Problems and Solutions
Chapter 12

Over lunch Patrick’s actions were clarified: he would communicate with the Minister as soon as possible and let Roy know the tenor of the conversation. He would then talk to the Council and to the group in the west. If necessary, Patrick would travel west, but his role was as a mediator, not an adjudicator.

“Always a middle-man,” he sighed.

“Better than either the hunter or the prey.” A chuckle ran around the table.

“I will call the Minister in the morning.”

“Not this afternoon?”

“The Legislature meets from noon on. A Wednesday afternoon is unlikely to find a minister. A Thursday morning is a likely time for a legislator to be in his or her office.”

“Excellent. Knowing when the wallaby drinks enables the hunter.” Patrick made certain that everyone had one of his cards.

“One last question.”

“Yes?”

“The school. What is the relation of the mob to the Menindee Central School?”

“I do not know. The town has under a thousand residents. The school has just over 100 students. 65% of the students are aboriginal. My guess would be that all the mob are graduates or drop-outs.”

“Thank you. I will phone soon.”

When he got home, Patrick looked at the NSW Public Schools site. One of his fears was realized: there were NSW Public Schools brochures in English, Arabic, Bosnian, Chinese, Croatian, Farsi, Indonesian, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Macedonian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Samoan, Serbian, Somali, Spanish, Thai, Tongan, Turkish, and Vietnamese. But none in any aboriginal language. The Creative Spirits site said there were 150 still spoken, but only 13 that weren’t “endangered.”

Back in 2010, when he was Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Paul Lynch had set up some grants to “revitalise” NSW aboriginal languages. Did they still exist? Did the Education ministry ever talk to Aboriginal Affairs? And why was Early Childhood Education separate from Education?

Koori, Goorie, Koorie, Coorie, Murri were the NSW language groups. Were some of those just alternate spellings? Patrick didn’t know. [According to Michael Walsh, Koori (NSW and Victoria) and Murri (Queensland) are the local words for ‘man’ or ‘person’.]

He was still net-hopping when Rachel arrived.

“Anything new,” she asked.

“Not much. They’ll get in touch with me and I’m going to get in touch with the Minister. But it’s definitely a weird situation. Can I ask you a question?”

“You just did.”

“Ha-ha. OK. Mitchell is Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and for Early Childhood Education and Rob Stokes is Minister for Education. Why are they separate?”

“I have no idea. In Western Australia everything’s divided differently.”

“Well, that’s what I recalled, too. Moreover, can you explain why New South seems to ignore the various aboriginal languages?” Patrick read the list of languages in which educational materials were available from his screen. “Why no aboriginal language at all?”

“No idea. But try not to get enraged. It won’t do any good. Let me pose a question for you. I looked at a brief book on art history by Dana Arnold and I don’t know what she thinks. She says: ‘When we look at a painting or sculpture, we often ask the following questions: who made it?; what is the subject?; when was it completed?’ I don’t think I ask those until later.

“She seems to believe that art history is how artworks make us feel. But, I think my first question is ‘Do I like this?’ Both Plato and Aristotle say that the basis of art is imitation. Plato seems to say that the artist is trying to imitate the ideal. To Aristotle, art is the realization in external form of a true idea, and is traced back to that natural love of imitation which characterizes humans, and to the pleasure which we feel in recognizing likenesses. Art, however, is not limited to mere copying.”

“OK.”

“So. Dupain, then, must be a Platonist. For a photographic image must be closer to that which it reflects. But what is Williams? Are his paintings not art because they aren’t imitations of ideals, aren’t likenesses?”

“That is interesting. First, I think Plato is silly. I think his view of many things exemplifying an ideal, a Form, is just playing with definitions. Despite what he says, ‘beauty’ doesn’t exist outside of things that are beautiful, anymore than ‘red’ has a reality outside of things that are red. Aristotle rejected that. He said that it was no more possible for universals to exist without particulars than for particulars to exist without universals.

“But Plato never set himself up as an art critic; and Aristotle seems to confine himself to poetry and theatre. Don’t fret. Just ignore whats-her-name.”

“Right. And you ignore the Noongar settlement.”

“Not quite the same. Your advisor has certainly never heard of her, and the odds are that none of your other readers will care; every lawyer and politician in Australia knows about the settlement.”

“OK. So what are you going to do?”

“At about ten tomorrow, I’ll phone Mrs. Mitchell. After that, I will have to remain flexible. Exactly what I do will depend on her.”

“Well, despite good intentions, neither of us did any shopping. We’ll have to go out for dinner.”

It was just past ten when Patrick phoned the Ministry. Madam Minister was “in conference,” but would return his call. It was nearly eleven when she did.

“I’m calling because another potential problem was brought to my attention yesterday.”

“Sigh. Where is it?”

“Menindee.”

“Near Broken Hill?”

“Yes. About a thousand klicks west of here.”

“And?”

“Archaeologists have found remains about thirty thousand years old. A group of young people want to ‘liberate’ the ancestral sites. And who can blame them? The first fleet arrived a bit over 200 years ago. We Europeans have been here under one percent of the time their ancestors have been here.”

“Accepted. But what can I ... what can we do?”

“Well, first, I could try to speak to them. But I cannot do so without some authority from you.”

“And what do you think would – mmm – buy them off?”

“I think allowing them to live in the area, limiting tourism yet permitting archaeological activity, and requiring them to live responsibly, might work.”

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