Tag Archives: Indigenous Australia
I really haven’t felt like writing lately, but I really wanted to mark on here (because it’s SOOooo widely read!) that Wednesday 13th February 2008 was the day that the Australian Government FINALLY apologised to members of the Stolen Generations.
For those of you not from Australia, or those of you from Australia who somehow still don’t know what happened, I need to ask you to look this up, to do your own research, because the last few days have been really emotional, and I’ve ended up in arguments with people I thought knew better – this is not going to become a forum in which I have to “prove” that the Stolen Generations happened, that they happened at the direction of government agencies, that there was deliberate cruelty and racism involved, or that we owe an apology. If you’re reading this website, if you want to engage with my take on things, then just be warned. My starting point is this:
This country (*as* we know it, *as* the nation of Australia) was built on a violent invasion, a theft of land, an absolutely inhumane view of and treatment of Indigenous occupants. Massacres happened and they happened often, at times at government direction. The level of cruelty and sadism directed at human beings hiding behind the ideas of “civilising” was sickening. We have criticised America and South Africa, but there was apartheid here, there was cruelty, violence and murder at the hands of the State, there were willful attempts at genocide, and later, at eradicating aboriginality by taking children with some white parentage, removing them to be “raised white”, to “assimilate” these children (ie to make them acceptably white)…we owe Indigenous Australia a lot more than one apology, a lot more than a refusal to engage with the idea of compensation, and a fucking shitload more than the backhanded bullshit romanticisation of White Australia that was the speech of the opposition leader Brendan Nelson.
I am so unbelievably angry about his speech, so embarrassed to be in any way associated with it, and so painfully ashamed that so many people apparently regarded it as a reasonable speech to make. It was a horrendously thinly vieled defence of government policy, denial of the insidious cruelty that is a huge feature of our national history since invasion, and a slap in the face to Indigenous listeners by insinuating that then, as (allegedly, and I see no proof of this in the actions staged under the “intervention”) now we do what we do to “protect” children.
For a moment, for one tiny fraction of time, I felt hope as I listened to the Prime Minister – it wasn’t perfect (it denied the idea that compensation is appropriate, and it didn’t acknowledge the extensive kinship ties that meant that cousins, aunts, uncles, and many more people were as devastated as children and parents) but it was genuine and moving, it seemed to hint at a future whereby options were opened, where an ethics of respect, empathy and humanity had a place in government – and I stood rapt, listening to the applause…and then Mr Nelson got up and shat all over it.
If you want to support Mr Nelson feel free to go do it. If you try to antagonise readers here by posting your support I will delete your message without hesitation – this is people’s lives we are talking about, you’ve had your time in the sun with a government who treated Indigenous Australians with contempt and disrespect. I don’t feel bad in not giving you space to spout your bigotry – you have mainstream newspapers, talkback radio, eleven years of Howard policy and any number of redneck arseholes…you don’t need my tiny little blog on which to be a prick as well.
So what’s my point? I dunno. I wanted to mark this, it’s a significant point in history. I have hope for the future. And I’m sick to fucking death of people shitting on about how Indigenous Australians are under achievers, just want a handout, should just get over it. If you read the history, if you heard the stories, if you listened to Indigenous activists and read Indigenous authors, if you paid some fucking attention to all the massive things Indigenous Australians have achieved in the face of such overwhelming odds, in the face of hostility from the Australian government and public, you couldn’t possibly sustain such a stance of hostility and disrespect.
I keep thinking about this blog and what it “achieves” – nothing much really. But these arseholes always bang on about free speech. They get to spout their offensive shit at parties, pubs, in newspapers, websites, blogs, university lectures and tutorials, on talkback radio, at dinner parties and they want MORE free speech – they don’t want free speech, they just don’t want anyone to ARGUE with them. Guess what knobheads? Free speech means you get to SAY that, and I get to call you on your bigotry, I get to argue, I get my website in which I get to advance my opinion (hey, the result of study and listening rather than populist soundbites from government spin) and protect it from your crap since you get the rest of the freaking WORLD in which to advance your ideas…my blog is not perfect, it’s not even great. But it’s one tiny space preserved for talking back to bigotry
Reading the wonderful M.LeBlanc on BitchPhD I came across the phrase above “I call total bullshit” – I love it. It’s so friggin direct, and it brings to mind the card game which is a nice allegory for politics at the moment. You can just see them at the table, thinking, shit I am lying my arse off but if they buy it….wooHOO!
