Victorian Premier 'Big' Ted Baillieu announced this week that the 'Acknowledgement of Ownership' ceremony, acknowledging an area's traditional indigenous owners, would no longer be a compulsory part of Victorian Government functions.
The acknowledgment, first introduced by Labor Premier Steve Bracks and then made compulsory by Big Ted's predecessor, John Brumby, had been part of all Victorian Government functions since 2005.
At the time of making it compulsory, Brumby described the ceremony as a 'very positive' thing to do. A handful of local elders also gave the move their approval, indicating it was an 'inclusive' policy that showed 'respect' and 'courtesy.'
So you can see why we'd want to do away with something like that.
Positive? Bah! Inclusive? Courteous? What a load of shit! The State Liberal Government doesn't want to bother with any of that sort of nonsense, as it may distract them from their real business in this state; cutting services to working class suburbs and locking up as many people as possible.
After the announcement, Big Ted attempted to spell out exactly why he had made the change, by being as vague and elusive as possible. He cited only the fact that he felt that making the acknowledgment compulsory was 'too politically correct' and that his ministers had enough 'maturity' to decide for themselves when it was appropriate.
And he wasn't completely alone in this view.
Baillieu's political mentor and long term spruiker Jeff Kennett - another Liberal Premier with a scant regard for political correctness and a liking for hacking into services - immediately sprang to his protege's defence. Kennett said he agreed with the decision, on the grounds that forcing people to make the acknowledgment was 'disrespectful' to the local Indigenous population, as they would be doing it 'without any feeling.'
Which is an interesting way of looking at it, as it's basically Mr Kennett indicating he knows more about how Indigenous people feel about the situation then they do themselves:
INTERVIEWER: Indigenous leaders are angry about this change.
KENNETT: Nah, what they really think is...
And, as such, puts Kennett firmly in a well established local political tradition.
If the State Liberal Party had bothered to consult local Indigenous leadership, they would have found that they were, pretty strongly, in favour of keeping the acknowledgement. Joy Murphy, senior elder of Melbourne area Wurrundjeri tribe, said:
'They really wiped us off the map, so to speak, by not acknowledging traditional owners.'
So she obviously feels pretty strongly about it. It should also be noted that Murphy's 'Welcome to Country' video appears on the 'Visit Victoria' tourism website, indicating that the Government has not yet decided to forgo these ceremonies and acknowledgements when they can help them make some money.
Interviewed before the 'Dreamtime at the 'G' game on Saturday night, Michael Long, former champion Essendon footballer and instigator of 'The Long March' reconciliation walk that is a highlight evening, also expressed his unhappiness with the decision, saying he was 'bitterly disappointed':
'I'd like to ask the Premier what his values are,' Long said. 'Has he truly embraced Indigenous culture?'
To which we can supply the answers in advance. They being:
The timing of Big Ted's announcement, on the eve of the AFL's Indigenous Round in a football obsessed city, and a week before National Reconciliation Week, could scarcely have been worse and only added an additional note of total disrespect.
As Michael Long noted at the end of his comments:
'We still have a long way to go when we talk about some of these issues that effect this country.'