Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I’m sorry, even a nanny state can’t do it all

Australia’s indigenous population faces many challenges. Some of these are disadvantages created through systematic government policy over many decades, including dispossession, genocide, and removal of children. Others are a result of the choices of indigenous people, in response to “white culture” and to traditional practices. In recent years there has been a revival of concern about past abuses. This culminated in an apology to indigenous Australians.

Indigenous people, sampled as a group, are likely to live 17 years less than other Australians. This has been called a “national shame”. Christopher Pearson’s article in The Weekend Australian, “Nanny’s unhealthy regard”, slams this idea. Pearson rightly points out that smoking, alcohol abuse, and poor nutrition are matters of personal choice.

“The first thing to note is that these are all matters of individual choice rather than anything that could remotely be considered an occasion of national disgrace.

“In a pluralist society, the nanny state can deplore people’s lifestyle choices but Aborigines are as entitled as the white proletariat to tell nanny to mind her own business.”

Australians are right to be ashamed of the actions of some of their ancestors. At times with good motives, at times with evil ones, many settlers and government officials of the past abused the indigenous people of Australia. Responsibility must be taken. At the same time, modern Australians must be realistic about the contribution that the choices of indigenous people make to their disadvantage. I’m sorry, but the nanny state can’t make up for that.


  1. No the government cannot force anything, but perhaps it is more about a changing of attitudes on all sides?

    I think he's wrong in that I don't know that it's always personal choice involved in poor nutrition and alcoholism.

    There is something about human pride (in a good sense) being shown that perhaps is good for us to acknowledge in that it might just point us back to understanding that they are humans who would like some dignity without it being offered in 'white' forms as if their culture is severely lacking something.

    (and I totally recognise that I might've missed the point :P too tired after sitting on busses for hours and hours to get home in Melbourne's freak wind)

  2. Hello Rebecca,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic which is so important for Australia.

    I agree that attitudes do need to change on both sides. We are all sinful. That is really why I liked what Pearson had to say. His comments point to the fact that the government can never make up for the sinful choices of particular people groups and individuals, whether those people are white or brown. Change starts in the heart.

    God bless!

    We had freak wind too . . . it was a bit scary and blew lots of things out of their places!