By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Indifferent Inclusion: Aboriginal People and the Australian Nation
By Russell McGregor (Aboriginal Studies Press, $39.95, softcover, 229 pages)
The complex relationship between Indigenous and settler Australians during the middle decades of the 20th century are coherently defined in this book that was on the 2012 Shortlist Australian History—Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.
Notable scholar in Aboriginal history, Russell McGregor explains the opinions and principles that pushed the multi-faceted quest for Aboriginal inclusion in the nation up to the early 1970s.
“Over that period, inclusives of Aboriginal people increased, but inclusion was hesitant, often grudging and always incomplete,” he writes. “Against their acceptance as members of the nation stood a formidable array of assumptions and prejudices.
Yet public attitudes shifted and exposition of those shifts takes my narrative beyond the narrowly political domain of parliaments, policies and protests.”
Indifferent Inclusion provides a forceful analysis of the impediments to the quest and its stumbling success.
McGregor offers an all-inclusive elucidation, combining the standpoints of social, political and cultural history.
Looking to provide a wider canvas, this book explores the ways in which factors such as demonstrations of Aboriginal artistic talents and sporting prowess contributed to the acceptance of Aboriginal people into the national community.
He challenges existing scholarship and assumptions, particularly around assimilation.
The consistent narrative is about the “transformation of the Australian nation as it made faltering steps to come to grips with the endurance of the Indigenous people and as Indigenous people themselves strove to secure a place within the nation”.
While the traced legacy is indistinct, one hopes that the light shed by this book on the tentative steps of the past will encourage more honesty in the future.
Edition 406, 22 April 2014
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.