the above quote was one I heard a Josephite sister saying to an elder about 3 years ago at a public meeting on the Northern Territory Intervention.  Thought it was fitting as the sister was saying "well this is your place, not mine".  I also acknowledge the land I live on as that of the Kaurna people.

In 2007 the then coalition government under Howard used the guise of childhood sexual abuse to institute the Northern Territory Emergency Response - (NTER) which was designed to "fix"  perceived problems of alcohol abuse and child sex abuse in remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.  It instigated compulsory health checks designed to "discover" sexual abuse of children - banning of alcohol and pornography in communities  along with a strict policy of income management for ALL Aboriginal people in the communities, not just those with children.  (More on that later)  the Little Children Are Sacred   was the catalyst for the intervention  with Howard appearing on television immediately after the report's release saying it was time to "take charge".  The reports authors have since come out and stated that the report was misappropriated and an intervention on this scale is never going to help fulfill its reccomendations - some of which the government was already aware of before and did nothing about.
What people didn't know was what was going on behind the guise of child protection was the "land grab" elements of the intervention. The territory is an incredibly mineral rich area one that lead to the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act in order to force Aboriginal elders into signing leases to allow mining and effectively relinquish control over their land.  I'm not sure exactly what this has to do with child protection.   What the intervention has done, however, is make it abundantly clear that Aboriginal people cease to matter, they are not worthy of consultation or collaboration on any issue affecting their lives. - this comes despite the Labor Government of Kevin Rudd apologizing to the "stolen generation" early last year but continuing the intervention.   This lack of consultation and just general disgust at their treatment has lead to a community walk off of the alyawarra (pronounced al ya war ) people at Ampilatwatja (pronounced um-bludder-watch)  A protest camp has been set up in order to facillitate what  has become a permanent walk off.  to learn more :
I do think at this point it's appropriate to put the intervention into some context. This isn't just a blip on an otherwise spotless radar. 200 years ago Australia was colonized by the Brittish, with the land being declared  Terra Nullius (belonging to no one) despite a long history of Aboriginal civilization on the land.   Aboriginal people were killed, without provocation, often in open acts of resistance to occupation of their land.  In initial settlement, Aboriginal people either worked in indentured servitude and were given rations in the hopes that they would "die off".  This was all done under the supervision of  "protector" of Aboriginals - a government beauracrat who was charged with carrying out assimilationist policies.   Children were also forcibly removed from their parents - with the belief that if it wasn't going to die out, Aboriginality could be "bred" out with the lighter skinned children being removed first.  Many of these children were raised in religious institutions and also went into servitude after they came of age.  These children endured enormous cultural loss and emotional trauma as they were unable to speak their language or practice any of their cultural rituals. I believe the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families was one of the biggest creators of cultural loss bar settlement itself. if you can't speak your language or have access to it, you forget it.  It was not untill 1967 that Aboriginal people were given the right to vote and officially recognized as "citizens" of Australia without excessive restrictions placed on their freedom of movement off of the white established missions.  I'll post more on the activist campaign that took place in the 1960s in another entry, this one's getting long.
Aboriginal people today also rate higher in almost every negative aspect of society such as  alcohol and other drug use, homelessness,incarceration and deaths in custody  unemployment, illiteracy, suicide and mental health problems.  Australia is an inherently racist place.  Racism takes many forms but the bulk of that racism towards Aboriginal people takes place in continuing to promote colonial political policies and generate a culture of "paternalism" towards Aboriginal people. I don't know better than someone who's ancestors lived on this land long before mine and I think we all should actually get a handle on it as white people. I also know that as a white person, I do enjoy a relative degree of priviledge and I was brought up with a colonial perspective - as were most white kids  

This wasn't meant to be a blog with all the answers, rather it's designed to raise some of the questions I have in my head about things.  This campaign, idea, situation has been in my head for a long time. How do we go forward? how do we begin to recognize both politically and culturally the sovreignty of Indigenous people.  It's ok to pay lip service, but how do we actually do it?
 


Comments

Tue, 09 Nov 2010 01:12:16

There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart's desire, the other is to gain it.

 



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