What do "blacks" and "missions" refer to in this context about Australia?

17

From the movie Tracks:

Robyn: Would you mind not taking pictures?

Rick: A man has to do his job.

Robyn: That's exactly the reason blacks were dumped in missions... men just doing their job.

It seems coming out of nowhere. The film is set in the Australian Outback, so I am not sure what missions and what blacks she is talking about.

Eddie Kal

Posted 2018-04-09T13:03:22.790

Reputation: 15 761

4https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stolen_Generations "Official government estimates are that between one in ten and one in three indigenous Australian children were forcibly taken from their families and communities between 1910 and 1970..." – ceejayoz – 2018-04-09T21:53:45.077

Answers

31

Blacks in (increasingly, non-PC) Australian means [native] aborigines. Robyn is saying that the natives were dumped = (hastily / carelessly) moved / relocated to (charitable, church-sponsored) missions by (white) people who thought they were "just doing their job" (looking after and bringing civilisation to those natives).

As most people would now agree, that policy didn't work out too well. But to the average Australian today, that cynical reference to a failed historical policy doesn't exactly "come out of nowhere". For many, it's something they're very consciously aware of in any context involving aboriginals (it's not exactly the Holocaust, but as a nation, Australia isn't too comfortable with what they did).

I haven't seen the movie, but a quick glance at the subtitles implies the immediately-preceding context involves aboriginals. So the cynical reference to that particular example of the problems caused by people "just doing their jobs" would be completely natural and contextually relevant.

FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica

Posted 2018-04-09T13:03:22.790

Reputation: 52 587

1I think today it is preferred to use Aboriginal Australians or Aboriginal People, and (to include Torres Strait Islanders) Indigenous Australians. – Bent – 2018-04-10T13:24:50.280

It's all a bit of a terminological / sociological minefield. For the noun usage, I only actually wrote *aborigines* once in my answer text. That was the word I grew up learning to use 50-60 years ago, but I sense that the "adjective used as noun" form *aboriginals* is somehow slightly less "tainted", so I switched to that afterwards... – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2018-04-11T13:45:27.617

... see this NGram showing how that earlier form has declined over my lifetime. Western civilisation did pretty much trample all over the indigenous Australians (I don't think they've survived the cultural invasion as well as, say, native Hawaiians). But they gave us Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2018-04-11T13:56:41.573

Talking of the Holocaust, "just doing their job" seems rather reminiscent of the "Nuremberg defence" of "just following orders". – Andrew Grimm – 2018-05-04T03:06:05.183

@Andrew: For ethical reasons we've never meaningfully followed up on the Milgram experiment, but it's worth noting that Wikipedia says there: Milgram devised his psychological study to answer the popular contemporary question: "Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Personally I think a lot of people are simply deluding themselves when they say I'd never do bad things like that. They mostly would - it's just that so far we don't really have any way of proving that.

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2018-05-04T13:34:10.823

@FumbleFingers some guidance on language (from an Aussie): "Aborigine" [and note, always capitalised, it's a proper noun] is a term closely aligned with a former government policy labelled by the Human Rights Commission as cultural genocide. It is deprecated (in both senses: disapproved of, and obsolete) and should not be used, as some find it highly offensive (similar to "Negro"). As you point out, the issue of terminology is indeed a minefield - and it's typical to seek local guidance when trying to navigate one ;-) At the very least, can I urge you to edit your answer to replace... – Chappo Hasn't Forgotten Monica – 2018-11-01T01:11:31.980

... "aborigines" with [preferably] "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people" or "Indigenous Australians". Similarly, each use of "aboriginal" should be replaced by "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander". Equivalently, "aboriginals" = "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people". It's vitally important that we're respectful of deeply sensitive cultural issues, especially when commenting as an outsider. :-) – Chappo Hasn't Forgotten Monica – 2018-11-01T01:22:30.287