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Australian author Professor Bronwyn Fredericks was one of the guests during the Apeejay Literary Festival in Kolkata. In an exclusive chat with IBNS correspondent Souvik Ghosh, Professor Fredericks spoke about experience of working with aboriginals and more

You have worked with the aborginals back in Australia. Share your experience with us.
I worked in a range of contexts within government, both state and federal governments along with community organisations and just also as a volunteer. In terms of working in a community as a volunteer, mostly through organisations because it’s true those communities control organisations or NGOs that some of the greatest action can happen in terms of looking at change or need. I am addressing the issues at the community or the local level and also at the university sector looking at governments’ reforms and policies and the changes that need to happen in those areas.

Can you throw a bit of light on your research work?
Well some of those works reveal there are some forms of racism into play. There is an individual racism but also a systemic racism. So there are some people who experience direct racism in terms of people from the dominant culture. There is also systemic racism in terms of aspects of aboriginal culture that are stereotyped in ways, prevent or impact on aboriginal people from receiving services. So we can look up for an example like the ways of adoption, child care. It is only being recently the role of grandparents have been acknowledged in terms of the care role with aboriginal children. So now we have kinship care. Earlier some strangers used to look after children (of aboriginal family) so all of those things played out in a way that had impacted on the aboriginal people.

Is racism in Australia increasing now?
I don’t know that (whether) racism is increasing. I just think people are talking about it, be on social media, news, television, more openly. Racism has been there for a long time. Racism started when the British came and there was racism from the British towards aboriginal people at the time of European or British arrival. Lands were taken then. We have seen it through generations. Australia had policies which were racist from an early stage. So this is not something that is recent. This goes back several generations and it is still ingrained in people’s head that sometime people say ‘I am not racist’ but then they say something which is racist towards a group of people. Racism is so ingrained in people’s head that sometimes they don’t even understand being racist. But with social media, television, radio, people are talking about it more and also they are reporting it more.
Tell us about your association with (Queensland Productivity Commission) QPC.
I have been working there for last three years. I have worked on a number of inquiries so when I came, QPC was just finishing the manufacturing inquiry. That work was mostly undertaken when I was boarded. I was just part of the finalising of the report.

How did you enjoy the Literary Festival in Kolkata?
Oh it has been fantastic to hear people talk about really key issues. One of the things I love about this festival is that it is about real-life situations. People have been talking about citizenship, nationality, politics and literature. It’s an interesting mix of people here, not just from this area or Kolkata or this region but from other parts of India or the world. I have been to Victoria Memorial and Museum (Indian Museum). One of the things I like to do when I go to a place is visiting a museum if I have time. I visit museum to get an understanding of the history of the place and its people. (IBNS/TWF)

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