Just because we are governed by clowns it…

1 Yet another scandal surrounding the Liberal Party. A Liberal Party donor…

Australia’s poor old women

By Jane Caro  Despite women facing the wage gap, eventual poverty and possible…

Assange’s Thirteenth Day at the Old Bailey: Mental…

September 24. Central Criminal Court, London.The lion’s share of today’s Old Bailey…

Industrial relations reform talks breached again as deadline…

With less than a week to go in the scheduled agenda for…

The big lie

By Leonie Saunders  A little over two weeks have passed since I listened…

The death of hope

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a…

Assange’s Twelfth Day at the Old Bailey: Autism,…

September 23. Central Criminal Court, London.Following the script sheet of the previous…

The forced sterilisation of women in detention is…

By Mikayla Chadwick  The headlines may have shocked the world, but the forced…

«
»
Facebook

Michael recently retired from the Public Service and is studying law in his retirement. His interests are politics, media, history, and astronomy. Michael holds a BA in Aboriginal Affairs Administration, a BA (Honours) in Aboriginal Studies, and a Diploma of Government. Michael rarely writes articles for The AIMN these days, but is heavily involved with the admin team.

Website: https://theaimn.com

Pandemic preparedness: who has responsibility?

With the COVID-19 blame game and finger pointing so evident lately, my recent article; An incompetent and careless government is a threat to us all needs repeating. With the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria people are lining up to saddle the blame on the premier, Daniel Andrews. Some, borrowing Donald Trump’s claim that COVID-19 is the “China virus,” are now disgracefully calling COVID-19 the “Victoria virus.”

There’s no denying that many new outbreaks across the nation have links to Melbourne, but how did the virus get to Melbourne in the first place? Did it come from Sydney? Canberra? Queensland? The USA? China? The UK? The fact is, it came from somewhere. There’s a body in this country responsible for doing its best to control the import and spread of the virus in this country. It’s called the Australian government.

When you read the extract from my earlier post below, keep in mind that Scott Morrison “declared the COVID-19 outbreak a national pandemic on 27 February” and approximately two weeks later passengers from the Ruby Princess were allowed to disembark in Sydney.

Here is my extract:

In the dying days of the Howard government they were very mindful of a couple of viruses, H5N1 (avian influenza), or bird flu as it was better known as, and H1N1, which was known as swine flu, that in a worse-case scenario could bring the world to its knees. That is, a global pandemic. Which includes us.

We had to be prepared for it…

Battle plans for such an event hit the drawing-board in 2007; an initiative of the Howard government – readying the country for the worst – and some time later the program was given life again by the Rudd government, with a significant increase in funding.

Here is Howard’s original pandemic plan: Australia’s Preparedness for a Human Influenza Pandemic.

Due to copyright I cannot reproduce any of the report so I draw your attention to Section 2.43 on page 59 and the importance of thermal scanners being deployed at airports.

What is so good about thermal scanners? Here is a succinct explanation:

In efforts to contain the highly contagious virus causing COVID-19, thermal cameras, set up at checkpoints or hand-held by personnel at airports, borders, and entrances to businesses, schools, and other institutions, are being used to screen large numbers of people for elevated body temperatures quickly and reliably.

A high temperature does not necessarily indicate that the person is infected with the coronavirus, but it is the first step in identifying its presence. People with a high temperature are taken for further testing and, if they test positive, are isolated until treatment can begin.

Thermal scanning should be utilised as the first step in ‘catching’ and ultimately containing the disease, and this is practised in a growing number of countries.

I say “well done” to the authors of Australia’s Preparedness for a Human Influenza Pandemic report 2007/2008 for including the use of thermal scanning in airports as one of their key recommendations.

Now let’s jump to the present day and the same report prepared in August 2019: Australian Health Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza. Again, as with the previous report I cannot reproduce any of the content due to copyright reasons. But I draw your attention to page 136, and there – right up the top of the page – the use of thermal scanners is Not recommended, stating, bewilderingly, that their effectiveness is low and their use is an impediment to travellers.

Instead, as summarised on page 127 of the report, the traveller will be confronted with pamphlets and brochures etc.

What is going to be of the most critical importance in the identification of even one person who is carrying the coronavirus: thermal scanning or a pamphlet?

I also encourage you to read page 9 of the report: “Pandemic stages” and ask yourself how well the Morrison government rates in this current pandemic.

On February 28, Katie Burgess, writing in The Canberra Times reported that the:

But the Health Department says there are no current plans to subject travellers to temperature checks, on the advice of medical professionals.

… Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy told media on January 21 temperature checks had proven ineffective in past pandemics.

Murphy, sadly, must have read the 2019 report which had reached the same conclusion: it didn’t work for pandemics in the past so it obviously won’t work with any pandemics in the present or the future.

Ever heard of tunnel vision, Mr Murphy?

It is true that thermal scanning won’t stop the spread of the coronavirus and it won’t always catch those that have it, but it will take enormous steps in detecting it, as countries like China have shown.

Australia, meanwhile, with its incompetent and careless government is dragging its feet.

I don’t know about you, but I get the feeling that our incompetent and careless government is a threat to us all.

Note: There is also a brief report from 2018: Emergency Response Plan for Communicable Disease Incidents of National Significance: National Arrangements which also ignores thermal scanning at airports. In fact, they don’t even rate a mention, but a ‘police presence’ at airports does.

* * * * *

Those who are adamant that Daniel Andrews is to blame for the recent outbreaks … may want to think again.

Now I wish to draw your attention again to the Australian Health Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza, dated August 2019.

Two major issues we hear much of are 1) whether schools should be closed, and 2) the risk of outbreaks from aged-care facilities. Who should make the decision to close schools? If it is a State decision, can the Federal Government intervene? Who is in charge of the aged-care facilities? Is it a State responsibility or a Federal one?

Again, I apologise that due to copyright I cannot reproduce the content, but the following sections in the report answer these and many more questions:

Page 31: Section 4.1.4: Implementation of public health measures (second paragraph).

Page 32: Section 4.1.6: Communication (first paragraph).

Page 145: Timing (relates to school closures).

Worth reading, weren’t they?

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

What do the major impacts on Aboriginal people today tell us about the history of Australia?

What do major issues that impact on Aboriginal people in contemporary Australian society tell us about our history?

It is difficult to isolate any of these issues. Each issue weaves into another: identity; health; housing; education; self-determination; recognition of sovereignty; gender issues; custodial issues and racism can all be connected. For example, discussions on identity can be traced to forced removal (through pastoral expansion or the policy of assimilation) which in turn can be traced to racism. Discussions on health lead to housing, which can also be traced to racism. Black deaths in custody is one of the major concerns in custodial issues, again, racism is a key element. Land rights are an issue linked to self-determination and recognition of sovereignty. Denial of these is also racist.

It is evident that the first European colonisers in Australia declared their belief in white supremacy, and this declaration is unchanged by the majority of white Australians today (1). Over the last two hundred years this attitude has been lodged into our history.

To many Aborigines their identity has been shrouded due to the forced removal from their lands, or the forced removal from their families. This alienation from the land disrupted ceremonial life and eroded Aboriginal identity.

Children were removed from their families as governments pursued a policy of assimilation, cast in the hope that Aboriginal children would assimilate into European culture. However, these children – now as adults – remain unsure about their own identity though wanting to return to their Aboriginal families.

Aboriginal people suffer from many disadvantages in our society, and the most damning indicator of the disadvantages is their rate of illness and shorter life expectancy. Statistics provide the evidence: The mortality rate of Aboriginal babies is three times that of other Australian babies; Aboriginal mothers are up to five times more likely to die during childbirth; and life expectancy is up to 12 years less than other Australians.

Poor health correlates with poor housing, and the living conditions of many Aborigines reflects their status in Australian society and their low income potential (2). Their resultant segregation provides limited access to facilities such as sewerage, rubbish removal, or clean water. The health and housing conditions of Aborigines are a result of their marginalisation in society.

Elements of racism are also accountable for the low education standards attained by Aboriginal people (3). Statistically, it could be argued that Aborigines do not consider education to be important (4). The statistics summarise that their achievements in literacy and numeracy are substantially below average levels, as is their participation rates in compulsory schooling. The argument for the racist element, however, is stronger. It is questionable whether the education system is catering for the needs of Aboriginal people. The education system inhibits Aboriginal learning styles with Aboriginal values being replaced with our own values, and our way of understanding and doing things. This in itself assumes that our culture is superior and Aboriginal children are conditioned into accepting the culture of the dominant white society.

The rights to maintain self-determination have been denied to the Aboriginal people since white colonisation; itself an act of discrimination that places Aborigines in a subordinate position in Australia today (5). The denial of self-determination, which is a denial of a people to identify with their own history and the perpetuation of their culture bears a strong connection to the reasons behind a lack of identity.

The attitudes of discrimination rife in Australian society have left their scars on the matriarchs of the Aboriginal people: Women are also victims of chauvinism as well as being placed in the lowest status positions (6). This contributes to a lack of awareness of how dispossession, racist practices, incarceration and violence have fragmented their position in society (7).

