Dr Howard Goldenberg is a GP who has worked extensively in regional rural Australia with indiginous communities. He has recently published a book about some of his experiences. With great emotion and clarity, Dr Goldenberg talks about the social issues and raises an awareness of the shortcoming of Australian society in terms of managing the cultural needs and living standards of the Aboriginal population.
Yesterday Dr Goldenberg spoke at the Sudah Shlishit of Dianella Shule. He will talk again this evening at the Carmel School library (Senior School). If you have the opportunity to attend this address, it is one not to be missed. Raising a consciousness of the front line situation with respect to the care of Australian indigenous communities in the outback is an issue that we should be very conscious of, and one that we should be informed about.
Having also had the experience of working professionally with Aboriginal communities in remote locations, there is a lot I could say about this topic. I do not think the political interventions and the media simplification of what is required to solve some of the alcohol abuse, violence, health, and wellbeing issues that blight these communities are as clear cut as we would assume them to be.
The Aboriginal culture is not one that is compatible with urban living. It is the visual world, the relationship of the land and environment, and the quality of sound that guides the thought processes and satisfaction of indigenous communities. Their culture is one of sight, of immediacy, of natural elements. To impose a rules based society and even a set of economic norms on isolated Aboriginal communities is enough to destroy their culture within itself. We should not be trying to change Aboriginal society, but we should be trying to guide their leaders towards controlling the social norms of their communities. When it comes to alcohol and domestic violence, we have to help Aboriginal communities to develop their own solutions, as opposed to imposing our own. It is only the shame of their own family members that will lead to remorse and rehabilitation.
Recently the UN provided Australia with a scathing report card on its well intentioned, but draconian measures to assist Aboriginal communities. A quick trip to the far north of WA will show that in some places the problems have been shifted, not resolved.
It is wonderful that Jewish community leaders, people such as Dr Goldenberg, Mark Leibler, and other prominent activists from the Jewish community are prepared to involve themselves at the front end of servicing Aboriginal communities and supporting efforts to improve their quality of life.
I urge you to read Dr Goldenberg’s book, and if you are able, to hear him talk in person about his experiences and reflections on being Australian.