The Karmic Challenge: Week 26: Feeling Welcome

THE CHALLENGE. A man (Captain Savage, who is STILL attending to his beautiful children and countless mistresses!).  A woman (Rose). A quest. To earn enough karmic points by Christmas to be reincarnated as Something Nice.  Like…a Community Worker!  Here is a typical example of the species, just to give you an idea of how very, very, VERY nice they are!


DO YOU FEEL WELCOME, in your country?

However welcome YOU feel, I bet it’s nowhere NEAR as welcome as I feel.  Because I’ve just returned from a conference for non-profits, and like most participants in Australian events of a politically correct flavour (and don’t think I’m knocking it) I’ve been comprehensively welcomed to my country by the traditional owners of the land on which I sat having coffee.

Which is polite of them, but it’s a tiny bit like ‘welcoming’ the guy who climbs in your kitchen window and takes up residence in your bedroom while you sleep on the couch (ie, you might as well).  In any case, in return, not only the convenor, but each speaker in every last session of the conference, acknowledged that we were meeting on what used to be somebody else’s patch, and if any indigenous elders were present, even in spirit, thank you very much for the pleasure.

I guess it reminds us all that roughly 200 years ago ‘we’ invaded this place, killed a lot of the incumbents, took many of their kids away, and introduced them to the Demons drink, glue, and fast food.   In return we gave them the industrial age.  In fact, much like what happened to the American Indians, Saxon English, pre-Dorian Greeks, non-Islamic Africa and..the list goes on.  Nowadays well-mannered nations don’t (overtly, usually) do that kind of thing.  But just when are we allowed to start feeling at home? When being ‘indigenous’ doesn’t affect your destiny one way or another? Or when we forget who got here first, as I guess, ten centuries after conquest, the Saxons have?  Let’s aim for both, as far as I’m concerned.

Anyway if you want a congregation of the (occasional unctuously) virtuous, try the community sector in which I now work.  There are people helping the old, the jailed, the disabled, the mad, the drunk, the multi-coloured, the homeless, and those who have a home but went for a stroll and now can’t remember where it is.  So I reckon just by BEING a member of this glorious company, I should get points (plus I networked my head off and didn’t let off a squeak even when speaker after speaker seemed to assume he knew my political views better than I did myself).

ANYWAY – not one of us deserved as many points as Dr Sam, the abundantly stubbled physician and owner of Zambrero Mexican Restaurant Chain.  At 21 Dr Sam decided he wanted to be a doctor AND own a restaurant chain.  Not very much later, he was and did, and with the resultant moolah, went off to the third world and set up various aid projects.  Bored and with too much time on his hands, he then decided to found the One Disease at a Time foundation, and in four years apparently cut the rate of scabies in Australian indigenous communities by half (or something like that, figures aren’t my strong point).

Well, just, wow (and yum)! But apart from all that, the guy’s an amazing speaker and very funny, direct, and honest.  The first thing he learnt when delivering aid was, he said ‘all poor people aren’t good, and all rich people aren’t bad’.

Sitting in a circle of earnest, guilt-ridden community workers to discuss the topic of ‘how to ‘engage with’ indigenous Australians’, one woman railed against the patriarchy, and added that we had a lot to learn from our indigenous brothers and sisters on that subject.

Really?  Like, how to organise a really good one?  I think we already know that.

Disclaimer: I actually wish I knew more indigenous people. Maybe if I did I wouldn’t feel so sick of listening to people ‘acknowledging elders past and present’.  But you gotta understand, ‘shame’ doesn’t sell much except waterproof underwear, and even the Catholics let you offload your guilt at confession.  Ok: next challenge: go and spend time with someone indigenous.


  1. How many generations do you have to be there to be classified as indiginous? It’s not a matter of who was there first, but how to make the country work as a whole, and endlessly gooing over the evils/istakes of the past is not the most productive way forward. As the late Northern Ireland secretary Mo Mowlam said, we need to live with the past, not in it. Thoughtful post. Thanks and keep on plugging

    1. Well, we agree – but if I were to say something like that in an audience like that, or for that matter any middle class gathering, I’d be crucified for being racist. The indigenous Australians were here for upwards of 40,000 years, which is a very long time (although I think they originally came from somewhere else, as we all did). They suffer a lot of disadvantage as a result of colonisation and being a stone age culture overtaken by an industrial age one. But then again, they have the internet now! (no, I’m being disingenuous – but all cultures have their pluses and minuses and I’m not sure that many indigenous people really do want to live without ‘mod cons’ – in fact many of them have none and are pretty annoyed about it, as you would be).


  2. And the point tally for being a savior to all the downtrodden! One milliion points! I say you come back as a golden retriever! They are very nice, and they do community service! Yes, they are therapy dogs. They get to go to hospitals and take naps with children who have cancer and such. It is LOVELY! I would do that now, but i would be rushed to jail. Oh well. MEGA POINTS FOR dutiousness and forward looking ROSE! YEA … was wondering about our Captain. Been MIA he and me. xx

    1. Oh yeah, those dogs – well they don’t exactly choose to do it, but I bet they love it, snuggling up to kids, and I think it’s just lovely. Funny quip about the jail, Mel! Yes, CS has his kids down from up north this week, so he’s pretty pre-occupied.


      1. i’m too delicate to go to jail. really! The sobbing would keep the other inmates from much-needed rest. Lucky CS with his kiddies. He’s in heaven. Look forward to all his good deeds and loads of snapshots!

  3. Hats off to Dr. Sam. I think I may have even heard about him. That One Disease at a Time phrase sounds familiar. A long time ago I wanted to be one of those folks who do the Doctors Without Borders stints. And then I had kids and entered a different universe, and all that fell out of my line of vision. But I have such admiration for people who do these things. I support them with a check or two here or there, but that’s a drop in the bucket compared to their actions.

  4. As a teacher in another part of the world where the First Peoples were poorly treated, I’m familiar with the acknowledgements of being on traditional grounds. From my perspective, it’s a small thing when they have been so badly treated. I think there are many similarities between the experience of Austrailian Aborigines and the First Peoples of Canada and the US. What I find most encouraging here is the many young, dynamic First Nations leaders who are moving things forward in their communities in really positive ways. I don’t know whether that’s happening in Australia too.

    1. I don’t know either. I think there are many people in indigenous communities who work hard to try to improve the lot of their fellow indigenous people. ‘We’ that is, the bleeding hearts, the government, and I guess aboriginal people, have been talking about what to do about the issues for almost 50 years – and things just seem to get worse. I don’t (much) begrudge the symbolism, but it seems to take so much more than sympathy, and there has to be an understanding that a marketing message to mainstream Australia along the lines of ‘we did awful things, now we should feel permanently guilty’ is absolutely bound to backfire, regardless of the merits of the case. Recently the government restricted welfare payments to families whose kids didn’t attend school, issuing the equivalent of food stamps instead – there’s a huge outcry about this but the catalyst was a situation where some families (white and non-white) were letting their kids starve and stay home while welfare money went on drink. Yes there’s a background, yes there are reasons – but if it works, well, good. If it doesn’t work, let’s think of something else, but for god’s sake not waste too much time on pointless hand wringing. I prefer Dr Prince’s approach – tackle each problem one at a time, and respect people’s ownership of and responsibility for their own problems and solutions. Indigenous people are not little kids, to be humoured and patted on the head and deluged with white ‘helpers’. At least, so I think in my relative ignorance, but I could easily be misguided and I admit that.


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