The statistics on custodial issues reveal further imbalances: Young indigenous people are eighteen times more likely to be held in detention than other Australian youths (8). The imprisonment rate of Aborigines is the highest in the world, leading to a conclusion that Indigenous people face discrimination within the legal system.

More telling however, is that over-representation is shadowed by a more disturbing statistic in the issue: Aborigines are dying in custody.  No suitable reason can be found to explain the deaths. It is at the grass roots level that prevention should be focused. In the 1980s, 67% of Aborigines taken into custody were jailed as a result of alcohol-related detentions (9). The Commissioner of the inquiry into Black Deaths in Custody reported the abolition of the offence of drunkenness should reduce our prison populations without threat to public safety. This advice has been all but ignored.

But the issue still needs further examination. Forty three per cent of Aborigines who died in custody had, as children, been forcibly removed from their families under the policy of assimilation, and only 1% had finished their formal schooling (10). It is relevant to ask: Is Australia’s past treatment of Aborigines central to their current rates of arrest and imprisonment? (11)

All Aboriginal people suffer in every aspect of their lives from racism. The denial of self-determination is racist (12). Racism is evident in the education system, the legal system and the political structures of Australian society (13). It exists at the legislative and bureaucratic levels and weaves down into public opinion. Aboriginal people have had to contend with the European attitude of white supremacy. The issues I have discussed are all bound together with racism (14).

These major issues indicate that a history of racist views and policies began in Australia in 1788 and still manifests society today. History books account of the struggles of Europeans to claim this continent as their own, whereas a curtain of silence has shielded generations of students from recognising how European expansion swept away the land rights of the original inhabitants.

In the advancing colonisation the Aboriginal people were conveniently treated as part of the country’s past. ‘History,’ proclaimed an old uni lecturer of mine, ‘treated Aboriginal people as little more than impediments standing briefly in the way of inevitable white progress across the nation’ (15).

So I ask, dear readers, what do major issues that impact on Aboriginal people in contemporary Australian society tell us about our history?

References

(1) The Path to Reconciliation (1997), Commonwealth of Australia booklet, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

(2) Tarrago, I. (1992), ‘Aboriginal families’ in National family summit report, Batchler-Wheeler Associates for Capital Reporting, Parliament House, Canberra, pp 63-71.

(3) The Path to Reconciliation (1997), Commonwealth of Australia booklet, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

(4) Tarrago, I. (1992), ‘Aboriginal families’ in National family summit report, Batchler-Wheeler Associates for Capital Reporting, Parliament House, Canberra, pp 63-71.

(5) Bird, G; Martin, G; and Nielsen, J.(1996), editors Majah: indigenous peoples and the law, The Federation Press, NSW.

(6) O’Shane, P. (1993), ‘Aboriginal women and the women’s movement’ in Refracting voices, feminist perspectives, Southward Press, NSW.

(7) Miller, L. (1993), ‘The women’s movement and Aboriginal women’ in Refracting voices, feminist perspectives, Southward Press, NSW.

(8) The Path to Reconciliation (1997), Commonwealth of Australia booklet, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

(9) Lippmann, L. (1994), Generations of resistance, 3rd edition, Longman Australia, Melbourne.

(10) The Path to Reconciliation (1997), Commonwealth of Australia booklet, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

(11) O’Shane, P. (1993), ‘Aboriginal women and the women’s movement’ in Refracting voices, feminist perspectives, Southward Press, NSW.

(12) Bird, G; Martin, G; and Nielsen, J.(1996), editors Majah: indigenous peoples and the law, The Federation Press, NSW.

(13) O’Shane, P. (1993), ‘Aboriginal women and the women’s movement’ in Refracting voices, feminist perspectives, Southward Press, NSW.

(14) McGrath, A. (1993), Women and state, LaTrobe University Press, Bundoora.

(15) Edwards, W.H. (1988), An introduction to Aboriginal societies, Social Science Press, Wentworth Falls, NSW.

 

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

Not your average Aussie

Today marks the tenth anniversary of Julia Gillard becoming Australia’s first female Prime Minister. As an ‘insider’ (she was my boss) I can attest that she spent her time as Prime Minister – and as a Minister before that – working tirelessly for a better Australia, but more importantly, for the average Aussie.

Thus it was disheartening, disappointing and frustrating to see the picture of Julia Gillard painted by the Murdoch media and an opposition led by Tony Abbott. It was pure cruelty.

Two articles I wrote for the now defunct Cafe Whispers blog; Not your average Aussie and The shout heard ’round the world reflected her mistreatment. I would like to share those articles with you.

Not your average Aussie

In saying that ‘loudmouth mining magnates shouldn’t dominate public debate more than a nurse or a childcare worker’, Julia Gillard is telling Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer that they are just average Australians.  And in doing so she has shown that she herself is not an average Australian. She is better.

In her two years as Prime Minister, despite her red hair, long nose, big bum, Welsh accent, toxic government, battles with faceless men, unmarried status, daily media attacks, daily leadership speculation, bad polls, hatred inspired by the shock jocks, hatred inspired by Tony Abbott, witnessing the denigration of Parliament by the Opposition, countless cries that she should be kicked to death or tossed overboard, and despite placards littering the countryside that she’s a bitch, despite the money coming in from big business funding campaigns aimed at destroying her and the countless lies that condemn her – she has stood firm in the face of this onslaught. And in standing firm, to me, she is standing tall.

As far as having guts goes, she is better than the average Australian.

She stands by what she believes in and in two years her position hasn’t changed. She believes that something is happening to the climate and she wants to do something about it. She hasn’t ignored the overwhelming evidence from the climate scientists that something bad is happening and nor has she mocked the messengers. She’s listened. She’s learned. And she wants to do something about it. She will not change her stand to please big business or anybody else for that matter. Her heart is with the country, not the few that wish to destroy it or those politicians who prefer to brown-nose the likes of Gina or Clive.

As far as sticking to her beliefs and wanting to make this a better country, she is better than the average Australian.

That, briefly, is my opinion.

In Tony Abbott we have a politician who does not have any of the qualities I’ve mentioned that stand Julia Gillard out from the crowd.  To me, he is worse than the average Australian. There is not one belief he will stand by (except that he can stop the boats) but I won’t go into that. I’m sure you lot will.

The shout heard ’round the world

Julia Gillard might have stopped shouting at Tony Abbott but her words reverberated around the world.

Hence this post is not about the speech by Julia Gillard or about the man it was directed to, but briefly on the impact of it.

By now most of you would have digested some of the more celebrated responses – including those linked above – so I won’t cover old ground, however, one is worth mentioning; not for Julia Gillard’s stand against misogamy but for her often overlooked performances as a gutsy politician. The New Yorker wants performances like that to enter into American politics. They write:

So why is this among the most-shared videos [the Julia Gillard attack on Tony Abbott] by my American friends today? Purely as political theatre, it’s great fun. Americans used to flipping past the droning on in empty chambers that passes for legislative debate in this country are always taken in by the rowdiness of parliamentary skirmish. It could also be that the political dynamic depicted in the clip parallels the situation in the States: a chief executive who is a “first” took power after a long period of control from the right of center, and whose signature policy achievements have at times been overshadowed by personal vitriol. Or perhaps it’s that we are right now in one of the rare periods every four years where the American political process provides actual face-to-face debate between the leaders of the two parties. After his performance last week, supporters of President Obama, watching Gillard cut through the disingenuousness and feigned moral outrage of her opponent to call him out for his own personal prejudice, hypocrisy, and aversion to facts, might be wishing their man would take a lesson from Australia.

Similarities between our two political theatres abound. Julia Gillard has found a way to evolve from it.

But her attack on misogamy has attracted more responses than her parliamentary grunt. And oh how the responses differ. In one corner we have the international media, the social media and social analysts supporting her speech while in the other corner sits the Australian mainstream media going alone in its condemnation.

Yet in the Australian media all we hear about are the opinions of the Australian media. Elsewhere it is news. Here they are purely opinions.

To hear the praise coming from Australians one has to read an overseas newspaper. For example, the Irish Times provided a better and more balanced appraisal of Julia Gillard’s speech than that dished up locally. Where, in the Australian media, will you read such honesty as this?:

When Australia’s prime minister, Julia Gillard, told the opposition leader, Tony Abbott, this week that if he wanted to know what misogyny looked like he should pick up a mirror, it was seen by many women as a defining moment for feminism in the country.

“I almost had shivers down my spine,” said Sara Charlesworth, an associate professor at the University of South Australia. “I was so relieved that she had actually named what was happening. She was so angry, so coherent and able to register that enough is enough.”

It was the first time an Australian leader – and possibly any world leader – had delivered such a forthright attack on misogyny in public life.

Prof Barbara Pini, who teaches gender studies at Griffith University in Queensland, said it was a watershed moment. “It’s incredibly significant to have a prime minister powerfully state that she has experienced sexism and even more powerfully state that she will refuse to ignore it any longer,” Pini said.

