October 19, 2006
Serving the Hungry Mile
Here's Chris Graham, editor of the National Indigenous Times, commenting in today's Crikey about Paul Keating's reaction to the decision to name East Darling Harbour, known during the Depression as the Hungry Mile, after Barangaroo, the wife of Bennelong (particularly PK's crack that "if the NSW Government is having pangs of colonial conscience, it can support the Perth Aborigines against the Western Australian Government in the Noongar appeal. That would be useful rather than trivial."):
The former PM makes an excellent point. White Australia has a very nasty habit of embracing Aboriginal culture when it suits, then stomping all over it when it thinks there’s cash or land involved.
For a start, it’s grossly offensive to Aboriginal people to name someone who is deceased (which is why place names have almost always been based on Aboriginal words, not individuals). But given that the average blackfella spends as much time worshipping the memory of Bennelong and his wife as they do handing out how-to-vote cards for John Howard, it probably won’t offend too deeply.
Because, you see, to quote the Herald, Bennelong was "the Aborigine adopted by the first white settlers." In other words, he was a ‘jacky jacky’. A blackfella who gave aid and comfort to the enemy.
It’s no coincidence that the first black man to help the white invaders has been immortalised by that most odious of institutions, the Bennelong Society. And it’s ironic that his wife is now being immortalised by that other great western institution, the shopping mall.
It’s a very ‘white’ thing to honour Aboriginal culture with the name of someone who helped decimate it.