During last nights peak hour at North Sydney a middle aged fella requested I take him out to Concord Hospital, in the western suburbs. ‘No worries’, I exclaimed, ‘anything to get away from this City traffic’. The joint had gone into gridlock ahead of the big boxing match at Moore Park.
‘So you going to visit someone or to work ?’, I asked him. ‘I have a meeting there tonight’, he replied. ‘Do you work in the health industry ?’. ‘Yes’, he said, ‘I’m a doctor with an aboriginal health service’. Talk about coincidences.
My passenger had just flown in from Kempsey, one of the largest aboriginal populations in the State. ‘I’m here for two days of conferences’, he explained. ‘It’s a regular event with my counterparts from around the State. Unfortunately this meeting tonight is something which arose at the last minute, as I was planning to see a movie tonight’.
He was born in Syria and come to Australia twenty-five years ago to work with the Fred Hollows Foundation. After a stint in Redfern he moved around western NSW ministering to the aboriginal communities.
‘Mate, compared to your homeland’, I suggested, ‘it must have felt like another planet out west’. ‘Sure did’, he agreed, ‘and it was pretty lonely too. Finally I took a position in Kempsey and I just love it up there’.
The heavy traffic gave us plenty of time to explore the crisis within aboriginal Australia. Initially he used standard leftie rhetoric to suggest the Howard Government had failed aborigines - not enough money and resources; the dissolution of ASTIC; reconciliation.
Yet he quickly realised I was up to speed with aboriginal politics after I gently countered some of his claims. Thereafter we danced around the contentious issue of physical and sexual abuse with enough mutual respect to avoid a confrontation.
For he knew as well as I that if anyone was cognisant of the plight of aboriginal women and children it would be a dedicated health officer such as himself. He was an softly spoken and intelligent bloke and I felt it would’ve been impertinent to challenge him on sensitive issues such as,
Community organisations say a culture of silence is fostering the problem, with claims health workers are often discouraged from reporting cases of abuse.
It’s obvious that those working in the aboriginal support industry are overwhelmed by these problems and how to solve them. Undoubtedly they witness on a daily basis the consequences of ‘black on black’ crime, yet often adopt politically-correct notions of 'cultural sensitivity' to justify and excuse the violence.
They know all right, but as individuals what can they do short of bucking the reigning orthodoxy, which would amount to professional suicide ?
In the end, my passenger and I found common ground on two issues. Namely the general lack of interest from commercial media in positive aboriginal affairs and, the lamentable lack of senior aboriginal role models for their community. They need more Mundines to remind the media and authorities of the ongoing aboriginal catastrophe.