I've never made a charitable donation to an Aboriginal organisation, however, should Shane Mortimer win his $6 million dollar lawsuit for damages against Professor Don Aitkin, by his words, it looks like I'm going to do so by default.
In an article in the Australian from November last year:-
"Mr Mortimer's damages claim included personal damages of $500,000 and $5.5 million to be paid to the Agriculture Arts Residency Kenmore, of which he was chairman. He said $5.5m equated to $10 for each indigenous person counted in the last census."
I could think of many better non-profit organisations than AARK that I would donate money to if it were up to me, but, apparently it is ok to count me in the numbers to get your cash, but not ok to get a general consensus first on whether I, and the other Indigenous Australians you are so generously tin shaking for, approve of what you spend it on. For the record, I don't. If you want a massive cash injection into your organisation, this is not the right way to do it.
I do have a couple of questions though. As the Chairman of AARK, I imagine Shane Mortimer would be able to answer them:-
How much did AARK pay Gregory Fergusson for his paintings?
Is it AARK's standard practice not to work with Aboriginal artists? (I only ask because the esteemed Gregory Fergusson, a non Indigenous artist, appears to be the only person whose works feature on the website)
Does iArts stand for 'Indigenous Arts', just as the Iagriculture page was titled 'Indigenous Agriculture'? Or did the fact you only had artworks from a non-Indigenous artist on your iArts page make that a bit difficult?
Aside from all of the above, I'm also curious about Shane Mortimers claim to be an 'Elder'. I was reading another article today where it mentions that until he was 34 years old, he was not aware of his Aboriginal ancestry. I have several relatives who refuse the title of Elder, many the same age as Mr Mortimer, all adamant that they cannot be called Elder, as they missed the appropriate initiations at the relevant ages. In this age of self-appointment, I admire their respect for our culture in its original form, and it is for this very reason that I will never acknowledge Shane Mortimer (and others like him who find their Aboriginality much later in life - such as Mick Harding or Gloria Whalan) as being an Elder. Loss of your culture is never an excuse for such denigration of those Elders whose titles were given to them in accordance with traditional laws and practices, and by placing yourself in a category with people who have had to prove themselves to their peers, undergo rituals, prove their worth in and among their people and rise to such a position over many years, that is exactly what you are doing.
I tend to view self-appointed, so-called 'Elders' with an especially grim outlook when I see they are also guilty of another common lure - the 'cash for ceremonies' crowd. Thankfully, I've never been forced to sit through a Welcome to Country, but I imagine if it ever happens, it wouldn't be a pretty sight. I would probably walk out unless I could be assured of two things - 1) That the person performing the ceremony was truly appointed by the local people as their representative to perform such things with their permission (this is often NOT the case) and 2) That if a fee were to be charged, that the fee go to a fund or trust where ALL the local Aboriginal people (whose land it is performed upon) can gain benefit from it.
If it were a performance by Shane Mortimer, by my own rules, I'd leave the building. I wouldn't walk completely off the property though, I'd stick around long enough to ask the man who also gave himself the Twitter handle of, wait for it - 'AboriginalElder' - a few questions.