Introduction Good evening, thank you for inviting me here this evening. I would like to discuss how Carmel Bird’s non-fiction book The Stolen Children-Their Stories (TSC) and Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s poem, “We are going” (WAG) gives us an understanding of how Australian voices reflect Australian values. Both texts explore the unfair treatment and effects of suffering inflicted upon Aboriginal communities and individuals by past government’s policies, as well as western society’s disrespect and ignorance. By analysing the texts, we learn about the values of egalitarianism from the perspectives of both indigenous people and the government.
Egalitarianism means a fair go for all people where everyone is equal in fundamental worth and status. Getting this kind of insight into social and political issues of assimilation changes the view on problems of equality in this country. It reveals we should have sense of responsibility towards Aboriginal people and provide justice for their suffering. Body Carmel bird’s view Carmel Bird organised the report in a simplified non-fiction text form for regular Australians to be able to discover how the past government’s policy deeply affected the culture, identity and lives of Indigenous people.
The composer used persuasive text to convey different emotional stories and perspectives to convince the readers of her subjective point of view. One of the textual features is the order of the texts. The texts start from the perspectives of the Aboriginals who were affected, positioning responders to feel sympathy for them. And by putting the speech of John Howard about avoiding apologising to these people at the end makes him look unsympathetic. This further reinforces Bird’s attempt to convince Australians to share her perception of accepting Indigenous people as equals and work towards reconciliation.
Cover of the book Bird starts with her introduction by discussing the front cover of the book. The photo depicts six Aboriginal orphan girls with props like toys in their hands to attract “prospective parents” by making them look innocent. In my opinion, this seems cruel as these girls were “no more than a commodity” for the government to use. And I don’t think I am the only one who feels this way. It evokes strong dislike towards the government, especially if the audience are parents who have children. Imagine how terrible it would be if it was your child that was on the cover?
Bird voices this criticism of the authoritative voice of the government, who tried to eliminate a whole race of people “by bleaching Aboriginality from Australian society” as “a policy of systematic genocide”. She says the government’s way to integrate Indigenous people into western society was an act of deliberate genocide as they tried to wipe out a whole race by stealing their children and subjecting them into abusive foster homes. The editor frequently uses second pronoun ‘you’ to connect with the reader, “when you read the stories… you will begin to know and feel how life has been”.
And by doing this she lets us imagine what the Aboriginal children have experienced and understand their sense of alienation of not belonging to any culture. John Howard’s speech On the other hand, John Howard’s speech represents the voice of the government at the time on the issue of reconciliation and apology. His perspective on the matter was to persuade the public into thinking the current government was not responsible for the “hideous crimes” committed to the Indigenous people. He believed that the current government should not be held accountable for the past government’s actions. He said “immensely proud” to express how proud he is of the 200 years of achievement to focus on the positives rather than the negatives.
And the negatives were downplayed as a euphemism “blemish” to suppress the importance of stolen children. This was to persuade the public to move on from the past and move forward with the future. John Howard’s stance on apologising to Aboriginals was “no”. And instead of saying “sorry” he said “I feel very deep sorrow…” to avoid apologising because he was afraid that the government may become responsible for paying compensation to Aboriginal people once they pursued court action. This shows the detachment from sense of responsibility from the social injustice caused to indigenous people based on economic reasons.
We are going ‘We Are Going’ by Oodgeroo Noonuccal represents a community of an Aboriginal tribe, who experienced mistreatment by the white society just like the stories in TSC. But unlike TSC, the poem reveals the social injustice through perspectives of an Aboriginal tribe instead of from someone who is not an Aboriginal like Carmel Bird. This adds to the issue of social injustice for the responder by making emotions experienced by the tribe more genuine when the cultural identities of Oodgeroo’s people were taken away by Europeans during the invasion on the poet’s sacred land. Oodgeroo uses exclusive pronouns such as “they” and “theirs” to distinguish the differences between cultures.
Emotive tone towards ‘white men’ shows what the tribe felt when they did not respect the tribe’s sacred ground and built a park, indicated by the sign that says ‘Rubbish May Be Tipped Here’. How would you feel if someone barged into your yard where you spend time with your family and hang with your friends, places a sign that says ‘Rubbish May Be Tipped Here’. You would feel the same frustration the composer’s tribes people did. Wouldn’t you? This is why the poet loathes western people as she describes them “hurry about like ants”.
The use of simile describes the negative tone of how little the Aboriginal tribe thinks of white people. It reinforces the stories in TSC because the stories also tell the effects of how white people’s actions deeply affected their problems such as loss of identity. Conclusion In the end, texts I discussed reveal the dark side of Australian history through the stories related to the loss and sufferings of Aboriginal community caused by non-indigenous Australians, who invaded their land and inflicted more pain by past government’s policies.
Carmel Bird’s edited ‘Bringing Them Home’ report in a non-fiction form for Australian citizens to agree with her point of view on the assimilation policy through the stolen children’s voices. She achieved her purpose to aid the readers in gaining insight on the voices we heard and sympathise for the victims also understand their perspectives. By persuading the audience to agree with her perspective of understanding Aboriginals lets us to finally accept Indigenous people as equals and work towards reconciliation. By reflecting on the concept of egalitarianism, I gained more insight into sophisticated complexities of Australian values including equal right and social justice.
Courtney from Study Moose
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