Since the time drew nigh for this latest Australian Federal Election the Coalition (Liberal/National parties) has announced that, if elected, they will *do something* about climate change – not sign Kyoto, not specify what exactly they *would do*, but they would do something and it would be BIG, allright?? How dare you doubt the government who refused (and still refuses) to sign Kyoto, who advocate(d/s) the building of nuclear processing facilities, who supported uranium mining in Kakadu?? Frankly Howard is insulted by your pessimism and doubt.
Also, Howard has now changed his tune on *special interest groups* – you know, women, the poor, gays and lesbians, and well, the actual owners of this land we call Australia, Indigenous Australians. How? Well, no, he’s absolutely still going through with the military occupation of certain Aboriginal Communities, and no he isn’t about to change the laws banning alcohol (or get them printed into Indigenous languages, and make efforts to ensure that people KNOW why they are being arrested). Nor, if elected, will he say “sorry”, as in his *white male hetero wisdom* he’s decided that it’s purely symbolic, and what’s needed is practical reconciliation – ie/more Aboriginals in jail than ever before. “We ain’t done yet! The Howard brand of practical reconciliation has more to do”. (See You Just Think That Because You’re a Radical post for the attachment outlining what the Howard government has *really* done for “practical reconciliation” in this country)
Suddenly after refusing to engage with the issue Howard has announced that, if fucking electedthere will be 12 months of paid maternity leave for all women. Hallelujah right? NO…the Government will not be paying for this, the business will…now given that we know that many businesses either cannot or consider that they cannot afford to pay this, the inevitable outcome will be discrimination against women of childbearing age (which, let’s face it, extends from adolescence, to late forties) in favour of men. So the Government looks good for supporting this (after 11 years of refusing to) without having to do a SINGLE THING, and the upshot? More discrimination. Oh you are a true friend of women Howard. Of course, as my conservative boss pointed out (tongue in cheek) Howard could merely be trying to help out the women over childbearing age – though you know, if you’ve been unable to build your career in any way before that, what exactly are your chances of getting a job in your fifties?
Now he’s announced an end to the discrimination against same sex partners in terms of superannuation access – that’s right, if elected. BullSHIT Howard – you have said you are *conservatively tolerant* to gays, I’m not sure if you’d even know what transgendered meant, and at the last minute you are Lord of the Gays by announcing that you *will* do exactly what you promised three years ago and didn’t fucking deliver on? Excuse me if I don’t swallow your horseshit point scoring. If you meant it, you would have done it already…and quite frankly given your loose relationship with the truth in general evidenced over the last eleven years, and specifically the fact you promised to do this three years ago and haven’t I DON’T BELIEVE YOU!
In each of these areas, he has taken a tokenistic stance. After damaging the cause of reconciliation irreperably, he now wants to use it as a slogan to get re-elected, but not if it will cost him anything. He has commited to paid maternity leave – to SOMEONE ELSE (business) paying, someone we already know WON’T pay, someone we’ve given free reign to with Work Choices. And he’s now trying to trade off a broken promise to establish his gay-cred. Wow. Too little far too fucking late? I’m sorry, but you simply CANNOT actively disparage and ignore and damage communities you have maintained are dangerous *special interest groups* that Australia *will not and should not* be *beholden to* and then expect me to believe the cards in your hand are what you say they are. We KNOW BETTER ARSEHOLE! On the 24th November this year you are going to hear a resounding cry of I CALL TOTAL BULLSHIT.
I understand that not everyone reading this blog will be living in Australia, or necessarily familiar with Australian politics. But we are in the lead up to a very important Federal Election. John Howard has held power since 1996 and in this time has managed to strip funding from all manner of institutions and organisations concerned with social justice, divide the nation along the lines of race, cast calls for equality and human rights as the esoteric investment of “special interest groups”, led us into a war based on lies, and been caught out in lies over the “children overboard” scandal and the Australian Wheatboard’s underhanded dealings with Iraq.
From a social justice perspective, his policies, particularly since having control of the Senate during this last term have done lasting damage to some of the most at-risk groups in our country, and the impact of these policies will be felt long after he is removed from power.
So this election is massively important. And for the first time he has a capable opponent in Kevin Rudd. While not wanting to go into bat for Rudd and all his policies or beliefs, there is so much at stake here, that the first concern for anyone invested in social justics, surely has to be, remove Howard first, ask questions later. While I get that Rudd has not positioned himself as champion of the lefties, and I admit that he infuriated me by going along with the recent laws to allow interventions in Aboriginal communities, I do believe that there are fundamental differences between Howard and Rudd.
