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Byron Shire
May 9, 2021

Place & privilege

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Barb J, Wilsons Creek.

No doubt about it, here in the Northern Rivers we are blessed. Blessed with clean air, peace and serenity, food in natural abundance, barely any traffic…. etc, etc… I could go on. Even if you’re one of the many paying too much rent and pinched by the cost of living, you’ve still got it pretty damn good. If you have the privilege to own property, and perhaps a business (or three) – your privilege is great. But privilege doesn’t just mean counting our luck and blessing confers responsibility.

For those of us born with access  to power and resources it may be hard for us to even see our privilege.

The Random House Dictionary (1993) defines privilege as ‘a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most.’

In this largely white population, perhaps we forget that many don’t have the same advantages. We are the ‘racial norm’, its mostly white people  working in our stores, represented in newspaper, on local government. Yes, some of us come other places or from families with a mixed lineage, but nonetheless, diversity is seriously lacking here.

Are there economical, social and political opportunities for a more diverse population in our area? Not really.

Yes – we do honour the original custodians of the land on BayFM, and we might discuss certain human rights issues in world news over our morning latte, and Im sure many of you feel a moment of heartache for the homeless person on the streets of Byron. But for the most part we have the privilege not to have to live with an acute stress of issues of displacement and lack of basic resources.

Most of us are doing pretty well in terms of health & economic wellbeing, we have a good health care system & education system compared to other countries like the USA. Yet Indigenous Australians still suffer abject poverty and we are still refusing refugees to settle on our vast under-populated lands.

These musing are in my heart right now as I ponder the predicament of Manus Island refugees. So much space here. So much wealth. Couldn’t we offer some help here in pretty Byron Bay? or would it disturb our white sense of order and ‘peace’ too much. I know our major Simon Richardson agrees – as he was quoted in “The Voice of Byron” on 17 Nov. As he says ““Being a Refugee Welcome Zone is about displaying human compassion, upholding the human rights of refugees and enhancing cultural and religious diversity in our community – these sentiments remain as strong as ever for our Shire,” Mayor Richardson, said.”.

Recognising privilege doesn’t mean suffering guilt or shame for our privileged lot in life. Rather it means considering how we can use our privilege to influence some positive change in the world.  Can you speak to the Australian Parliament to influence change?

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