CRUCIAL: DON’T involve the people who designed the Supreme …

Comment on Indigenous art gallery centrepiece of Gunner’s plans for Alice by Ted Egan.

CRUCIAL: DON’T involve the people who designed the Supreme Court.

Recent Comments by Ted Egan

First Nations want a ‘Voice’ enshrined in the constitution
It seems that the word “makarrata” is to be re-introduced into the vernacular. But let us learn to spell and pronounce it properly. It is not pronounced like the name of an American gangster, Mack A’Rata. It is properly pronounced like the surname of the famous American general, Douglas Macarthur and it should perhaps be better spelt as “makarrta with a “roll” on the “r”. Emphasis on the second syllable.

It is a reasonably appropriate word for “treaty” as the makarrta ceremony is a trial by ordeal in Arnhem Land in order that peace may be re-established. “Makarr” equals “thigh” and “Makarrta” means, literally, “into the thigh”. An offender is required to stand in a given spot, while the offended throw spears at him. As all boys were traditionally trained to dodge spears, that is relatively easy. I once saw an offender ask for five men to throw at him simultaneously. He was so adept, he could break spears in half as they whistled past his head. But honour must be satisfied. After a suitable number of spears have been thrown, the offended party dances in and the offender is ritually speared in the thigh. Makarrta. Blood is let. Peace is restored and the nice part is that no mortal blow has been inflicted.

Don’t hold your breath for a national treaty. We keep looking for Mandela style leadership and thereby national unity. But the minute Noel Pearson or Marcia Langton, or indeed anybody starts to speak “on behalf of all First Australians” they will quickly be told: “You don’t speak for me, mate”.

But regional treaties. Yes! Bring ’em on.


How did Alice Springs respond to the 1967 referendum?
My principal comment about the 1967 Referendum is that 10% of Australia voted “NO”.
The issues were nothing to do with voting rights or drinking rights, as is commonly believed, but the clause “Aboriginal natives shall not be counted” was to be repealed and the power to make (favourable) laws in respect of First Australians was to be established.
Over and above these specific issues, the basic mindset of voters was: “Do you consider Aboriginals to be human beings?” and (applause) 90% voted “YES”.
But the 10% NO vote came from predictable areas where there was a history of sad, bad race relations: Walgett, Gnowangerup, Roebourne, Port Augusta etc.
I recall that in the NT at that time there was anger that we were denied a vote but also I felt that the overall NT mood was that we, too, were thereby denied the opportunity to vote “NO”.
There were strident “NO” demos in Alice Springs. Remember that those were the days when the very words “land rights” started many a blue in many NT pubs.
So we are perhaps not as squeaky clean as we like to believe.


Experience Aboriginal culture in the heart of the CBD
You are correct, Alex, tribute must be paid to earlier linguists like the Strehlows and the Albrechts; also very worthy of commendation are todays “interpreters”, many of them Gadiya. The pressing need, however, is to recognise, on an individual level, the fluent speakers of traditional languages who are also literate in English. People Like Marrkilyi (Lizzie Ellis), Nararula (Alison Anderson), the many elderly women – especially Arrernte – who are still around, active and anxious that their old languages be properly retained, especially in written form. These scholars should be paid the academic tribute of “Professorship” along with appropriate salaries and facilities. Otherwise we will follow the path of other regions in Australia, where around 300 traditional languages have gone forever. The spoken word is not enough.


Experience Aboriginal culture in the heart of the CBD
This is great news. There is urgency to enable the fluent speakers of the local First Australian languages to pass on their knowledge in this way, but additionally to be financed to “write down” their once “unwritten” languages, thereby enabling formal study for all.
In Victoria, huge sums of guilt-stricken government money is being allocated to the “rehabilitation” of old languages that sadly, are beyond revival: It’s not good enough to recognise that Grandma still remembers the word for “kangaroo”.
We have fluent speakers of total languages here in Central Australia; languages that are profound and vital to a proper understanding of the heritage and inheritance available to all residents, regardless of our colour and background.
Particularly among old Arrernte women we have generous teachers happy to run appropriate programs.
Let the government rank these teachers as at least equivalent to the fossils.
But we are running out of time.


Problem drinkers to be banned again, bottlo cops to stay
I am informed that one of the major benefits accruing from the BDR is the opportunity for non-drinkers and others subject to “humbugging” to have their names placed voluntarily on the register.
They cannot then be pressured by the real problem drinkers.
I suggest the government mount a campaign to encourage such processes.
The reason why alcohol is such a problem for First Australians is that they are subject to age-old traditions of kinship.
This was an admirable system in olden times, but needs modification to cater for the introduced complexities of western society.


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