Labor (the party Rudd leads) have long been positioned as lefties/unionists/beholden to special interest groups, and in the cultural and political environment that Howard has fostered in Australia Rudd has to walk a very careful line if he wants to be elected. Don’t get me wrong, I am not excusing that, I do think it was an unforgivable betrayal to Indigenous Australians to not condemn the form of the interventions proposed by the Liberal party as retrograde and racist. (This will need to be a future post as it’s a very complicated set of issues involved). I do think that Howard has fostered the latent (and vicious) racism in Australian society against Indigenous Australians, by casting the arguments in terms of ‘special interests’ rather than human rights, of ‘neglect of parents’ rather than institutionalised oppression and discrimination, systematic lack of access to resources and assistance. And within this culture, tragically, anyone speaking out and shouting for justice and equality will be branded an irrelevant out of touch radical. It’s bullshit, it’s infuriating, it’s a disgusting topsy-turvy logic, but it’s there.
I do however think that Rudd and a labour government will do more to assist self governement and adequate funding in Indigenous communities and Indigenous support networks and facilities than a Howard government. In fact it is hardly possible to do worse by Indigenous Australians than the Howard governement has. It truly makes my stomach turn, and makes me utterly ashamed to be Australian to review this governments policies. If I try to put it in my own words, I will cry and not finish. Instead, I will post a link of an excellent summary emailed to me last week by my good friend *U.N girl* While my ideal is a government that’*gets real*, says we are a racist country built on genocide and stolen land and it’s about time we addressed that with serious efforts, so deal with it all you whinging priviledged arseholes, that just aint gonna happen in politics is it?
So, seriously, look at Howards record. Then look at Rudds policies (and get off the too cool for school bandwagon of “Oh, his policies are just Howards” – they are not. There is an overlap that goes both ways, but there is promise of equity in Rudd’s, there is talk of respect in Rudd’s, there is the promise of an apology – knowing full well that an apology will finally open the government up to liability for financial redress, and rightfully so – in Rudd’s. While he isn’t perfect, while he’s done wrong, he does come off as a human being, with a heart and a concern for looking at equity and justice – tell me HOW that’s in any way similar to Howard).
Seriously people, what are we doing when the left is doing the right’s job for them in running Rudd into the ground. He’s not John Howard and right there, that’d be enough for me, even if he had nothing else. But he does. He stopped and said genuinely to Howard that an apology to Indigenous Australians was about respect. Right on. The laws are fucked, I know that, I’m hoping like hell that one of the first things he does when he gets in is review them. But there is more being levelled at Indigenous Australians than those laws, and I truly think that at least Rudd will listen, will think, will weigh and balance, and will stop pandering to big business and racists by casting Indigenous issues as ‘special interest’ issues.
Also, look at education, look at Iraq. I’m not claiming he’s perfect. But fuck, does he have to be? Is it not enough to get Howard the fuck away from our legal system and our budget and instead have in place a government that will at least enter into negotiations with various social groups? That has some good policies in place? That has some concern for being accountable to the United Nations? I mean, please – this is the system we’ve got. These are the choices we’ve got. Howard or Rudd. Stop jumping on the trendy bandwagon and pretending they’re the same, because I’m sorry but if you think that you are just plain wrong. Rudd is playing Howard’s game because he has to, but there are fundamental differences, and I swear to god, if your cynicism leads to apathy and Howard gets back in I will hunt down and kill every one of you because he’ll have another term in which to inflict his special brand of hurt more of the most vulnerable people in our country. I am suggesting that those who are saying there’s no difference perhaps have a little too much privelege if they really think that.
Article as promised below
The PM and Aboriginal Australia — a timeline
> FRIDAY, 12 OCTOBER 2007
> Editor of The National Indigenous Times Chris Graham
> John Howard’s brush with Aboriginal Australia — a
> March 1996: In John Howard’s first act as prime minister, he calls a
> press conference and announces his intention to appoint an
> administrator to take over the powers and functions of the ATSIC
> board. It requires a change in the Act, but is blocked in the Senate.
> April 1996: Howard announces he will appoint a special auditor to
> investigate allegations of widespread fraud within organisations
> funded by ATSIC. The special auditor finds no such widespread fraud,
> but the Federal Court soon thereafter deems the appointment of the
> special auditor illegal.
