Native in Her Mind; Dump the Monarchy, Fly the Aboriginal Flag ... Could a New Australia Emerge from Its Tortured Colonial Past?

The Evening Standard (London, England), July 19, 2004 | Go to article overview

Native in Her Mind; Dump the Monarchy, Fly the Aboriginal Flag ... Could a New Australia Emerge from Its Tortured Colonial Past?


Byline: PETER TATCHELL

Whitefella Jump Up: The Shortest Way to Nationhood by Germaine Greer

(Profile Books, [pounds sterling]7.99)

AUSTRALIA will never achieve political maturity unless and until it recognises its ineradicable Aboriginality." This is the challenging, feisty thesis advanced by my antipodean compatriot, Germaine Greer, in her new book, Whitefella Jump Up. By "jump up" she means resurrection or rebirth, whereby Australians of European descent ditch their tortured colonialist legacy and materialist greed in favour of the cooperative, atone-with-nature ethic of the continent's first inhabitants, the Aboriginal peoples.

Greer proposes a huge leap of collective imagination. In her view, Aboriginality is a state of mind, not a biological given. Inclusive rather than exclusive, it offers a universal and redemptive way of relating to the natural environment and to other people.

Transcending blood and race, political Aboriginality is an identity revolving around place and purpose. Rejecting the idea of Aboriginality as a fixed ethnicity, Greer redefines it as something more akin to nationality - open to anyone who embraces the values of the indigenous population. These values include, most importantly, stewardship of the land for the benefit of all Australians and future generations.

Greer wants a reinvented society - an Aboriginal republic - drawing on the first inhabitants' "hunter-gatherer" ethos of solidarity, egalitarianism, and sustainability: the collective nurturing of the life-giving environment on which all humanity depends for its survival. It isn't as nutty as it first sounds.

Whatever her shortcomings, Greer is on to something big. As well as helping promote racial reconciliation and overcome Australia's chronic inferiority complex, embracing Aboriginal values may well be the key to remedying the ecological catastrophe that has befallen Australia in the two centuries of white occupation.

The arrogant imposition of European crops and livestock onto a fragile ecosystem has led to deforestation, salination, erosion, desertification and species extinction on a massive scale.

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