I Am, You Are, We Are Australian

imagesLast night I had the life changing privilege to watch a television program on the ABC. It is not very often that “a privilege to watch a television program” is a phrase you would use but in this case it was a privilege.

The program, Q&A, is about having several guest speakers to discuss “all that is life”. It may be religion, politics, current affairs or government. Last night it was about indigenous issues that needed to be brought publicly to the surface. Issues of financial support, education, the Australian Constitution and others. What was “life changing” was to hear indigenous representatives give their view point. To have an entire panel of indigenous leaders in their community and their workplace and their field. They included: Noel Pearson, Chairman, Cape York Partnership; Nova Peris, Labor Senator; Ken Wyatt, Liberal Member for Hasluck; Djawa Yunupingu, Deputy Chairman, Yothu Yindi Foundation; Joe Morrison, CEO, Northern Land Council; and Dhäŋggal Gurruwiwi, Gälpu Clan Elder.

For the first time in my “television watching history” I watched a panel of indigenous people discuss what they needed rather than non-indigenous people giving an “educated” opinion. My engagement  was not just focused on the right or wrong solutions purely but on the high respect for their understanding and commitment to their people, young and old. There was discussion, for and against particular reasonings and solutions.

Their solutions were not about giving one stop answers to a group of people who have inhabited this planet longer than most “Australians” realise or choose to accept. Their “solutions” were about presenting the problems, the issues, the points of discussions. Making them real and public. Giving them, in every case last night, an educated and informed indigenous person’s view.

As I watched through the eyes of a teacher , I realised that there was much missing in our school environments. The concept of bilingual language was a major talking point. We expect infgenous children to learn english to “be active Australian citizens” but I have been in the education world for over 20 years now and I have never seen or be presented with the idea of teaching an indigenous language, perhaps that of the local people of the school area. I have heard of Indonesian, French, Italian but never indigenous…why is that the case? Their is an indigenous identity for every child to be familiar of their local language.

Is this concept too far fetched, I don’t think so in the least. Indigenous language as part of a bi-lingual program in our schools. Perhaps then, when our children / students are sharing their new found knowledge of their traditional custodians of this beautiful vast land and their language we might start to see these issues discussed even further…maybe even in traditional aboriginal language!

I truly believe I witnessed television history last night. The significance of this open acceptance for renewed and informed discussion can only lead to great things, one hopes at least!

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