“That the sexism which is so deeply embedded in the Australian body politic was named may give some women licence to express and seek to counter the sexism they have experienced in their working lives.”

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, one in five Australian women has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. A recent study by Monash University in Melbourne showed that 57 per cent of women who worked in the media had experienced sexual harassment. It said women were badly under-represented in top levels of media management, holding 10 per cent of positions, compared with an international average of 27 per cent.

The report’s author, Louise North, said her findings might go some way to explaining why much of Australia’s mainstream media concluded that Gillard’s speech was a political disaster. “PM will rue yet another bad call,” said one comment piece.

“Gillard’s judgment was flawed. All she achieved was a serious loss of credibility,” said another.

That response was in stark contrast to much of the commentary in social media and conversations between women around the country, which were alive with praise for the prime minister’s stance.

“Leader writers are generally white, middle-aged men and they have no perception of gender bias,” North said. “They don’t want to acknowledge that it happens within their newsrooms and they certainly wouldn’t be open to challenging some of those positions and changing the public discourse either.

Tim Dunlop, in his fabulous article on The Drum, The gatekeepers of news have lost their keys takes up the fight against the Australian media – one of the few in the media to do so – as he tackles the local bias:

The authority of the media – it’s ability to shape and frame events and then present them to us as “the” news – was built upon its privileged access to information and the ability to control distribution.

Collecting, collating, packaging and transmitting information – “news” – was expensive and thus the preserve of a small number of big companies, and we were pretty much bound by the choices they made.

But those days are gone. That model is a relic, though it still dominates the way the mainstream media goes about its business, and provides the template for how journalists think about their role as reporters.

When you have the likes of Michelle GrattanPeter HartcherPeter van Onselen (paywalled), Jennifer Hewett (paywalled), Geoff Kitney, Phillip Coorey, and Dennis Shanahan (paywalled) all spouting essentially the same line in attacking the Prime Minister – a line at odds with the many people’s own interpretation of events – people wonder what the point of such journalism is.

It bewilders me that our mainstream media is taking such a vociferous and concerted stand against public and international opinion. The impact of the speech is lost on them. One could be forgiven for thinking they have an agenda. Regardless of how much they condemn the Prime Minister, the world isn’t listening.

 

 

And finally …

Here I am with the ‘boss.’

It must have been a Friday as I was dressed casually, as Canberra public servants tended to do on that glorious last day of the week. Adding to the embarrassment I forget to take my reading glasses off! Maybe, just maybe … I was a tad excited.

Before becoming PM Ms Gillard was my Minister in the Rudd Government, a position she took over after Labor’s 2007 election victory. Prior to that, my Minister was Joe Hockey. What a breath of fresh air she was after Joe Hockey!

 

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

“They’re going to die out anyway”

The video of Lang Hancock’s disgusting proposal to what he believed was the “Aboriginal problem” is again doing the rounds on social media. Hancock suggested that by doping their drinking water – that caused sterilisation – was one simply way to ensure the extinction of the race.

Anyone seeing this video for the first time will be shocked, even angered. And rightly so. Even more shocking is that Hancock’s sinister idea was not dissimilar to government policies that ran their course not a generation earlier.

In a younger Australia there was an agenda in both the colonial and early federal governments; that being the extermination of Aborigines. Not only was it the will of ‘man’ that the Aborigines be exterminated, but also the will of God. Or so they believed.

Was the total extermination of Australia’s Indigenous people deliberately intended? Of course it was. It was OK to shoot Aborigines. God – they presumed – had no problems with good white Christians killing Aborigines as it was the white man’s belief that God had condemned Aborigines to extinction and the white man was simply hurrying things along for Him. It had His stamp of approval. It was ordained genocide.

But the massacre of Aboriginals was frowned upon by latter governments, however, it did not mean that they were not considered a doomed race. These governments had a sinister role to play in that consideration; that of the evolutionary masters. That of God.

Let us trace this.

The nineteenth European scientific discourse of the Great Chain of Beingarranged all living things in a hierarchy, beginning with the simplest creatures, ascending through the primates” and to humans. It was also practice to distinguish between different types of humans. Through the hierarchical chain the various human types could be ranked in order of intellect and active powers. The Europeans – being God-fearing and intelligent – were invariably placed on the top, whilst the Aborigines – as perceived savages – occupied the lowest scale of humanity, slightly above the position held by the apes. Such ideas were carried to and widely circulated in the Australian colonies and helped shape attitudes towards Aboriginals. So dominant was the concept that it helped develop the fate of Aboriginal people, even before Australia’s colonisation. The image of the Aborigine simply confirmed prejudices based on this doctrine of evolutionary difference and intellectual inferiority.

In harmony with the Great Chain of Being, the “theory of evolution in the social sciences” (known as Social Darwinism), was accepted by nineteenth and early twentieth century Australians as further justification for their treatment of the Aboriginals. Central to the theory of Social Darwinism was the ideology that the Aborigines, who were considered to be less-evolved, faced extinction under the impact of European colonisation and nothing could, or should, be done about it. Government policies reflected these ideologies and provided the validation of oppressive practices towards the Aborigines, founded on the perceptions of racial superiority.

Four of the major policies are those relating to protection; segregation; assimilation; and the integration of Aboriginal people into the wider community.

Protection was influenced by the evolutionary theory that Aborigines would die out as a result of European contact. Subsequently, all that could be done was to feed and protect them until their unavoidable demise. The policy thus took on short-term palliative measures that saw enforced concentration of Aboriginals in reserves and missions – protected from European contact and abuse (such as hunting parties) to await “their closing hour.”

This policy was a humane one based on its presumptions, however, nature had not selected Aboriginals for extinction. Only the colonisers had. Subsequently, governments eventually and willingly used protection policies as a mechanism for social engineering. The policies of protection changed its fundamental goal to segregation. Their differences are difficult to identify although their purposes are not: the Aboriginals belonged to a dying race so they were protected from the wider community; the Aboriginal race had failed to die off, so they were segregated from the wider community.

The social theories that legitimised and institutionalised racism were never more evident than in the practices of segregation. Segregation created two social and political worlds in Australia: one white and one black. Whilst the Aboriginal race had ignored extinction, government policies reflected the attitude that, nonetheless, by the 1940s they had still failed to progress since European contact. “Sentiment thus ruled that continued segregation of the Aborigines from the wider community would ensure white racial purity” (source unknown).

Segregation was pervasive in all aspects of public or political life. Church or social organisations discouraged Aboriginal participation, and access to community facilities such as swimming pools or theatres were severely restricted, if not refused altogether. Custom in many business establishments was also refused for fear of offending the white clientele. Perhaps the most damning indicator of this racism, however, was the neglect of medical treatment and health services by white practitioners. Policies of segregation were to degenerate into practises of apartheid when, in South Australia for example, association between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people became a criminal offence under Section 14 of the Police Offences Act 1953.

The policies of protection and segregation were continued even though the Aborigines had not faced their final hour. ‘Full-bloods’ remained on reserves until their demise, yet the problem for the government came in the form of the ‘half-caste’. These people looked increasingly like white people but behaved like ‘Black’ people. The only way this could be countered was to assimilate them into the general population.

Assimilation of the lighter-caste population was still an endeavour to destroy Aboriginality: by absorbing them into the wider community – the breeding out of the colour, “the process of genetic change” – it was hoped that they would eventually disappear. A radical suggestion that selective mating would breed out the colour was also proposed.

Of the endless record of horrors associated with colonisation and racial supremacy, some of the assimilation policies adopted in the 1950s equal the worst. In particular the taking of children away from their families by the Aboriginal Protection Board – as their legal guardians – and disposing of them as they saw fit. As a prelude to the Reconciliation Convention, the Government reflected on this practice:

Children were taken away under government policies of protection and assimilation aimed at having indigenous people adopt European culture and behaviour to the exclusion of their family and background. The assimilation policy presumed that, over time, indigenous people would die out or be so mixed with the European population they became indistinguishable (The Path to Reconciliation, 1997, p 24).

Yes, I would argue that the total extermination of Australia’s Indigenous people was deliberately intended. If not by the bullet, then by the policies of those governments that saw them as a stain on white purity. God favoured the white man and they set out to do His work.

For those who missed the link to Hancock’s vile proposal …

 

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

Stories From The Dreaming

The news that BHP will “destroy at least 40 Aboriginal sites, up to 15,000 years old” is a modern-day tragedy.

Stories will be lost with the destruction of these sites. Each site, whether it contains ancient artwork or remains for the archaeologist to piece together, could hold dozens of stories.

Let’s talk about the artwork first

An Aboriginal elder once proudly said to me: “Our painting carries the spirituality of who we are.”

“How so?” you might ask.

Every aspect of Aboriginal culture was born in The Dreaming (discussed in more detail below), and this is reflected in the art, itself an expression of The Dreaming. But further, the art is an extension of how the Aboriginal people relate to their position in the world. As change swept across their culture with the arrival of Europeans, so too did the art, yet it still retained the thread of spirituality.

