UNWELCOME: Janelle Brown writes maintaining respect and protocols are a hugely important part of Aboriginal culture.
UNWELCOME: Janelle Brown writes maintaining respect and protocols are a hugely important part of Aboriginal culture. Contributed

Jacinta Price isn't welcome says indigenous community

THIS week I want readers to imagine an alternative reality where the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau decided he knew how to fix all the problems in Australia. He knew how to do this, because Canada has similar problems so he knew all about the solutions. Never mind that he has never successfully implemented any of these solutions in his own country.

Anyway because of his "immense knowledge”, he decides to do Australia a favour by undertaking a speaking tour of our major cities, charging people to hear his opinions. However his target audience isn't our politicians and other leaders or even the every day Aussie - because most of them don't actually agree with his views. His talks are aimed at the multinational companies and the overseas companies with vested interests in Australia. But it's okay, Aussies are allowed to attend too, after all his talks are open for anyone to attend.

In this alternative reality, as with this reality, when Government leaders or representatives from another country visit Australia, there is a protocol they are expected to follow. Contact is made with our government beforehand and the purpose of the visit explained.

But P.M. Trudeau decides "Nah, I'm not gonna worry about that protocol nonsense. I've got the correct visa and my passport; that's all I need. I don't need to let the Australian government know what I'm doing. I can do what I please. Australia is a free country after all. Oh and don't forget I can say these things about Australia as it is a Commonwealth country just like Canada - we're all the citizens of the Commonwealth”.

Naturally our Prime Minister and most Australians are quite upset at his attitude, which they see as disrespectful and condescending. He is seen to be undermining Australia's interests and pandering to the interest of those outside the Australian community. The Australian press too, are having a field day. How dare he?

So remember this is an alternative reality. In this reality, Prime Minister Trudeau is quite possibly a decent person and to be honest I don't know much about him or Canadian politics. But I'm sure he would not ever dream of doing something like that. I mean this is such an outlandish scenario for anyone to consider, or is it?

Gumbaynggirr group showcasing their culture in Coffs Harbour. The Indigenous community have stood up to controversial Aboriginal spokesperson Jacinta Price with the backing of Coffs Harbour City Council.
Gumbaynggirr group showcasing their culture in Coffs Harbour. The Indigenous community have stood up to controversial Aboriginal spokesperson Jacinta Price with the backing of Coffs Harbour City Council. Jasmine Minhas

Apparently not, Jacinta Price a Warlpiri woman from the Northern Territory has done exactly that, by her current speaking tour, where she is travelling through many different Australian indigenous nation's traditional lands, charging people to hear her solutions to all the problems Indigenous people face.

In Aboriginal communities protocol and respect is utmost. It is considered extremely disrespectful for an Aboriginal person to come onto someone else's country and conduct "Indigenous business” without at least consulting the local Aboriginal community. This is exactly what happened when Ms Price visited Coffs Harbour in Gumbaynggirr country recently, as part of her speaking tour.

Obviously it's considered even worse form if, after an Aboriginal community has made it abundantly clear that they don't want you to conduct your business on their traditional land, you just ignore their request, and still do your thing. This too, is what happened in Coffs.

Coffs Harbour Council to its credit, supported the Aboriginal community's position on this issue. A Council representative advised "In keeping with council's commitment to the traditional and customary protocols of our Indigenous community members, council suggested to Ms Price's representatives that she seek permission from the local Gumbaynggirr Aboriginal community to come onto country,” it said.

However, the Council and the Gumbaynggirr community faced heavy criticism from the press for their stance. Headlines read "Left shameful over Price” and "Shut down of Jacinta Price Left's laughable hypocrisy”.

Yes we can speak freely in Australia and everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, with rights come responsibilities particularly if you set yourself up as a "spokesperson or leader " of your people. In Aboriginal communities one of those chief responsibilities is to maintain respect and to follow protocols.

So like the Justin Trudeau scenario, protocol and respect is everything. Just because you have the rights of freedom of speech doesn't necessarily make it acceptable to air your views without considering and consulting those, who you are making those views about.

In any case, the Aboriginal community of Coffs Harbour do not need anyone, to point out its issues. They have been quietly working away for some time to improve the lives of the members. They have well established services such as Kulai Preschool and Galambila Aboriginal Service as well as new programs such as the reintroduction of the Gumbaynggirr language. They're doing well.

Giinagay Jinggiwahla ("hello” in our first nation languages) is a weekly column covering the Indigenous communities of the Clarence Valley exploring a variety of toipcs, opinions and events across our first nation areas Bundjalung, Yaegl and Gumbaynggirr.



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