Opinion: Aboriginal initiatives met with silence
"Maybe I'm hoping for too much. But it is the time of year for fresh resolutions. Twice in the past week senior federal government ministers have given interviews to this paper signalling bold indigenous initiatives in what - in more politically overheated times - used to be called "practical reconciliation". And they've been greeted with, of all things, polite silence.

Nobody, it seems, bellowed with self-righteous outrage, or assumed the self-bestowed mantle of protector of Australia's first peoples, or intoned feelingly on the destruction of Aboriginal spirituality by policy philistines, or blustered, lawyer-like, about human rights, or uttered dark threats about taking the Government to the UN. Perhaps, just perhaps, with the great emotional orgy of Howard-hating out of the way and a conscience-salving public apology at last on the record, we have gone through a kind of sea change in our public argument on Aboriginal matters.

A week ago Julia Gillard proposed to tie increased funding for remote schools to demonstrated improvements in Aboriginal literacy. Until recently this would have been denounced as bureaucratic meddling and an affront to teachers everywhere.

Then, at the end of last week, Jenny Macklin promised to pressure indigenous local administrations towards breaking up communal land into individual lease-holdings, so that Aboriginal families too can have some solid personal stake in the world.

Even a year ago this would have been described in some quarters as the destruction of Aborigines' innate spiritual relationship to their land. Uniting Church ministers would have uttered mournful laments. The Australian Medical Association would have issued boycotts. But now only sweet, undogmatic silence, tinged, perhaps, with just the faintest hue of self-embarrassment."

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