Art could be rock art, ground art, body paintings, bark paintings, weapon decorating, and the sculptures of Northern Australia. Works of art, whether they be painted on canvas or crafted in bronze, signed by a master or be of lazy scribbles, are all of one purpose: They capture a moment or a meaning and freeze it in time. Aboriginal art is different. Aboriginal art is holistic, as is “time” to the Aboriginal people.

To fully appreciate and interpret Aboriginal art one must have an understanding of the hand that creates it. This hand would belong to a person who lives by the law of The Dreaming; who knows that The Dreaming is as it was lived and that how it is still lived; and who knows that The Dreaming is an erasable map of the past, the present, and the future. The Dreaming is in the art, and art is an expression of ceremonial and religious life.

My old university lecturer said that the various art forms of Aboriginal society were attributed to The Dreaming. Ancestral Beings had painted the original design and the artist who painted on bark or drew in the sand was copying the designs inherited from the ancestors.

It is not hard to imagine that the Ancestral Beings watch over the artist at work, ensuring that the events of The Dreaming are perpetuated in today’s culture. That perhaps art itself is a religious activity. Or perhaps, too, that art is a visual language. In essence, that the permanence of Aboriginal life is ensured by the invoking of powerful forces through the symbolism of art. It reflects a concern with the questions of origin and purpose, as interpreted in The Dreaming.

Amid the changes that Aboriginal culture has contended with, the art has incorporated these changes while still retaining its spiritual message. Aboriginal art is as much alive today as it was 60,000 years ago. As in that ancient past, the art – significantly – is not easily separable from everyday life.

Photo by Peter Taylor

And what can archaeology tell us?

There are two views of knowledge into the past and origins of the First Australians: The Dreaming interpretation which is based on mythical knowledge; and the scientific interpretation which is dependent on archaeological evidence. The importance of The Dreaming interpretation is fundamental in Aboriginal cultures yet remains inconclusive to archaeologists.

Some Aboriginal elders have said they already know what happened in the past. Their knowledge is founded on traditional and mythical beliefs passed down through the generations. Beliefs that relate to their origins – their creation – and the living past. This mythology gave them an assurance that they had originated from their land in a period of creative activity (The Dreaming). These beliefs encompass wisdom, and they encompass law. And neither is challenged.

What is The Dreaming? The Dreaming is the creative acts of the ancestral spirit beings; creating species, features, laws and the bonding of relationships between humans and nature. The Dreaming is as it was lived, and how it is still lived. It is an erasable map of the past, present, and future.

All the laws rituals customs, and the purpose of life originated in The Dreaming, and it is important to re-iterate that this belief is not challenged.

Archaeology challenges this belief. What is archaeology? It is the study of ancient cultures through their material remains. Mainly through excavation of ancient sites archaeologists try to create a model of the lifestyles, religious beliefs, diets or any morsel of information about the culture being studies.

In 1969, erosion exposed the skeletal remains of a young Aboriginal lady at Lake Mungo, NSW. She is known as the Mungo Lady and her remains have been dated about 20,000 years before the present time. Excavation of the site offers archaeologists and interpretation of many of the facets of Mungo Lady’s society as well as facts about Mungo Lady herself. It is relevant to mention these (scientific) findings before discussing the Aboriginal (or The Dreaming) interpretation of Mungo Lady.

Science tells us the Mungo Lady was cremated and that her bones were placed in a bark cylinder for burial. She was gracile, that is, not of robust build. We are told that in her time Lake Mungo was water filled therefore she belonged to a lacustrine society. We are told that her people caught fish from the lake, and how they caught and cooked the fish. (The heavy grounding found on ancient teeth tell us that this is the result of constant chewing on reeds from which fishing nets were made, and the consistent size of fish ear bones found in ancient hearths tell us that the Lake Mungo people were conservationists in that they practised gillnet fishing.) Her people had a social order, were religious, and had implements to grind seeds. The list could go on.

Aboriginal interpretation of Mungo Lady was more concise (or perhaps more complex): She had been buried according to law, and that her appearance on the land surface was not a result of erosion, but rather she had emerged at a critical time in the history of her people to tell her story.

The origins of the first Australians are also interpreted differently by archaeologists and The Dreaming beliefs. Science tells us that during one of the ice age periods – most likely the one 60,000 years ago – sea levels were much lower than present, thus allowing migration through island hopping into Australia from the Asia region.

What is the Aboriginal interpretation? Again this is concise. During The Dreaming, spirit beings emerged from the water or the land and took (for our purpose) human form. These beings were the ancestors of all living beings, travelling over the earth performing the same activities that are still performed by the Aboriginal people today.  These creatures started human society and Aboriginal people believe in this.

Of the two views of knowledge, only The Dreaming interpretation is solid. Archaeology with its scientific and analytical approach has not provided enough evidence to support its theories. Their description of, say, the Mungo Lady, provides an informative narration of her lifestyle, yet her origins and most of her past remain a secret. Perhaps in the future, other remnants that now lay buried in the land may emerge and science will provide an interpretation – while the First Australians will provide an answer.

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

Running with cows

I admit I was pleasantly surprised that my stories of growing up on Kangaroo Island were so well-received. Inspired I am, dear reader, to offer two more.

Running with cows

A young boy can find plenty to do on a farm of 1500 acres, but nonetheless I jumped at the chance to go with Mum to another farm, I don’t remember whose (I’d never been there before – or since), where a dozen or so other kids my age would be gathered. The occasion, I think, was a Country Women’s Association (CWA) meeting, of which my mother was the regional president.

Hours of fun beckoned me.

I didn’t know any of the kids as they went to a different school. I never saw them again, and for that I am grateful.

The resident kid suggested we all go down to the river and play whatever game came to mind. We boys thought it’d be fun to have a mud fight, while the girls decided to sit this one out.

I wasn’t having much fun. I felt somewhat left out and was convincing myself that it would have been more enjoyable to stay at home.

But I gave it a go …

I learned, that day, that my mud-throwing skills scored a rating of 2 out of 10, so I came up with a little trick. By putting a few little sticks and stones into my mud ball it should hold together for its full flight, and with any luck would go a little further than my previous attempts.

I created the mother of all mud balls. I stared at it a few moments, congratulating myself for having the genius to produce such a magnificent mud-missile.

With all my might I threw the masterpiece blindly over the stone bridge. A bit off course, but …

The scream alerted me that I’d had a direct hit.

I peered under the bridge. Some poor lass had her whole face covered in mud, one of the stones must have been a little too heavy for blood trickled down over the mud, and her Sunday-best dress was a wee bit more soiled than her mother would have liked.

I gulped, knowing it was I who caused this calamity. I knew, too, that I was going to be in more trouble than my mind could ever imagine.

Where moments earlier I had glowed with pride for producing such a magnificent missile, I now felt a wave of guilt and regret for being stupid enough to launch it.

It was time to escape. If I ran back to the farmhouse quick enough I could say I wasn’t down the river at the time. Yes, good idea, so off I took. No time to run back along the road … I’ll dash through the paddocks. But as I started along in great haste, I knew deep down that I would be found out and a terrible fate awaited me.

So there I was, running along at a record speed and bawling my eyes out at the same time. The crying was uncontrollable.

I didn’t notice the cows, let alone the bull in the paddock.

Now, anybody who lives on a farm knows that you don’t go running past a herd of cows. They start to chase you. If you slow down to a walk … they also slow down. But that fact was lost on me.

So there I was, running along as fast as my legs could carry me, while bawling my eyes out, and being chased by a herd of cattle with the bull out in front. I was convinced that they wanted to kill me. Despite my crime I did not deserve to be mauled to death by these determined cows.

I could see the house.

The gate! Where’s the gate? Bugger looking for the gate … situation desperate … I was going over the fence.

That was the first time I’d ever touched an electric fence, let alone being tangled up in it! “This isn’t my day,” I bawled.

I am sorry to disappoint you, dear reader, for I can offer no conclusion to this story. I don’t remember escaping from the fence. I don’t remember reaching the farmhouse, I don’t remember the long drive home. I don’t even remember if I got into any trouble let alone any punishment I might have received.

All I remember is the my run with cows.

The next story is somewhat different. A family tale that has survived the decades:

The washing day from Hell

Washing day was a long, long day at the best of times.

In Summer – if you start early enough – you could get the washing, drying and ironing completed on the same day.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

But easy it was not.

All the clothes after washing had to be run through the wringer – one hand feeding the clothes between the two rollers, the other hand turning the handle that turned the rollers, squeezing out the water as the clothes passed through them.

The easy part was hanging the clothes on the line. Once dried, the really hard work begun: the ironing.

We didn’t have the luxury of an electric iron. Our iron was placed on top of the wood stove to heat and once heated enough to use, a wooden handle was clipped over the iron and off you went to iron one or two items. (Striking while the iron’s hot, literally). The process of heating the iron could have been repeated a couple of dozen times during the ironing process.

So there would be Mum, on a hot Summer’s day, doing all the ironing in the kitchen with the wood stove cruelly belting out punishing heat.

Now I must introduce my little brother Geoffrey, aged about 5, and my sister Trish, who would have been about 3.

