Aboriginal writer and Indigenous Affairs editor for ABC News, Stan Grant, questions the ‘received wisdom’ that Aboriginal Australians are downtrodden in a recent article.
Whilst acknowledging the history of ‘injustice and segregation’ and the accompanying disadvantage that Aboriginal Australians face on their way to success, Grant points out that ‘identity framed around misery can become a self-fulfilling prophecy’.
Instead, Grant encourages us all to wake up to the reality of the swathes of successful indigenous Australians who populate all aspects of Australian life.
Grant’s experience at the recent conference organised by Supply Nation highlighted this, as he found himself in a room full of highly successful Aboriginal people such as Kyle Vander Kuyp and Mark Ella, many of whom are millionaires and each of whom has earned their success through hard work and determination.
Grant would have us take notice of and celebrate the success of the vast number of Aboriginal people who have engaged with white Australia on their own terms, in order that we move away from the dominant stereotype of Aboriginal people as ‘demoralised, disadvantaged people’.
“The Indigenous middle class is growing. Indigenous people are on our television screens, on our stages and our sporting fields.
We don’t tell this story often enough. We don’t even yet have a language for Aboriginal success.”
Aboriginal lawyer Noel Pearson speaks of the double-edged sword of ‘soft racism’ from the white population, in the form of low expectations, and potential hostility from Aboriginal peers in the face of success. He counters this with examples of Aboriginal people who don’t pay attention to either narrative.
Grant also points out the importance of acknowledging the ‘alternate history’ of Aboriginals who engaged with white colonists, not as victims, but with dignity and success. He highlights the economic boom after World War II and the wave of ‘Aboriginal economic migrants’ who fought to find work and housing and schooling for their children, and their grandchildren, who are now graduating university in droves.
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