Indigenous Australia

Noel Pearson and The Australian: Are Aboriginal people really Jewish?

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Noel Pearson is a big fan of Rupert Murdoch's extreme rightwing The Australian newspaper, as he said in a guest speech at the publication's 50th anniversary dinner. The authors now distrust the publication. (Image via

Noel Pearson has told The Australian he thinks Aboriginal people are more degraded by alcohol abuse than by historical wrongs. Indigenous leader Jim Morrison and non-Indigenous chair of the National Stolen Generations Alliance John Dommett say this is nonsense.

IT WAS DISHEARTENING to read yet another denial of the underlying links between the past traumas suffered by Aboriginal people to the social, emotional and economic disadvantages impacting on us today ('Get over historical indigenous wrongs: Noel Pearson', The Australian,May 07, 2015).

It was even sadder that this apparent lack of understanding of the deeply entrenched and, we thought, well appreciated causes of contemporary Aboriginal disadvantage was voiced by an Aboriginal man integrated with white policy makers.

Additionally, we were disappointed that a biased and perhaps self-interested viewpoint went to press in The Australian without the newspaper having the journalistic grace and professionalism to invite others from the Aboriginal – and probably the Jewish community as well – to provide alternative views to Mr Pearson’s opinions, at the same time.

So, Noel Pearson has the opinion Aboriginal people are more degraded by rampant alcohol abuse than they are by historical wrongs does he?

If there had been a complementary spokesperson for alcohol and other drug workers, the counter response may have been that the wrongs inflicted on Aboriginality over the last two centuries and today, are the root causes of any disproportionate problems with substance abuse. Alcohol and drug dependency and the closely associated rising incarceration rates of Aboriginal people can only be reduced where the causes are dealt with through improving the social and emotional wellbeing of our communities.

Furthermore, there are many, many people in our community who identify as being disadvantaged, but don’t have direct or even indirect substance abuse problems impacting on their lives. The sweeping connections made in the article therefore were broadly insulting in the same way that the Intervention assumes Aboriginal men are predominantly violent drunks, child abusers and wife beaters.

The article couldn’t and didn’t flatly deny the too well studied effects of the transgenerational traumas suffered by Aboriginal peoples after European colonisation here and internationally. Neither did it deny the actuality of the Stolen Generations, given the masses of evidence in the Bringing Them Home report (1997) and subsequent studies. However, it downplays the influence of these effects to near impotency. It implied that past traumas were less significant than we who work daily and live within impacted communities, connect with the contemporary disadvantage of Aboriginal men, women and children today.

We are not sure why the article didn’t consider the related work of Aboriginal community organisations working together with families currently lacking the level of social and emotional wellbeing allowing them to even contemplate – let alone elevate to mainstream – social and economic participation. Maybe this could have been debated in the article if the National Stolen Generations Alliance and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation or any of their member organisations had an opportunity to comment?

The Australian also reported that the 'noted academic' used a speech in Brisbane to urge Aboriginal people to 'rise above historic trauma' — likening that process to the way in which Jewish people have endured after the Holocaust. The comparison between the Holocaust and the attempted genocide of Aboriginal people was an uninformed one, but very brave considering there was no attempt to gain a Jewish counter-response and there are many ways that Jewish people might take offence at that.

Said Mr Pearson:

“I have to push back against too much attribution to past, to people’s present troubles. Whatever the scars and the burdens that people coming out of the Holocaust suffered, they nevertheless endured, and they laid foundations for their families.” 

To equate the Jewish genocide with the Aboriginal situation is, in itself, an acknowledgement that there has been a state condoned and coordinated attempt at an Aboriginal genocide — something Andrew Bolt may not agree with.

We apologise that there has not been the time to get expert Jewish commentary and we would greatly appreciate it, however some differences between the Jewish experience and the Aboriginal experience appears (to us) to be that seven consecutive generations have been impacted in Australia since the European Invasion. Over this time, our land, waters, livelihood, cultures, spiritual beliefs, laws, civil rights, languages, racial identity, self esteem, wages, health and children have been irretrievably stolen, fractured or lost entirely, and whole communities forced into concentration camps, where they have been starved and sometimes treated as slaves. All of the measures necessary to get us off our sovereign lands and not to have to compensate for them. There has been a blatant resistance from governments in assuming culpability and providing redress other than some insulting tokenism. There has been no international punishment for those governments that allowed this to happen generation after generation. How on earth can there be a valid comparison in either the cause and nature of the injuries suffered and methods of healing?

We now deeply distrust the right wing interests of the editors of The Australian when presenting viewpoints on Aboriginal affairs from similarly interested sources and doubt their integrity in providing the opportunities for balanced debates on Aboriginal affairs. We have asked for this for both more intelligent reading and in the true spirit of reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.

Read also the stories by Kamileroi citizen Natalie Cromb on IA.

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Noel Pearson and The Australian: Are Aboriginal people really Jewish?

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