But back to Mum …

On one particular day she’d done the whole lot, from go to woe. The tedious job of washing, hand rinsing, hanging out the clothes, and the arduous and time-consuming ordeal of ironing.

There, sitting on the kitchen table were the ironed clothes, all folded into neat piles of which clothes belong to who. It took a whole day to reach that point, and with much relief I might add. And, I expect, content with her efforts too.

Job done, Mum left the room for a while to attend to something else.

Upon returning to the kitchen she was horrified – yes, horrified – to see all the clothes in one big, messy, screwed-up heap on the kitchen table.

”Who did that?” she roared to young Geoffrey and young Trisha, the only ones in the room.

”I did, Mum,” answered Geoffrey quite proudly and beaming a huge smile. (If anything ever went wrong Geoffrey was usually the culprit so his admission came as no surprise).

Geoffrey copped the full roar of Mum’s discipline. She shook him so vigorously that his ears nearly fell off.

“Why? Why did you do it?” Mum roared again.

Trying to talk while at the same time as crying mournfully, pride shattered, he confessed to his crime …

”Trisha knocked them off the table, so I picked them up for you.”

Yeah, Mum felt bad. A monumental day’s work had ended with a slap to her conscience. (But oh how we laughed about it the next day).

Anyway, that’s nothin’. Running with cows ain’t much fun either.

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

Stuff from way back when

Home-isolation … it’s come to this. I’m prepared to write about anything, even stuff I wouldn’t normally admit to. Such as:

When I was a kid on the farm on Kangaroo Island I’d do things that these days I wouldn’t do for any amount of money. Here’s my first example:

Playing Biggles in the scrub behind the milking shed was hard, hungry work. The good thing about a farm was that food was always within reach. Such as eggs. Raw eggs, that is.

How lucky was I that a few chooks used to lay eggs in the milking shed!

Yum, fresh raw eggs.

There’s a knack to drinking them. All that is needed is a sharp nail – never a problem finding them in any farm shed – and you prick a small hole in the ‘blunt’ end of the egg and a slightly larger one in the ‘sharp’ end of the egg. Wrapping your lips around the sharp end you then suck out all the contents.

Disgusted yet?

Have you ever seen a freshly laid egg? Before it has been cleaned? It’s quite evident that it was born from a chook’s bum! And I used to wrap my lips around the bloody thing … a thought now more disgusting than sucking out the raw contents.

(As an aside, we had an exercise in the army … groups of three with the two largest running a hundred metres carrying the smallest person on their shoulders. Further instructions were at the finish line. The smallest in my team thought it was rather funny that she had the easy job … until she saw the next instructions: eat a raw egg. While she was vomiting up said egg I thought to myself; “What’s so bad about eating a raw egg?”)

Back to the farm …

We were never short of roast lamb dinners, prime steak, the freshest of veggies, a big feed of yabbies from the river or fresh crayfish caught by a family friend. But the rest of the time we were stuck with Dad favourites: tripe, heart and kidney stew, ox tail soup, white pudding, black pudding, boiled cow tongues (a big tongue would feed a small family), and I’d even had possum stew and roast wallaby.

But the raw eggs I ate by choice. Dirty eggs, direct from the chicken’s bum. Which leads me to my next story …

It was always an exciting time for me when cousin Jenny from Adelaide would come and stay for the school holidays. We had 1500 acres to play on, dozens of scrubs to play in, a river to swim in – yet there’s one game we enjoyed the most …

The farm had an abundance of cow pats. Do you know how well a dry cow pat frisbees when thrown right? Jenny and I had hours of enjoyment chasing each other around the paddock frisbeeing cow pats at each other.

Splat! I sure could frisbee those cow pats around with pinpoint accuracy.

I can promise every reader that two things I no longer do are eat raw eggs or throw shit around!

Speaking of cows, one particular dairy cow was the meanest thing born with four legs that God ever blew guts into. Her name was Trurio (as in “goodbye”). Trurio didn’t like me, and I didn’t like her.

One day I decided to let her know that I didn’t like her bad attitude, so I sneaked up behind her with football in hand and fired off a magnificent kick aimed and the part just below the tail. Bullseye. I then quickly scampered up the nearest tree when it was obvious that vengeance was sought.

I learned a valuable lesson that day: never kick a footy at an angry cow’s arse five hours before milking time. Unless, of course, you don’t mind sitting in a tree for five hours while a nasty piece of work with long horns waits below for whatever came first: milking time or when I fell out of the tree.

One more story, if I may, that you will never, ever hear of happening these days. Never.

Our area school was just outside of a town called Parndana: a population of about 150, boasting a general store and not much else. It didn’t even have a pub back in those days.

It was in 1967 (when I was in First Year) that our new Deputy Head Master, Mr Lloyd Bennett (who looked a cross between Skull Murphy and Brute Bernard – a fearful fellow) came into the classroom asking who the fastest runner was. We all pointed to Terry May, who was called by Mr Bennett to come forward.

Handing Terry some money he said; “I want you to run into town and buy me a packet of Craven A and hurry back as fast as you can.”

As Terry was about to dart off, a smiling Mr Bennett called out; “Terry, I want the cellophane left on the packet!”

Just another normal day at school, way back when.

Me as a young lad feeding the pigs (I’m the one in the back). Shorts pulled up past the belly button must have been fashionable back then.

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

Is this the end of the road? Never!

When I posted Is this the end of the road? two days ago I was hoping that over the next couple of weeks Carol and I would learn that The AIMN had been saved.

We didn’t have to wait two weeks.

We didn’t even have to wait two days. Already we have achieved 80 per cent of our goal.

So is it the end of the road? Never!

The fantastic support from our readers has ensured that The AIMN will not only see another year, but many, many after that.

Carol and I have been completely overwhelmed. It has been a humbling experience.

We struggle to find enough words to show our appreciation.

The last two days has shown us just how much The AIMN means for so many people. But that’s not because of the efforts of Carol and I. It’s because of the tireless work of all our authors, without whom there would be no AIMN.

Take a bow, everyone. Carol and I salute you.

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

Is this the end of the road?

If there is one thing – and only one thing – that we can take out of the LNP’s win in the 2019 election is that conservative governments are a boon for independent media sites. Particularly so in Australia, where the mainstream media becomes more and more the mouthpiece for the conservatives.

That leaves the independent sites and social media as the only available platforms where the government can be challenged for their lies, their rorting, their incompetence, and their failure to address the important issues of the day.

As such, 2019 was a very good year for The AIMN with our readership increasing by 8 per cent over 2018. And after the government’s mis-handling of the disastrous bushfires in the New Year, 2020 started, for us, with a bang. With a bit over a third of the year now passed, our readership is already 65 per cent of what we achieved in 2019.

But then the pandemic reached our shores, the government downed tools, and ‘everything’ stagnated. The government would have us believe that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel but we wiser heads have our reservations.

Nonetheless, this has adversely affected The AIMN. While we’re all spending this ‘quiet time’ rejuvenating and catching our collective breaths for what government incompetencies await us … our operating costs continue to accrue.

Within the next few weeks – when our annual (and hefty) web fees are due – Carol and I must decide whether or not we can afford to keep The AIMN open. At the present rate, we cannot. We always operate at a loss, but there comes a time where Carol and I have to admit that we can’t always afford to carry them.

The remainder of 2020 – once the government awakens from their slumber – will awake us all. As will the remainder of the Morrison government’s term. I cannot recall our country having a worse prime minister or such an ineffective government. We love to fight them. As do our wonderful authors, commenters, and readers.

We would dearly love The AIMN to lead the charge (along with the other independent sites). We’ve been doing so for over seven years. It’s in our blood.

But the income this site generates is way below what is needed to break even, and we can no longer afford to sustain these losses. We’ve made it this far thanks to the fantastic contributions from readers who donate to the site, plus of course, from the adverts you see on our site.

To survive another year and beyond would only require a hundred people signing up to contribute $5 a month. That at least would cover our monthly web hosting and designer costs. More would give us the opportunity to take on a bit of help for our already flat-out team.

I know that The AIMN means a lot to many, many people, Carol and I included. And without the efforts of so many tireless authors we would not be one of the leading independents sites in this country. Carol and I are proud of our standing, and proud of every one of you – authors, admins, commenters and readers – who have been in the engine room of this great site.

We now ask you to drive us into the coming years.

Without you there is no AIMN. It will be the end of the road.

(Will will provide you with regular updates to let you know how we’re travelling.)

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

An incompetent and careless government is a threat to us all

This government’s preparedness and response to emergency situations fails every test.

I highlighted this in my recent article; ‘We were once prepared for this‘ in which I wrote:

In the dying days of the Howard government they were very mindful of a couple of viruses, H5N1 (avian influenza), or bird flu as it was better known as, and H1N1, which was known as swine flu, that in a worse-case scenario could bring the world to its knees. That is, a global pandemic. Which includes us.

We had to be prepared for it…

Battle plans for such an event hit the drawing-board in 2007; an initiative of the Howard government – readying the country for the worst – and some time later the program was given life again by the Rudd government, with a significant increase in funding.

