[Linux-aus] Acknowledgement of country

David Lloyd lloy0076 at adam.com.au
Thu Nov 5 13:20:09 AEDT 2015


Hi Russell,



Do you  mean:


1.       Acknowledgement of a country's indigenous people?

2.       Acknowledgement of a country's current people (who in Australia and
New Zealand arguably displaced the indigenous people with at least dubious
legality) and a welcome to those newcomers?

3.       A right-wing conservative acknowledgement of country?

4.       Something else entirely?


Disclaimer: I am only speaking on behalf of myself here - and to make this
clear, I am not speaking on behalf of LinuxSA or any other organisation I
happen to be a member of.


I believe there is a place for (1) in some circumstances. In my limited
experience, events run by progressive, left leaning organisations, those
affiliated with the ALP (1) or those closely associated with relevant
environmental protection tend to run with these types of openings. Within a
sensible context, they can make sense - for example, opening a national
local government conference with an Aboriginal welcome made and still makes
perfect sense; local governments are, indeed, custodians of the lands of
what could be argued one or more displaced peoples. However, having only the
opening, with no substance would have made little sense - an empty gesture
to say, "we acknowledge you but allowing you to welcome us at our [insert
event here]" is all we'll do. In that experience, though, I did get to learn
a lot about how the Aboriginal land rights acts and the various cases
actually aren't quite as "nice" to Aboriginal people as latte sipping left
city folk like to think.


Should some of the events that Linux Australia run or sponsor open with an
indigenous welcome? I think that's on a case by case basis. However, let's
take one of Linux Australia's major events - Linux.Conf.Au - and ponder if
it could be relevant. It is, by all means, a major event. There are
opportunities in the conference to support and welcome all types of peoples
and other causes, including those displaced. In 2004, for example, the
morning teas were provided by volunteers from one of Adelaide's most
well-known and effective homeless shelters; we donated money to the zoo and
to a children's foundation (whose name I forget); the proceeds for the
raffle at the Penguin Dinner went to ITShare SA Incorporated; I know,
because I pushed the organising committee on all of these except the
children's foundation.


It's not as though the current organiser of LinuxSA isn't averse to social
justice issues. He's known to be somewhat terse and were he a Terran from
StraCraft it would be absolutely certain he'd be a fire bat - if there's a
flame war, you can be sure he's lurking somewhere. But he also believes that
actions speak far louder than words.but words have the strength to encourage


Does opening a user group invite action to redress the problems of
indigenous people? I'll leave that up for discussion.


I fear that (2) and (3) could easily get muddled. Make people feel welcome
at our meetings and in Linux Australia's own events and sponsored events by
demonstrating that welcome. No matter the size of the event find a way such
that anyone who is a newcomer is welcomed and can participate in any
activities, discussions or - if they prefer, and some people do - to sit
back and observe in peace without being pressured to join in actively. In
small events or meetings this can be easily done by just one or two people.
In larger events this needs to be delegated to those who organise it but
also to those who regularly participate in it. In other words, make the
culture of the event if it is regular, or meeting if it is regular,
welcoming and make it known, gently, to all who come along that it's
everyone's job - not just the organisers - to keep and sustain that culture.


Is that culture sustained by an acknowledgement to country or welcome to
all? Maybe, but I'm not sure. In fact, despite we have a hideously colonial
second verse in our national anthem that declares we have room for those
who've come across the seas, it still seems the case that this is really
only true if you're a western, generally white person. Asians are welcome,
if they buy our land or they pay our universities. But one could hardly call
the Australian people's treatment of incoming refugees as a stellar example
of welcoming. I deliberately say the Australian people and not the
Australian Government because guess who you elect the Government to
represent? You. The Australian people.


In this case, a welcome to all to Australia could sound a little, well, odd.


However, I think what we can detect in what I've been saying, is that it's
more the doing, the acting, the giving and the work than the words. Yes,
words are important - especially when working with displaced peoples. Their
strength is unparalleled both to raise people up and bring people down. In
Tolkien's world, words were one of Saruman the Wise's strength and he kept
that strength even after he fell from power due to the action of the
fellowship and the ents. However, it is arguable that the humility of
Gandalf the Grey practised by actually doing, by his strong belief that it
took more than words but actions, support, love, care won the day out in
Tolkien's fantasy world.





(1)    I decline to call the current ALP left leaning or progressive;
they're centrist and used to demonstrate progressive concerns. These days,
their lofty platform of principles gets swallowed by the silly revolving
door of political back stabbing when in power rather than the old fashioned,
Whitlam-esque or even Hawke-ish version of "Let's lead by convincing the
people this is the right thing to do."

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