Latte left-wingers out of touch with Aboriginal needs, activist says

Age - 16th April, 2001
Author: Margaret Simons

Left-wingers who see themselves as the defenders of Aborigines often do not know what they are talking about, and their attitudes are not supported by the facts, according to leading Aboriginal activist Marcia Langton .

In a scorching attack Professor Langton said she had abandoned any hope that the left could provide Aboriginal people with useful support.

`The left has a romantic set of universal values, such as solidarity and brotherhood, but outside the urban Western cafe society, where ideas have few consequences, these concepts disappoint. "They let people down," Professor Langton said.

An Aboriginal Foundation Professor of Australian Indigenous Studies at Melbourne University, Professor Langton made the comments in an article in the autumn issue of Overland magazine.

She said the left had "minimal impact" on the problems of Aboriginal people, because its members "rarely stray beyond the comfort of the cities". Aboriginal people living in rural Australia could have more points of connection with Pauline Hanson's supporters than with city-based leftists.

"Aborigines and remote area graziers have one thing in common that no one can take away from us - poverty. Australia's urban left has no purchase on this problem," she said.

She wrote that while the left viewed itself as the defenders of Aborigines, "most major advances in land rights and native title have been achieved by the efforts of extraordinary individuals in the legal profession, who have been conventional social democrats or conservatives". Land rights,supported by the left, had not conflicted with white labor's interests - perhaps because of romantic notions of Aboriginal hunters turned stockmen.