You may wish to read the whole article. It is not crucial that you do, but I encourage you as it provides a glimpse into the Coalition’s indifference to the threat of a pandemic.

Let’s now go back to 2007. I refer you to Australia’s Preparedness for a Human Influenza Pandemic. Due to copyright I cannot reproduce any of the report so I draw your attention to Section 2.43 on page 59 and the importance of thermal scanners being deployed at airports.

What is so good about thermal scanners? Here is a succinct explanation:

In efforts to contain the highly contagious virus causing COVID-19, thermal cameras, set up at checkpoints or hand-held by personnel at airports, borders, and entrances to businesses, schools, and other institutions, are being used to screen large numbers of people for elevated body temperatures quickly and reliably.

A high temperature does not necessarily indicate that the person is infected with the coronavirus, but it is the first step in identifying its presence. People with a high temperature are taken for further testing and, if they test positive, are isolated until treatment can begin.

Thermal scanning should be utilised as the first step in ‘catching’ and ultimately containing the disease, and this is practised in a growing number of countries.

I say “well done” to the authors of Australia’s Preparedness for a Human Influenza Pandemic report 2007/2008 for including the use of thermal scanning in airports as one of their key recommendations.

Now let’s jump to the present day and the same report prepared in August 2019: Australian Health Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza. Again, as with the previous report I cannot reproduce any of the content due to copyright reasons. But I draw your attention to page 136, and there – right up the top of the page – the use of thermal scanners is Not recommended, stating, bewilderingly, that their effectiveness is low and their use is an impediment to travellers.

Instead, as summarised on page 127 of the report, the traveller will be confronted with pamphlets and brochures etc.

What is going to be of the most critical importance in the identification of even one person who is carrying the coronavirus: thermal scanning or a pamphlet?

I also encourage you to read page 9 of the report: “Pandemic stages” and ask yourself how well the Morrison government rates in this current pandemic.

On February 28, Katie Burgess, writing in The Canberra Times reported that the:

But the Health Department says there are no current plans to subject travellers to temperature checks, on the advice of medical professionals.

… Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy told media on January 21 temperature checks had proven ineffective in past pandemics.

Murphy, sadly, must have read the 2019 report which had reached the same conclusion: it didn’t work for pandemics in the past so it obviously won’t work with any pandemics in the present or the future.

Ever heard of tunnel vision, Mr Murphy?

It is true that thermal scanning won’t stop the spread of the coronavirus and it won’t always catch those that have it, but it will take enormous steps in detecting it, as countries like China have shown.

Australia, meanwhile, with its incompetent and careless government is dragging its feet.

I don’t know about you, but I get the feeling that our incompetent and careless government is a threat to us all.

Note: There is also a brief report from 2018: Emergency Response Plan for Communicable Disease Incidents of National Significance: National Arrangements which also ignores thermal scanning at airports. In fact, they don’t even rate a mention, but a ‘police presence’ at airports does.

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

We were once prepared for this

I must be a prophet. Of doom, unfortunately.

I began writing this article on January 11, with the title ‘Are we prepared for a pandemic?’ I wrote:

The memories of the recent bushfires will haunt us for many years, as will, perhaps, our anger at a government warned of impending disaster yet who failed to act on this prediction.

The cost of doing nothing is immeasurable, but that is another story.

Not all governments have been as ignorant and as ill-prepared to impending danger.

I have worked with governments – both Labor and the Coalition – who would have been prepared for when disaster strikes.

In the dying days of the Howard government they were very mindful of a couple of viruses, H5N1 (avian influenza), or bird flu as it was better known as, and H1N1, which was known as swine flu, that in a worse-case scenario could bring the world to its knees. That is, a global pandemic. Which includes us.

We had to be prepared for it.

Today, now two and a half months later, such a pandemic has arrived. And our government was not prepared.

But we were once prepared for this.

Battle plans for such an event hit the drawing-board in 2007; an initiative of the Howard government – readying the country for the worst – and some time later the program was given life again by the Rudd government, with a significant increase in funding.

My area of expertise was in social security legislation. (No doubt we were just a small cog of a big wheel. A pandemic, obviously, effects more than just those on income support, but I can’t speak for those who focused on health, employment, education, immigration etc).

We had to consider what the worst-case scenario of the pandemic might be. To put it bluntly: we had to expect massive loss of life or illness in the Australian community and how to work with that.

What we needed to prepare for – in the event of a pandemic and its expected disruption – were issues that would be faced by income support recipients.

Above all else, the health and safety of income support recipients – including those who needed to apply for income support – was the number one priority. We needed to provide them with an environment where their dealings with Centrelink was one that was devoid of the carriers of disease: humans. The social security legislation of the day didn’t provide that environment. We needed to change it.

At the time, Newstart recipients were required to report to Centrelink each fortnight. What would be the requirements during a pandemic? How would we cope with the expected increase in applications for income support?

Without going into too much detail (of which there was plenty), the answer was clear: all dealings between Centrelink and the recipient/applicant would be over the internet. There was no other choice. (With an NBN that was FTTP this could be handled). Centrelink doors would be closed.

That was over ten years ago.

Where are we now?

See below:

Where else are we?

Newstart recipients are still required to fulfil their mutual obligations – of which there are calls to suspend.

The MyGov website – the ‘link’ between Centrelink at the income support recipient/applicant – crashed. I cannot say if this was the blame of our inferior NBN. Neither can I say if this would or would not have happened with a better NBN.

We once had a plan. It appears that now we don’t. But it begs the question: What happened to it?

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

My Kangaroo Island

The looks of excitement on our faces was sure evidence that Mr Borham’s idea was met with class approval.

It was 1966. Trevor Borham was our class teacher at the Parndana Area School on Kangaroo Island.

Mr Borham had instructed us to move all our desks to the back and sides walls – in a “U” formation – and in the centre of the room we were going to make an Aboriginal campsite, including our very own wurley and hearth.

My proud contribution was a tool from an old Aboriginal campsite that I’d found on the farm. A tool that I was to later learn was a hammer stone. A tool, that thirty years later, was to send me on a journey.

But this wasn’t just any hammer stone. This was the finest I would ever see. It was so symmetrical, and a better specimen than any I would ever see again; at university, in museums, or from photos in university text books.

At the end of the school year we packed up our campsite, my hammer stone was returned to me, and I put it back near where I first found it, never to see it again.

For decades I regretted not keeping that stone. (It certainly would have impressed my professor in Aboriginal Archaeology). But the more I learned of the cultures and traditions of the First Australians, I slowly accepted that I’d made the right, although hasty decision to leave the stone where I’d found it. It belonged on the island. It belonged to the ancestral spirits that dwell there, and I had no right to take it. I’m happy with that.

But what was that journey?

I yearned to know more about the people who made and used that hammer stone. The answer surprised me.

I’d like to share that journey with you.

Kangaroo Island, or Karta, ‘island of the dead’ – the name given to the island by the mainland Ramindjeri people – is a large land mass 15 kilometres off the South Australian coast. The island is approximately 150 kilometres long and 50 kilometres at its widest point, and has 450 kilometres of coastline enclosing an area of 4350 square kilometres. Lying across the mouth of St Vincent Gulf, it is separated from mainland South Australia by Backstairs Passage and Investigator Strait.

The island was declared uninhabited upon European ‘discovery’ in 1802. Matthew Flinders chronicled that the native animals being unmindful of human beings and human predation ‘concurred with the absence of all traces of men [sic] to show that it [the island] was not inhabited’ (1) (Cited in Tindale and Maegraith, 1931:275). He also noted that the island’s vegetation was overgrown as if untended by firestick farming, and though having declared the island uninhabited, had observed ‘puzzling signs of fire within the previous ten to twenty years’ and, foremost, speculated human agency. It was not an observation that was to occasion him any great distraction, merely recording that persons unknown – perhaps shipwreck survivors or whalers – may have been the cause.

European settlement of the island began shortly after Flinders’ visit: escaped convicts seeking refuge, or wandering sealers and whalers bringing as company a number of Indigenous women abducted from the nearby mainland or from Tasmania. By 1826 the permanent population of the island numbered upwards of two hundred, still predominantly sealers, whalers, and ‘native’ women who continued to be stolen from their tribal homes. Recognised for its potential for primary industry, in 1836 the island became an official British settlement and large tracts of land were systematically cleared for agriculture.

Previous habitation was never assumed until the discovery of stone tools in 1903 denoted a prehistoric population.

It was not until 1930 when Norman Tindale (2) and his associate Harold Cooper discovered archaeological campsites around the stranded shorelines of Murray’s Lagoon – and dismissed the theory of Tasmanian or mainland origin – that serious research began.

Hammer stone

Further campsites were documented, and the incidence of quartzite implements – nearly all of which were heavy pebble choppers or hammer stones – suggested the existence of a considerable previous population. Tindale identified that these implements belonged to a ‘pure’ industry which he termed the ‘Kartan’. The lack of material remains with these discoveries implied considerable antiquity, possibly of Pleistocene age when the island was a peninsular of the mainland.

