. I think sanity will prevail and the pressure from the international arena will hold sway. The bigots are not going to last.

I mean, the spokesperson for this movement [Pauline Hanson] can't put two words together. She's totally out of her depth and isn't quite aware of the ramifications of what is happening around her.

Kev: I think she was quite startled at the response down in Tasmania. She doesn't realise what she's in or what she represents to the majority of people. She's quite insulated, isolated and secure when she's talking to those tiny bigoted groups, and once she gets outside in the open forum, it's a different kettle of fish.

Togs: What do you think of the federal government's attitude to the report on the stolen children, particularly since you, Kev, and your brother Laurie were taken away from your parents in the 1950s?

Kev: I always say we were lucky because we were put in the orphanage when I was about 10. We knew we had parents. We knew we had uncles, aunties, grandfathers, grandmothers.

It was the tiny little babies that were taken away, the young ones that didn't have a concept of having a community around them. That's the real tragedy. But the positive part is we, as a collection of indigenous nations in this country, have come through that and had resilience and dignity because of our association with our community, culture and the land.

Togs: How do you see institutionalised racism? It's ironic that we are talking about 30 years of Australian citizenship for the world's oldest people.

Kev: It's institutionalised ignorance.

Neil: That's what racism is. Basically, it's ignorance. Ignorance breeds racist attitudes.

Kev: But it was institutionalised through the education system, and through the churches. The education system, when I first came into it, had no history of us at all as a people. You could sit up there listening to a history class in primary school and we weren't even there.

So it was institutionalised right from the word go, officially by governments, and it's for us to reclaim that history back and put the agenda right.

Neil: Now the truth has to come out no matter how bad it is. The truth is always liberating. If you recall the Port Arthur massacre last year, that was a shocking tragedy. The grief was palpable on a national level, but people should remember that wasn't the biggest massacre in Australia's history.

There were many Aboriginal groups that were slaughtered like that, innocent victims of brutal slaughter, and people should remember that grief and shock they felt were felt by Aboriginal people in a lot of different places, and that goes on. That is still there. There has never been any recognition of that.
August 1997

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