With daughter and dog minding the fort, Mr Gums and I headed out last weekend to Central Australia where we are spending ten or so days escaping the wintry south.
It is an interesting place to visit, geologically, botanically and culturally; it is where we urban Aussies come across more indigenous people than we usually do in our daily lives. This rather makes us (re)think. Is it shame or is it guilt? Whatever it is, I feel a little sad wandering through Alice Springs and noticing the number of local indigenous people who seem to be at loose ends. It seems unreasonable that I, the newcomer, should be living a comfortable life while they, whose land it is, live a displaced life. Alice Springs is the setting of the central part of the recent Aussie film Samson and Delilah, about which I posted a couple of months ago. The Todd River, over which we drive a few times each day, is where Samson and Delilah “live” when they come to Alice after escaping the brutality of their own community. It’s not a pretty story. Alice, we are told – and we can see – is being “cleaned up”. In recent years, Dry Town Legislation has been enacted which applies strict controls on the sale of alcohol to white and black customers. And a couple of years ago there was the infamous “Intervention” instituted by the previous conservative government which rather ham-fistedly tried to “fix” violence and dysfunction in indigenous communities. Our tour guide on a day tour we did told us that these things have made Alice Springs a “quieter” place BUT the question is whether it has just pushed the real problem of displacement and dysfunction underground or is actually resulting in a better life for our indigenous compatriots? I don’t know. All I know is that I feel a little guilty and a little helpless. Should I buy some artwork from a street hawker? Or are there better ways we can help? What is better? Helping personally on the street, or impersonally through a “reputable” indigenous organisation? The problem is everyone has a different answer, including indigenous people themselves…more later.