Of this find, a ‘mystified’ Tindale (1930-74:4) recorded that ‘the implements are not associated with the usual signs of recent occupation’ noting the absence of ashes, charcoal, ruddle, bone and shell fragments (Tindale and Maegraith, 1931:278), adding that:

The evidence of the distribution of the artefacts suggests that the five-metre shoreline, or thereabouts, was a relatively stable one during one of the last periods of such occupation, and … as it was then, was a favoured campsite. Few inferences can be made concerning the people who fashioned the artefacts found on these sites. It is evident that they used very crude cutting, scraping, and hammering implements, and were living on the island sufficiently long ago for traces of organic camp debris to have disappeared. The primitiveness of the stone implements and the absence of all traces of the dingo may suggest that the former islanders were … a Pre-Australoid people who have become extinct. (Tindale and Maegraith, 1931:284).

Of their origins Tindale postulated that the Kartan was of Pleistocene age and had drawn similarities – and cultural connections – between pebble choppers from Kangaroo Island and Upper Paleolithic tools from the Malay Peninsula known as ‘Sumatra-type’ implements

To establish the antiquity of the occupation Ron Lampert surveyed the island in search of stratified occupation deposits. One site, Seton Cave, produced evidence of occupation dated to 16,110 BP. This site also provided strong evidence for a temporal overlap between humans and megafauna.

The existence of an ancient people on the island raised questions of their origins and their eventual fate. Neither of these questions can be confidently answered, though nonetheless they are widely speculated.

The disappearance of the prehistoric inhabitants from an island favoured with an admirable climate and an abundance of fish, animal, and bird life is far more difficult to understand than is the manner of their coming. In the absence of the appropriate data to answer this question there appear to be only two logical – yet purely hypothetical alternatives: ‘their departure or extinction in situ’ (Cooper, 1960:496).

Tindale and Maegraith suggested that the difficulties that early European settlers met with in obtaining water supplies during dry seasons might well have been experienced by the original inhabitants: a severe drought being quite capable, they argue, of reducing the food resources to a point that extinction was inescapable. Others offer evidence against this. Bauer’s description of a favourable palaeoenvironment (Bauer in Pilling and Waterman, 1970:198-199, 212-213) fits with Neil Draper’s observation that the locations of archaeological sites meet the ‘basic camp-site requirements of fresh water and proximity to a food supply’ (Draper in Robinson, 1992:9). There are also indications that the climate was more favourable for human populations for much of the recent past. For example, the presence of Tasmanian devils as reported by Draper is striking evidence of damper conditions favouring lush vegetation and permanent water. Further, by far the greatest number of artefacts have been found in association with higher shorelines of lagoons, suggesting that these bodies of water were larger at the time of occupation. Bauer adds that:

The wide distribution and numbers of implements found suggest that a moderately large population occupied the island for a considerable period of time. In terms of food and water resources, Kangaroo Island could be presumed to support a population of a few hundred almost indefinitely. Most of the mainland animals, such as kangaroos, wallaby, and opossum must have been present, and bird life, especially waterfowl, must also have been plentiful, for lagoons appear to have been larger and more numerous during at least some stages of the occupation. Sea foods, especially shellfish and fresh-water fish, must have furnished a nearly inexhaustible food resource. (Bauer in Pilling and Waterman, 1970:212).

In the absence of the appropriate data – including the complete lack of skeletal remains (3) – it is difficult to answer the question regarding their disappearance from the island. It is most likely that they succumbed in the land where they had lived, albeit the reasons for their extinction are not clear. Archaeologist Josephine Flood suggests that as a human habitat Kangaroo Island steadily deteriorated during the Holocene through demographic imbalances. Indeed, pollen analysis shows a change in vegetation towards drier shrubs and increasingly arid environment between 5,000 and 2,000 years ago.

Habitat isolation – a further argument considered – and the consequent reduction in landscape connectivity can lead to the decline and eventual extinction of local populations. Small, isolated populations are particularly vulnerable to random variation in the environment, population parameters, and genetic processes. Given a restricted population and a long period of time, genetic changes in the Kangaroo Island population itself could have been such that extinction was inevitable.

Kangaroo Island was again the island of the dead.

 * * * * *

The recent tragedies on the island; the ecological devastation, and the loss of human life and property have cut deep into me. What are also lost are the hundreds of undiscovered ancient campsites of the Kartan people.

Perhaps one day – a hundred years from now, or even a thousand – a young boy might stumble upon a hammer stone. It may or may not be the one I found long ago. But when he does pick up that ancient tool, I hope it lures him on the same journey that I took.

(1) The time of the demise of the Kartan people was originally thought to be 5,000 years ago, which was later updated to around 500 years ago. On our farm – for a time – we had an old bloke by the name of Dougal McIntyre (Old Mac) work for us. Old Mac was well into his 80s when he died around 1967. He told me that he knew the last surviving Island Aboriginal, who lived at Flinders Chase and had died at the beginning of the 20th Century.

My Aboriginal Archaeology professor found it hard to believe my story, arguing that he was surely a Tasmanian Aborigine, and reminded me of Flinders’ observation that the kangaroos where he landed (Penneshaw) did not fear humans. A salient point. My argument – knowing the geography of the island – was that Penneshaw was close to 80 miles from Flinders Chase, which made Flinders’ point irrelevant. However, it was an argument I was never going to win.

Then … at the end of the year he called me into his office. I was right after all. Neil Draper had discovered a cave at Cape Borda that had archaeological evidence of human occupation that preceded the arrival of Tasmanian Aborigines to the island, and ending about a hundred years ago.

(2) I was given permission to read through Norman Tindale’s diaries in the Adelaide Museum. Tindale noted that as old stone tools had been unearthed after ploughing and that old campsites were on the ancient shorelines of lagoons, he realised he had discovered an ancient civilisation. To read that discovery, in his own words, in his own diary, sent a chill through me. It was as though I were there with him.

His diaries, as an aside, also mention a Tasmanian girl named Suke, who was stolen and taken to the island. After the death of Truganini in 1876 it became legend that the last ‘real’ or ‘full-blood’ Tasmanian Aborigine was now gone. This was not true, however, as Suke lived on the island until her death in 1888.

(3) The island was home to the Kartan people for over 16,000 years, with a population of over 200 people at any one time. Hundreds of Kartan campsites have been discovered, as have the remains of their prey, yet the remains of not one individual have ever been found. Not one.

References

Cooper, H. (1960). ‘The archaeology of Kangaroo Island, South Australia’ in the Records of the South Australian Museum. Volume 13, number 4, pages 481-503.

Cooper, H; and Condon, H. (1948). ‘On some fragments of emu egg-shell from an ancient camp-site on Kangaroo Island’ in The South Australian ornithologist. Volume 18, number 7, pages 66-68.

Cooper, H. (1960). ‘The archaeology of Kangaroo Island, South Australia’ in the Records of the South Australian Museum. Volume 13, number 4, pages 481-503.

Cooper, H. (1966). ‘Archaeological stone implements from a lagoon bed, Kangaroo Island, South Australia’ in the Records of the South Australian Museum. Volume 15, number 2, pages 309-327.

Draper, N. (1988). ‘Stone tools and cultural landscapes: investigating the archaeology of Kangaroo Island’ in South Australian geographical journal. Volume 88, pages 15-36.

Flood, J. (1995). Archaeology of the Dreamtime. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.

Lambert, R. (1981). The great Kartan mystery. The Australian National University, Canberra.

Mulvaney, D; and White, P. (1987). Editors Australia to 1788. Fairfax, Sydney.

Nunn, J. (1981). Soldier settlers: war service land settlement, Kangaroo Island. Investigator Press, Hawthorndene.

Nunn, J. (1989). This southern land: a social history of Kangaroo Island 1800-1890. Investigator Press, Hawthorndene.

Pilling, A; and Waterman, R. (1970). Editors Diprotodon to detribalisation: studies of change among Australian Aborigines. Michigan State University Press, East Lansing, USA.

Robinson, A. (1992). Editor Biological survey of Kangaroo Island. NPWS, Adelaide.

Tindale, N; and Maegraith, B. (1931). ‘Traces of an extinct Aboriginal population on Kangaroo Island’ in the Records of the South Australian Museum. Volume 4, number 3, pages 275-289.

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

Never has there been a greater need for Aboriginal fire-stick farming

As the bush fires rage so too does the debate on how land should be managed, specifically to prevent the repeat of these catastrophic fires.

On the Left we have the realists who believe the scientists that have warned there is a link between bush fires and climate change; and on the Right we have those who deny the link and so are furiously looking for someone to blame. They are blaming the usual suspects: Lefties and greenies, for they are the ones – apparently – who have stopped hazard-reduction burning in the cooler months. I’ve never known it to happen (which is not to say it hasn’t) but the Right want someone to blame regardless.

We all know that fires kill wildlife, whether it’s through hazard-reduction burning or through uncontrolled fires. Ideally, what we want is bush fire prevention with the absolute minimum (or no) loss of wildlife, and which also reduces the future loss of all life, including human life.

