Deary me. Another one sent to the stake by the New Inquisition of the New Orthodoxy. This time it’s poor old Rolf Harris – yes, he of the wobble-board and paintbrush fame. His crime? Questioning the New Orthodoxy on Indigenous Issues. The news of his heritical statement broke yesterday (see “Time to get off your arses: Rolf’s advice to aborigines”), and today the sentence was pronounced (see “Harris remarks spark outrage” and The Age editorial).
I’m not saying whether what Rolf said was right or wrong, although I do think that he might have said the same thing without the help of the colourful colloquialisms he employed. What I’m commenting on is the fact that he has been treated in exactly the same way as Warwick Marsh of the Fatherhood Foundation. He has questioned the rules of the New Orthodoxy, and it’s straight to the stake.
The fact is that when his comments are engaged and not simply rejected as an outrage, even his indigenous detractors have admitted some element of truth in what he said: Lowitja O’Donoghue (who thought that Harris has “some bloody cheek” to make such a suggestion) admitted that “Aborigines must help themselves” (which is what Rolf said in stronger language). “There are lots of people who get off their butts, as he says, and do things,” she said. And this is not to be denied but applauded and encouraged for the whole people.
But Ms O’Donoghue goes on to say that “colonisation [read: you non-indigenous people being here] was the root cause for much of her people’s plight” and “Australia [ie. you non-indigenous people] needed to lift its game in how it dealt with indigenous issues”. Thus while admitting just what Rolf said, she continues to sing from the old song sheet of blame and victimhood.
Former national Labor president and indigenous leader Warren Mundine also “agreed that it was up to Aborigines to instigate change. However, he said Harris’ language was a “bit tough”.” We at SCM agree. He went on to say
“It’s not as simple as (Harris) thinks it is,” Mr Mundine said. “I agree that we have to get up, take responsibility and drive forward, but at the same time I reject that it is our traditional values at fault … It’s actually the whole process of invasion, colonisation and government policy.”
So while agreeing with Mr Harris in the first part of his statement, he too eventually falls back upon the old song sheet and starts singing of victimhood and blame.
As I said in a short Letter to the Editor published in the Age today:
WARWICK Marsh, from the Fatherhood Foundation, said: “I hope we’re in a free society that still allows us to speak our mind” (The Age, 27/11). Well, you found out the answer to that question, didn’t you?
David Schütz, Boronia