The aboriginees camping at King’s Domain near Melbourne’s Botanic Gardens are asserting ‘sovereignty’ over a ‘sacred fire’ that has been lit there. They originally camped during the Commonwealth Games to embarrass white Victorians.
The area, they claim, is a ‘sacred site’. It contains five painted eucalypt poles, adorned with the spirit people, the Rainbow Serpent and red ribbons, above a granite ‘burial rock’ honouring the aboriginees of Victoria. The skeletal remains of 38 aboriginals are buried here. The burial was a tribute to the people whose long relationship with the land was destroyed by Europeans.
A judge, Justice King, has told told the aboriginees to decamp by Thursday but the fire itself can remain. The fire can be maintained by Melbourne’s traditional owners without the need for ‘camping paraphernalia’. The aboriginals claimed this as a significant victory although, tomorrow at least, they will have to keep the fire alight in cold temperatures and pouring rain. Good luck, my friends.
This reminds me of the Hindmarsh Bridge affair. Building a bridge to Hindmarsh Island was supposed to reduce the fertility of aboriginal women. Much was said about the genuiness of claims on this occasion but this is irrelevant. It is false to claim that building bridges anywhere has an effect on women’s fertility. Nor is King’s Domain a ‘sacred area’. Nor are fires lit a few weeks (or indeed 10,000 years ago) ago ‘sacred fires’. Thinking back to the injustices done by white men to aboriginees should not suggest perpetuating myths – aboriginees must get smart – what is needed are more aboriginal doctors, lawyers and politicians. Better aboriginal heath and education. Aboriginees should discard myths and face up to the very real difficulties of, for example, alcoholism and child abuse that confront their communities.
It is, of course, somewhat inconsistent to point the finger at superstitution among aboriginals when many Australian whites base their existence on equally silly myths. We eat and drink the blood of a defunct Christ when we drink wine and eat wafers in a Church. No we don’t! It is again nonsense but, in its favour, it is nonsense that wealthy white Australia can afford while aboriginees cannot. Forget sacred sites, fertility-reducing bridges and so on. Aboriginees should concentrate on the issues of health, education, employment and full-integration into mainstream Australian society. Don’t waste time on irrational protests based on irrational beliefs.