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If there is an us-and-themness to this story, which rudely assumes the reader is non-Aboriginal, I apologise, but as a white man I cannot do other than stand on the outside and look in. Nor do I seek to sign up to the growing white Australian sport of claiming a Warlpiri, Pintupi, Pitjantjatjara or Noongar great-grandmother in my heritage. None exists.

Besides, Aborigines are used to being talked about rather than talked to, are they not? Perhaps this is something I picked up from the previous PM, who always seemed so disconnected from and baffled by Aborigines. He could only talk of "them," whereas he found it easier to gather up the great white suburban clans close to his breast and talk of "us."

I also try to avoid using the term "full-blood" and refer to the Aborigines who are the direct target of the federal government's emergency intervention as "bush" or "tribal" or "remote-area" or "town-camp" Aborigines. The term full-blood, regarded by some as pejorative, is still in wide circulation, particularly among full-blood Aborigines themselves. Part-Aborigines take umbrage at it, and indeed at the term part-Aboriginal. They believe no distinction should be drawn between degrees of Aboriginality. It is one of the wounds of the stolen generations, of being the in-between people, not quite accepted by full-bloods or full-whites. And if such people have grown up with whites calling them coons or boongs or niggers or blacks, I understand why they would wish to identify as straight Aboriginal ahead of the non-Aboriginal parts of their make-up.

Around the nation, as well, there has been a creep back to our grandparents' style of using "Aboriginal" as a noun. The West Australian newspaper, I've noticed, has taken to talking of "an Aboriginal" or "a group of Aboriginals." I prefer "Aboriginal" used as an adjective.

A final point: I have been told that I ought not use the term "Aborigine" or "Aborigines" in a freestanding way: out of politeness, I should instead refer to an "Aboriginal person" or to "Aboriginal people." I don't agree. An Aborigine is, by any reasonable modern definition, a person.
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Title Annotation:aborigines
Author:Toohey, Paul
Publication:Quarterly Essay
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jun 1, 2008
Next Article:The impact of the Northern Territory intervention.

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