A former indigenous politician who received a prestigious award from Barack Obama has described Aboriginal ‘welcome to country’ ceremonies as ‘bulls***’.
Bess Price slammed indigenous symbolism as Aboriginal women in remote communities continued to suffer higher rates of domestic violence.
She argued that gestures to improve the self-esteem of first Australians did nothing to address the dire living standards of women in remote Aboriginal communities, where alcohol abuse and poverty were rife.
‘No wonder we Aboriginal people can’t get ahead. No wonder Aboriginal women experience the highest level of violence against us,’ the former Northern Territory government minister told her Facebook followers from Alice Springs this week.
‘All the “Welcome to Country”, all the “Smoking Ceremonies” and all the made up bulls*** rituals about “pay our respects to elders past and present” is just one big lie.
‘Shame shame shame.’
The Walpiri woman received a prestigious U.S. International Women’s Courage Award from former U.S. President Barack Obama in 2012 for her work tackling domestic violence.
She re-entered the public spotlight as her daughter Jacinta Price was attacked this week for campaigning to keep Australia Day on January 26.
Ms Scrymgour, a former deputy chief minister of the Northern Territory, described Jacinta Price as a ‘dud’ on Facebook who ‘our mob can see through’.
‘The hate that has been directed at my daughter for having a different opinion to those who want to remain in their victimhood mentality is disgusting and I’m appalled,’ Bess Price said.
‘There is a dark side that has come to surface and Australia is now witnessing this up close.’
Jacinta Price, an Alice Springs town councillor, had this month joined former federal Labor leader Mark Latham as part of a ‘Save the Date’ campaign to maintain the national day where it is.
Her involvement in TV and radio ads came as the Greens described the upcoming 230nd anniversary of the First Fleet landing in Sydney Harbour as a day of ‘genocide’.
Jacinta Price had been targeted by online trolls, who had wished her a ‘painful death’, and left-wing indigenous activists who accused her of selling out indigenous people.
WHAT IS A SMOKING CEREMONY?
A smoking ceremony is an ancient, indigenous custom where native leaves are burnt as part of a cleansing ritual to ward off bad spirits.
They also symbolise the strong connection Aboriginal people have with their land over more than 60,000 years, however critics say the ceremony is in danger of looking forced if it is done too often.
Smoking ceremonies are conducted by indigenous elders at major events, including the opening of parliament after an election.
They are traditionally performed in indigenous culture at births, marriages and at separate men’s and women’s business.
They can also be part of a ‘welcome to country’, where recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders recognise their ancestors and welcome visitors to the traditional owner’s land.
But unlike New Zealand’s traditional Maori Haka at All Blacks games, speeches by Aboriginal elders aren’t as well meshed with the broader Australian culture.
The ‘welcome to country’ was adopted into Australia’s parliamentary protocols in 2008, after then prime minister Kevin Rudd delivered his apology to the stolen generation.
However, two years after that decision Aboriginal entertainer Ernie Dingo claimed that he invented the concept in 1976 when Pacific Island dancers demanded they receive a traditional welcome.
An ‘acknowledgement of country’ is when a speaker recognises the traditional ‘elders past and present’ of the land they are meeting on, and is often recited by civic figures and politicians at the beginning of speeches.
University of Adelaide anthropologist Peter Sutton is a critic of indigenous symbolic gestures as indigenous people continue to die 10 years earlier than non-Aboriginal Australians.
‘Too often, unhappily, these profoundly difficult questions are turned into a compassion contest,’ he told The Age in 2009.