This can still be achieved through hazard reduction burning. It’s by ‘who’ that is the key.

Aboriginal Australians hold that key.

As traditional Aborigines were not land owners they felt that they had a responsibility to the environment. The environment, the land, and even the sky were created in one – as were the people – and all were related. With this attitude (belief) is it any surprise that the Aboriginal people never took anything from nature? Aborigines were the original conservationists and their use of land management promoted ecological health.

An example of this was fire stick farming: The low-intensity burning of undergrowth in wooded areas that would promote the germination of new plants, and thus attract the animals that were an important part of an Aborigine’s diet. This burning was carried out before the dry season and was done carefully and systematically. No more was burned than necessary. Burning was also more than just sound land management; it was evidence that the land was healthy and being fully utilised. There was also a religious significance to burning: As the Ancestral spirits of the Dreaming still inhabited the land, the burnings provided these spiritual inhabitants with lands on which they could hunt. But fire-stick farming had another purpose: to decrease the risk of the wild fires now all too common in modern Australia.

Conservation was also extended to all practices of hunting and gathering. No more food was taken than required and no food source was over exploited. In some societies prohibitions were placed on the taking of immature plants or animals. In times of crisis, such as drought or flood, land ownership need never be relinquished. The resources have been preserved. Critics of fire-stick farming would argue that forest burning kills wildlife. This was not the case. For example, the koala – the tragic face of the current bush fires – was an important source of food for traditional Aborigines, so the areas chosen to be burned would not have contained a population of a valuable food source. It defeated the purpose of their land management practices. Why kill what they were trying to preserve? After burning, the regrowth of vegetation attracted wildlife to the area, so Aborigines were actually producing an environment that was more suited to them. As an Adnyamathanha man told me today of those practices; “Burn an area of scrub where there’s no koalas, within 5-6 years the koalas would be there.”

Conversely, the western attitude to the land did not encourage sound management or preservation techniques. Whereas the Aborigines were careful in their exploitation of resources, the westerners unwittingly created vast tracts of land devastation. For instance, the over grazing of stock has rendered many areas infertile. The senseless chopping down of forests has destroyed delicate eco-systems. The salinity of the waterways is largely due to pollution. It is evident that no consideration had been given to the protection of natural resources. Land exploitation was used to advance British colonisation and became the rationale for European land ownership.

And slowly, as land was seized from the Aborigines, the land management techniques of our First People and the practice of fire-stick farming were discarded.

In his book Aboriginal Environmental Impacts, James Kohen explains the demise of the latter:

While Aboriginal people used fire as a tool for increasing the productivity of their environment, Europeans saw fire as a threat. Without regular low-intensity burning, leaf litter accumulates and crown fires can result, destroying everything in their path. European settlers feared fire, for it could destroy their houses, their crops, and it could destroy them. Yet the environment that was so attractive to them was created by fire (p 42).

In fearing fire, they – and we – have succumbed to it. We need to turn back the clock two hundred years and return the keys to the Aborigines to manage this delicate continent. We have failed.

The author has a BA in Aboriginal Affairs Administration, a BA (Honours) in Aboriginal Studies, spent three years as a Project Officer for Aboriginal communities in the Flinders Ranges, Batemans Bay and Eden, and three years as a Policy Officer in ATSIC, Canberra.

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

What a competent government would have done …

Who said there’s no difference between Labor and the LNP? I thank Henry Johnston for pointing me to this media release by Bill Shorten (on 17 March, 2019) which provides us with one glaring difference. Read on, and be the judge:

A Shorten Labor Government will boost Australia’s firefighting capabilities with a national fleet of aircraft and dedicated smokejumper units to keep Australians safe from bushfires.

All Australians understand the devastating impact that bushfires have. Lives are lost, homes destroyed and communities shattered.

Our firefighters and emergency services personnel are among the best in the world, and they do a tremendous job, often putting their own lives at risk. But they need more support from government.

At the moment, Australia doesn’t have a government-owned fleet of water bombing aircraft – making us reliant on borrowing from private companies domestically and from overseas.

The bushfire season in Australia is lengthening and already overlapping with the northern hemisphere, increasing the risk that we won’t be able to access the aircraft we need at times of peril.

At the same time, the Federal Government’s contribution to the National Aerial Firefighting Centre has plummeted from 50 per cent of funding to just 23 per cent, reducing our overall firefighting capability.

The Bureau of Meteorology has identified this summer as Australia’s hottest on record, which included devastating bushfires in Victoria and Tasmania. Now is the time to invest in giving our firefighters the resources they need to keep us all safe.

Labor’s national firefighting package will deliver:

$80 million to establish the National Aerial Bushfire Fighting Fleet of aircraft

This fleet will provide standing aerial firefighting capacity that can be used on demand in emergencies.

It will include retro-fitted Black Hawk helicopters as they are phased out from active use by the Australian Army and Erickson S-64 Air-crane helicopters (or ‘Elvis’ as they are commonly known) which has a 2,650 gallon tank capable of snorkelling or scooping fresh or salt water.

It’s expected that the national fleet will include a standing capability of up to six Large or Very Large Air Tankers, and up to 12 heavy rotary wing helicopters.

The benefits of aerial firefighting are clear. Aircrafts offer speed, access and observation advantages over ground crews. Containment is more effective and the final fire burned area minimised using aerial capability, thereby reducing demand on ground crews.

Australia’s first ‘smokejumper’ units

Smokejumpers are firefighters trained to be rapidly deployed by helicopters at remote fires during the short window during which those fires can be contained.

Smokejumpers usually rappel from helicopters and use chain-saws, hoes and other dry firefighting tools to establish a containment perimeter around the fire. They then patrol the perimeter to ensure the fire does not jump containment lines while working with water-bombing aircraft to ensure the contained fire is fully extinguished.

California and other US states currently have a number of smokejumper units which have proven successful.

As part of the $80 million commitment to establish a fleet, Labor will work with the states and territories to establish smokejumper units across the country.

$21 million for the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC)

A Shorten Labor Government will stop the Federal Government’s reduction in funding for our firefighting capabilities by returning to a 50-50 funding split between the states and territories and the Commonwealth.

Labor’s investment will ease the burden on state and territory governments, develop new national programs including a national risk management model, and national research and development programs including trials of new aircraft and night firefighting activities.

Labor can pay for new firefighting aircraft the smokejumper units because we are making multinationals pay their fair share and closing tax loopholes for the top end of town.

 

Well, at least people who receive franking credits are happy and Clive Palmer will get his mine.

 

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

Some simple questions for Scott Morrison that nobody has thought to ask

What else but Scott Morrison’s belief in the words of Donald Trump would have been the inspiration behind his decision to expose Australian troops to a possible armed conflict in the Strait of Hormuz?

Is it the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ all over again? Same players: the US, the UK and Australia and an oil-rich nation. Same catalyst: believe whatever a POTUS says.

But more to the point, why does Morrison feel we need to join the US in Iran on Trump’s “say so”?

Is Morrison one of the few remaining individuals on the face of the Earth who believes anything Trump says? It appears as though he is.

Perhaps Scott Morrison could tell us what else he believes from the mouth or mind of Donald Trump.

This should be easy.

Tell us, Scott:

Do you think that Donald Trump should be able to buy Greenland?

Do you agree that nuking hurricanes is a sound idea?

Do you agree with Donald Trump that windmills cause noise cancer?

Do you agree with the Trump Administration locking up children? (No, wait, forget it. We can guess your answer to that one).

Do you agree with Trump’s trade war with China?

Do you agree with Donald Trump that the moon and Mars are the same?

Do you agree with Trump that Nazis are fine people?

Do you agree with Trump that Hilary Clinton should be locked up over “her emails”?

Do you agree that the media is the enemy of the people?

Do you agree with Trump that he was exonerated by Robert Mueller?

Do you think it ridiculous that Trump believes he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize? (For what?)

Do you believe any of this rubbish?:

Do you agree with Trump’s plan to build a wall along the border with Mexico?

Do you agree with Trump’s claim that global warming is a hoax created by China?

Do you believe him when he says he’s a stable genius?

Do you believe that he receives beautiful letters from Kim Jong-un?

Do you really believe he’ll “make America great again”?

Do you believe his claim that he knows more about ISIS than his generals?

Do you believe Trump when he said that he knows the best words?

Do you agree with Trump that Obama spent too much time playing golf when he was POTUS?

Do you believe his claim that he has “statistically been proven right” that the concept of shaking hands is “absolutely terrible”?

Did you believe him when he said; “I look very much forward to showing my financials, because they are huge”?

This one’s a doozie – and please don’t take it personal – but do you agree with his statement that; “The worst thing a man can do is go bald. Never let yourself go bald”?

Do you believe him when he said he is “the chosen one” (by God)?

Now for a more serious question …

If you don’t believe any of them, then why do you believe him on Iran?

Maybe appeasing “the chosen one” takes priority over the safety of Australians.

As The Donald would say; Sad.

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

 

Scroll Up