Sunday, March 12, 2006

Law And Disorder 2

Various players tried to deal the racism card when an unconscious Aboriginal woman went unassisted for five hours, slumped in a pool of her own vomit, after suffering a stroke at a university bus stop.

In breaking the already week-old story last Tuesday, the Brisbane Courier-Mail reported breathlessly:

With fresh tears sprouting, Aunty Delmae said she didn't like to suggest it, but she feared that she was a victim of racist stereotyping.

"Everyone was treating me as a freak, like I was a drunk or something," she said.

"But I was wearing good clothes. I've never drunk or smoked in my life and I've always been a peacemaker."

The Gumurri Centre's director, Boni Robertson, could scarcely contain her emotion.

After helping Aunty Delmae with a delivery of flowers from the Queensland Orchestra she said the elderly woman's treatment was "an indictment on the type of society that we're becoming".

"It's a shameful situation that we should all look at and learn from," she said.

"It's also something that I think clearly highlights the need for us all to think about where we stand with our racist sentiments in this country."

"They keep saying we're reconciled, but we're far from it.

"This is a clear example that reconciliation has not even touched the common person.

"What she (Aunty Delmae) kept saying to me was 'I wasn't even dirty'.

"It's terrible that she has to be placed in a situation that she thought she had to justify her appearance to work out why somebody wouldn't help her."
Robertson is welcome to stick her elitist outrage - 'reconciliation has not even touched the common person' indeed - where the sun don't shine.

Delmae Barton herself unintentionally nails the issue: "Everyone was treating me... like I was a drunk or something."

The fact is that the hundreds of people who ignored her did so because they are so used to seeing drunks and derelicts lying about the streets of Brisbane. The students using the campus bus stop especially are used to witnessing others lying passed out in the gutter - or being there themselves - each and every weekend as they nightclub crawl around the Brisbane CBD and lurch drunkenly around the streets.

Meanwhile, ordinary commuters are used to sharing train station benches with 'chroming' Aboriginal kids and seeing bus shelters housing unconscious - and even occasionally dead - 'street people'.

The Brisbane City Council once even moved a bus stop 50 metres and built a flimsy open bus shelter for passengers to use so that a substantial old shelter at the original stop could become a more permanent home for a dozen derelict overnighters.

In the end of Delmae Barton's sorry tale, Japanese students stepped up and offered assistance. No wonder they believed something was wrong about an unconscious person lying on the street. Where they come from, standards of public behaviour are a little higher.

-- Nick

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