Monday, July 17, 2006


I forgot to mention this when I posted about the Peter Brown lecture the other day, but I was shocked and appalled by the way the Museum Director began his speech of welcome to the lecture:

"Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge the traditional aboriginal people whose land this museum is built on. And now it gives me great pleasure to introduce Professor Peter Brown..."

Wait a sec, back up! Which traditional aboriginal people would those be, then, eh? Did you just not bother to find out the name of the tribe that this land was stolen from? Or is it too hard for your European tongue to pronounce?

This is like referring to "traditional asian people" when you mean the Chinese. And then pretending that this counts as an "acknowledgement" is adding insult to injury.

And I bet this is the guy who was responsible for the display on level two of the museum. The one that has glass cases containing random weapons, tools and artwork, without any attempt at arranging them in related groups or putting them in some sort of context (not even suggesting which tribes they might have come from), and the whole thing simply entitled "Aboriginal Artifacts".

Thankfully there was an excellent display on Indigenous Australia and Queensland Indigenous history on the next floor up, but that doesn't exactly cancel out the seeming lack of interest with which this one was thrown together. Especially since anyone going through the museum in order will get to this haphazard jumble before they come across the real exhibition.


Lucy said...

do people not do that kind of acknowledgement where you are? It seemed fairly common, especially at student union-run events. I mentioned one of my favourite TV moments at Phantom's this week, where John Safran went to a yuppie-ish, left-leaning suburb of Sydney where a lot of houses have plaques declaring they acknowledge the orginial owners of the land. He got a group of the appropriate people to knock on a few doors and say they needed a place to stay for a bit and they were glad to see that the residents acknowledged them as the original owners, so they'd just be camping in the front yard for a while.

Lucy said...

It's always seemed fairly token to me, but I could never figure out why. Maybe that's it. It's probably also the way they rush through it, without relating it to anything. I think there are a number of different tribes from Brisbane, but I'm not sure. I just remembered there was a reasonable exhibit about local tribes in the museum in the city hall, if you need anything else to do.

StyleyGeek said...

Deleted my comment above and reposted it here, minus the violation of my own comment policy. (Feeling stupid now).

In my city I have never heard anyone do a "blanket" acknowledgement that doesn't mention the name of the group (Ngunnawal, where I live). And in NZ you would ALWAYS say which iwi it was you were acknowledging (especially because someone belonging to the relevant iwi might be there and object if you didn't).

But maybe there are so many different tribes in Brisbane it is impossible to tell? And low chances of any Indigenous people actually being present? I don't know, but it still seemed to me to be a token brush-off.

I like the TV moment you describe, though. Wish I'd seen it.

Grace said...

In the last few decades the NZ government has been very big on not only sorting out who used to own what, but also actually compensating iwi for lands and possessions that were stolen or aquired dishonestly.
Beats me why the Australian government seems unable to show some backbone and deal with this issue. Do they think it's just going to go away??

Lucy said...

They actually seem to think it's all finished and done with. They weren't personally there when the land/children were stolen, therefore it's not their fault and they shouldn't have to do anything about it.
Gah! I can feel my blood pressure rising already.