> May 1996: In his first budget as Prime Minister, Howard announces a
> cut of $470 million from the ATSIC budget, forcing ATSIC to close a
> raft of community and youth support programs, including women’s
> May 1997: John Howard releases his Wik 10-Point Plan.
> May 1997: At the Reconciliation Convention in Melbourne, Howard bangs
> the lectern and shouts at the audience as he claims symbolism will
> deliver nothing, and unofficially launches the policy of ‘practical
> reconciliation’. He also defends his ‘Wik 10 Point Plan’ which
> proposes to amend the Native Title Act (which had come out of the Mabo
> The plan was passed by parliament, but decried by the United Nations
> and the international community, which labelled it racist. Members of
> the audience famously turn their backs on Howard as he speaks.
> 4th September 1997: John Howard on The 7.30 Report alongside a map of
> Australia with sections coloured brown, “What has happened with Native
> title is that the pendulum has swung too far in one direction,
> particularly after the Wik decision. What I have done with this
> legislation is bring it back to the middle. Let me just show your
> viewers that this shows 78 per cent of the landmass of Australia
> coloured brown on this map. Now, the Labor Party and the Democrats are
> effectively saying that the Aboriginal people of Australia should have
> the potential right of veto over further development of
> 78 per cent of the landmass of Australia.”
> August 1999: Howard officially refuses a national apology for members
> of the Stolen Generations, with parliament instead issuing a statement
> of sincere and deep regret.
> October 1999: John Howard on the importance of voting yes to the
> preamble for reconciliation, “A preamble is a broad statement of
> values and principles which aim to reflect the spirit, traditions and
> sentiment which underpin our commitment to the Constitution. It would
> also provide Australians with an opportunity to highlight the
> aspirations we share as we enter the second century of our nationhood.
> The great value of the preamble is that it can unite republicans and
> anti-republicans behind commonly held Australian values. It is not
> conditional on whether the republic is supported or rejected. It can
> also make a contribution to the reconciliation process which is one of
> the most important issues we face as a nation as we enter the new
> century. The preamble honours “Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders,
> the nations first people, for their deep kinship with their lands and
> for their ancient and continuing cultures which enrich the life of our
> 28th May 2000: Howard refuses to attend the Bridge Walks for
> 29th May 2000: John Howard as quoted on The 7.30
> Report: “I speak for the entire government on this and it’s a matter
> that’s been discussed at great length. We don’t think it’s appropriate
> for the current generation of Australians to apologise for the
> injustices committed by past generations.”
> November 2002: The Howard government announces a review into ATSIC.
> The review, which cost over $2 million, recommends reform of the body,
> and a strengthening of the regional council structure and the election
> of local officials. Howard proposes abolition instead.
> October 2004: Howard formally dumps ‘reconciliation’
> from the government agenda, axing the ‘Minister Assisting the Prime
> Minister on Reconciliation’
> portfolio during a post-election cabinet reshuffle.
> June 2005: Howard abolishes the
> democratically-elected ATSIC. He replaces it with a group of
> hand-picked Aboriginal ‘advisers’ (the National Indigenous Council).
> One of the first acts of the NIC is to recommend the compulsory
> acquisition of Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory.
> May 2006: During his visit to Canada, Howard successfully lobbies new
> conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reverse Canada’s support
> for the UN’s Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
> September 2006: John Howard reacts to the Native Title Noongar win in
> Perth, saying the federal court decision was one of “considerable
> concern”, with the government falsely claiming a day later that even
> beaches in Sydney could be under threat.
> June 2007: Howard launches his ‘emergency intervention’ into the
> Northern Territory in response to the Little Children are Sacred
> August 2007: Six weeks after the announcement the Northern Territory
> Emergency Response Act is passed, giving the Government power to
> acquire Aboriginal land for five years and hold back 50% of all
> welfare payments for necessary items. The long standing permit system,
> enacted as part of the 1976 Aboriginal Land Rights Act (Northern
> Territory) is scrapped. The legislation includes exemptions from the
> Racial Discrimination Act.
> September 2007: Howard orders his delegates at the UN to vote against
> the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
> 11 October 2007: Howard delivers a speech to The Sydney Institute in
> which he introduces “new reconciliation” and a promise to amend the
> preamble to the Constitution to acknowledge Indigenous Australians
> should he be returned to Government at the looming election.