#1 – “Because A White Man’ll Never Do It” – a series of extracts and quotes from Kevin Gilbert’s tour de force.

“The only answer is to give them back their land rights and let the Aborigine try and rectify what the white man has done because a white man will never do it.”

I’ve been really torn reading this book. There’s a lot of history and personal stories recorded therein that are like a raging fire close to your face as Kevin Gilbert reveals the experiences of black Australians. You can feel the heat of injustice done to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and the smell of burnt human spirit is overpowering. Thankfully, you can also see the glow of healing fire, as exhilarating and motivating as the distant sight of camp fire light near the end of a difficult walk.

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I’ve decided, in line with the Trek, that I’ll put extracts/quotes from the book up here occasionally, so you guys following the Trek/my blog can reflect on social issues and injustices that have and continue to glare at blackfellas, as well as reflecting on what the way forward might be. That’s the idea of the Trek after all, awareness, seeing if we can get a few more people to “give a damn about the Aboriginal question”. Unfortunately, despite this book being 40 years old, it is still painfully relevant

“Australia, despite a common Aboriginal jibe, is not a downunder South Africa, however much of it may have gone in for segregation in its past history. With the exception of Queensland, labelled as Australia’s ‘deep north’, Australian racism is not so institutionalised, so organised as South Africa’s. This is the general situation even though examples contradicting this view are not hard to find in our recent history and even up to today. Of course, the only reason why Australian racism is not like that in South Africa is because here blacks are not numerous enough of a threat to warrant it. Where ‘apartheid’ conditions prevail, they have been instituted to suit white convenience rather than fear [I wonder what Gilbert would have said regarding the media and public reaction to the success of the Mabo case. That was completely fear driven about Indigenous Australia, that “not numerous enough of a threat”]. Whites’ convenience, apathy, ‘I’m alright Jack’ and a feeling of ‘let the government do it’ have for many years been the reaction of white Australians to revelations of black suffering in this country. As Gerry Bostock put it:

‘The voting public don’t give a damn about the Aboriginal question. They don’t give a damn about black babies dying. Don’t even give a damn about their own people and pensioners dying. They’re only worries about their consumption of alcohol at the pub, talk of sex, and who’s going to win the Melbourne Cup. Sport, sex, and piss.'”

“All human beings discriminate between various levels of human behaviour and categorise them as something to which they aspire or as something which they condemn. By this process personal standards are formed. But racist discrimination tends to ascribe to a whole group the patterns of behaviour that can be observed amongst the lowest individuals within that group. In short, it ceases to discriminate, and becomes mere prejudice.”

Kevin Gilbert was born in 1933 to the Wiradjuri nation in Central New South Wales. Imprisoned for the accidental killing of his wife, he spent his sentence educating himself, becoming a skilled writer and thinker. After his release he was a strong advocate and voice for his people, known for his poetry, political thinking, and making the stories of Aboriginal people and the apartheid-like conditions in Australia known. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Tent Embassy in 1972 and ensuring its continuing existence. Kevin wrote Because A White Man’ll Never Do It in 1973. He died in 1993 aged fifty-nine.

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