''Martyrs in The Struggle for Justice" Koori History Website

"As Kooris, we need to be ever vigilant to the subtle undermining of our cultural values - values such as non-materialism, humanitarianism, compassion and the belief that the group is more important than the individual." Gary Foley said on his website, "These and other Koori ideas such as the proposition that living things might be more important than material wealth have always been considered subversive by non-Koori Australian society." Gary Fokey - from: Assimilating the Mabo-Jumbo

Assimilating the Mabo-Jumbo

Gary Foley www.kooriweb.org/foley 27th June 1993

The recent hysteria that has engulfed society in the form of the Mabo mass debate, has led me to ponder the nature of relations between Koori and non-Koori peoples in this country. Why is it that after almost hree decades of an army of Kooris trying to communicate with non-Koori Australia in thousands of classrooms, books, TV shows, Royal Commissions, rock'n'roll concerts, and football matches, we seem to have failed miserably in our quest to educate Non-Kooris to understand us basically as people?

It's not as if Australians lack the capacity to understand and absorb another culture. Just talk to any average Australian teenager for five minutes and you will quickly realise how easily and totally Australia is becoming assimilated into the culture of the United States of America.

This Americanisation of Australia's youth is viewed with increasing concern by many non-Koori Australian parents, and yet these same good people who see the evil of cultural imperialism clearly when it relates to the USA and their own white middle-class Aussie kids, claim to not comprehend the same principle when we apply it to our situation as Kooris.

As Kooris, we need to be ever vigilant to the subtle undermining of our cultural values - values such as non-materialism, humanitarianism, compassion and the belief that the group is more important than the individual. These and other Koori ideas such as the proposition that living things might be more important than material wealth have always been considered subversive by non-Koori Australian society.

Failure to comprehend that Kooris are not white people with a black skin has meant that Kooris have been subjected to many decades of imposed, enforced attempts to assimilate us into "white" Australia. It was always thought to be the best way of handling the "Abo problem". Of course Kooris were never asked their opinion unless they were already successfully assimilated, in which case they were held up as examples for the white community to admire and the black community to aspire to.

But the old overt Assimilation Policy of the past has never gone away. It has rather lurked in the sentiments and actions of powerful, behind the scene bureaucracy power brokers in Canberra for 25 years. Today the threat it poses to our Aboriginality and thus our spiritual survival in the Australia of tomorrow, concerns many Koori Australians more than the pseudo-debate over Mabo.

In "white" Australia today the free enterprise system with its attendant values, attitudes and myths, prevails. Any person expressing doubt in the fundamental tenets of the system is dismissed or marginalised.

A free-enterprise society exists on the assumption that all human beings are essentially motivated, as individuals, by a desire for wealth and material possessions. Further ... continued

Gary Foley
Gary Foley was expelled from school at the age of 15. He went to Sydney as a 17-year-old apprentice draughtsperson.
Gary Foley
Gary Foley

Since then he has been at the centre of major political activities including the 1971 Springbok tour demonstrations, the Tent Embassy in Canberra in 1972, the Commonwealth Games protest in 1982, and more recently, the protests during the 1988 bicentennial celebrations.

He was also involved in the formation of Redfern's Aboriginal Legal Service (in Sydney) and the Aboriginal Medical Service in Melbourne. In 1974 Foley was part of an Aboriginal delegation that toured China and in 1978 he was with a group that took films on black Australia to the Cannes Film festival and then to Germany and other European countries. He returned to England and Europe a year later and set up the first Aboriginal Information Centre in London. Foley has been a director of the Aboriginal Health Service (1981) and the Director of the Aboriginal Arts Board (1983-86) and the Aboriginal Medical Service Redfern (1988). He has been a senior lecturer at Swinburne College in Melbourne, consultant to the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody (1988) and a board member of the Aboriginal Legal Service. He has also served on the national executive of the National Coalition of Aboriginal Organisations.

Late in life Foley became a student at University of Melbourne where he studied history, cultural studies and computer science. He completed his BA with majors in History and Cultural Studies in 2000, and gained first class Honours in History at at the end of 2002. Between 2001 and April 2005 he was also the Senior Curator for Southeastern Australia at Museum Victoria. Between 2005 and 2008 he was a lecturer / tutor in the Education Faculty of University of Melbourne, and is about to complete a PhD in History at the Australian Centre at University of Melbourne.

Gary Foley Profile by Martin Flanagan
Gary Foley Website