Source:
SBS
10 Sep 2003 - 12:00 AM  UPDATED 23 Aug 2013 - 9:01 AM

The internationally renowned author Germaine Greer has called for a greater recognition of the way Aboriginal people have shaped Australian culture.

Ms Greer, who's currently in Sydney, says the influence of indigenous culture is shown in many areas, including in Australian English and in the tradition of mateship.

But she says , it hasn't received the recognition it deserves.

"The Aboriginal people are the only thing that multicultural Australia has in common. We all have these people to relate to. I think their influence is shown in the way we speak, even in the famous interrogative rise at the end of the sentence and the tentativeness of Australian speech. It's also shown in the actual sounds we make. They're not like other peoples' sounds. They're more liquid and more nasal. In the very early days of white settlement, black and white children would have grown up together and the people they would have had most contact with would have been black."

Ms Greer says the nasal sound of the Australian accent may have originally come from Aboriginal languages.

She says Aboriginal people are also generally reticent in their friendships with others and this has had some influence on non-Aboriginal Australians as well.

"If you look at things like the concept of mateship, it is principally formed around a respect for the other person's privacy. It's based around a view that your mate has a story and that he may or may not choose to tell it or he may choose to tell you selected highlights and you may not know his actual name. You may know the name that you have for him, whether it's "bluey", or "curly" or "snowy" or "lofty" or whatever."

Ms Greer also says the tendency of Australian men and women to congregate separately could stem from a similar custom in Aboriginal communities.

She says Aboriginal customs have enriched Australia's way of life and the country should take a leading role in promoting indigenous culture abroad.

"One would hope that it might also mean that we could represent hunter-gatherer people in a world-wide forum. At the moment, hunter-gatherer peoples are not represented at all and they're taking a terrific pounding, whether their native Indians in Brazil or tribal people in India and Burma, no-one speaks for these people, and I think it would be a great destiny to become the only or the leading modern hunter-gatherer nation."