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Tag Archives: Indigenous Australians

Blankets Urgently Needed in Central Australian Communities

Yesterday I made a donation to Waltja. They are raising money to purchase blankets for people in Central Australia. Donation platforms to assist people in dire need should not need to exist in Australia in 2017. Especially if the cause is a flood. Please support this cause.

Waltja

https://www.waltja.org.au/

https://www.waltja.org.au/

Waltja Tjutangku Palyapayi Aboriginal Corporation (Waltja) is a community-based organisation. They are an independent organisation and receive funds from the Commonwealth and State and Territory Departments.

Waltja Tjutangku Palyapayi is in the Luritja language. It literally means “families, for everybody, really good together”, or the short version, “doing good work with families”.

Waltja works with Aboriginal families in remote Central Australian Communities. They service 900,000 kilometres squared. To put this into perspective, the Prime Minister’s electorate of Wentworth can fit into this area 23,684 times. Waljta services an area approximately as big as the O’Connor electorate – the third largest electorate in Australia.

They coordinate a range of projects: Aged Care and Disability, Caring for Elders, Disability Bush Service, Emergency Relief Fund for Vulnerable Groups, Family Mental Health, Kapaliku ngurra yirritinguru – A Community Based Arts Project, Money Management Information, Tjutangku Tjukurrpa – Social Enterprise and Reconnect Youth Support Program.

Traditional Aboriginal Women work across various remote communities and they work across nine languages. In 2014, they received the award for “the best-governed Indigenous organisation in Australia.”

Today, they need your help.

Waltja Warm Blankets – The Donation Plea

They have a Pozible project to share the story of Central Australians affected and to attract donations. A once in 50-year flood has wiped out the supply of warm blankets. Temperatures can plunge to below freezing in this area of Australia.

It gets cold in the desert

This excerpt from their Pozible Donations page explains further:

When you think of Central Australia you probably think of a hot dry desert.

But come winter, the desert is anything but hot. Nights drop below zero and the orange sands turn white with frost. Because of the cold, each year there are elderly or vulnerable people who don’t survive.

But not this year, not on our watch!

Waltja always puts extra money and supplies aside to be ready for the winter months, but to at the start of the year, Central Australia experienced a one-in-50-year flooding. We had as much rain in two and half weeks than we would normally have across the whole year.

Roads were cut and many people who had been travelling to town for shopping or visiting family were stranded with nothing but the clothes on their back. So we did what anyone would do – we cracked open our supplies put aside for winter to help the many women and children, and elderly, who’d become trapped and homeless by the flooding.

Click Here to Share the Warmth this Winter

Campaign donate

Share the Warmth this Winter by Waltja

When you think of Central Australia you probably think of a hot dry desert. But come winter, the desert is anything but hot. Nights drop below zero and the orange sands turn white with frost. Because of the cold, each year there are elderly or vulnerable people who don’t survive.

Waltja needs to raise $75,000 dollars for 3000 blankets including transport. To date, they have only raised $16,154.00

Demand Better!

After you donate, please write to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Nigel Scullion and cc the Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Mr Bill Shorten. Please enquire why, after a natural disaster, a pledge campaign is necessary to raise funds for blankets. Please ask why the funds are not readily available from the Government. Also, insist upon immediate action.

I just did.

In 2017, the right to keep warm is a basic right. This is simply not good enough.

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The characteristics of Fascism and how we might note its presence today

Is fascism creeping into Australia?

There are clearly no Fascist regimes in Australia, or any regime with even the slightest of Fascist agendas. We’re a luckier country than that.

Broadly speaking, Fascism is:

A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.

This clearly does not exist in Australia.

But as this guest post by Paul Cannon disturbingly points out, the ‘rhetoric and behaviour’ of the current federal government (and state governments) could easily have us believe otherwise.


Does it matter if democracy shifts to the right? That depends on where you stand politically. But if the shift is extreme then I think it is of grave concern. And what concerns me even more is the tendency to ignore the shift.

If you don’t look closely you never really notice it or generally laugh it off.

The Fourteen Defining Characteristics of Fascism by the author Lawrence Britt, originally published in Free Inquiry Magazine Vol. 23, No. 2, Spring, 2003 are worth noting in regard to current politics in the west These fourteen points are similar but not the same as those published by the author Umberto Eco in 1995, which are also worth reading.

Image from sodahead.com

Image from sodahead.com

Of course, immediately some of you have retreated, because every time the issue of Fascism comes up it is considered passé or too sensational (you can’t say that!) or irrelevant (don’t be ridiculous that was then) and therefore such a comparison to today should not be used. But I believe we hide our heads in the sand when we ignore the trend, even when it is a niche or even isolated elements showing up. Fascism wasn’t closed off in 1945, indeed it continued in Latin America, Spain and Portugal, and periodically in Italy long after the war. It shows up in mass movements across Europe like the British Defence Force, the National Front, and recently UKIP, to use England as just one example. In defining fascism one should avoid Hollywood movies as signifiers of what Fascism actually is and what it looks like. For Fascism to exist today, it cannot be as it was, we have to look for the essence in what is happening now and to ask – what clothes is it wearing?

I am not looking to review Fascism historically, or to dwell on the symptoms of historical Fascism but rather to look at the structure of Fascism and what might be happening now.

Fascism is not by definition totalitarian, it can use that form of governing, but it can be present in democracy. So let’s not be fooled by trying to say its nothing like 1920, or 1933 that is merely a smokescreen.

Fascism developed in Italy. The term Fascism derives from ‘fasces’ the Roman symbol of collectivism and power (a tied bundle of rods with a protruding axe). The Italians also had a description for the concept of Fascism, Benito Mussolini stated that Fascism was ‘estato corporativo’ which means the corporate state (a view also promoted by Othmar Spann in Austria). Fascism is a pretence or veneer of “socialism” or collectivism controlled by capitalism which is in partnership with government (much the same as National Socialism in Germany).

Lawrence Britt studied the National Socialist regime of Germany (Hitler), the Kingdom of Italy (Mussolini), Nationalist or Francoist Spain (Franco), the Military Government Junta of Chile (Pinochet) and other Latin American regimes (Argentina, Paraguay, El Salvador, Brazil), and New Order in Indonesia (Suharto). What Britt found was fourteen defining characteristics as follows:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism: Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the recognition of human rights: because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerationsof prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause: the people are rallied into a unifying Patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military: Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service is glamourised.

5. Rampant Sexism: the governments of fascist nations tend be almost exclusively male dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

6. Controlled Mass Media: sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security: fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined: governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected: the industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labour Power is Suppressed: because the organising power of labour is the only real threat to a fascist government, labour unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts: fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment: under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption: fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections: sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

In relation to Australia we can immediately rule out 1 (although even here there is the false mantra that refugees are illegal) 11, 13, and 14. And with 4, 6, and 8 there are identifiable elements but not the whole.

But the rest 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, and 12, half, are certainly present in the current federal government rhetoric and behaviour. And if you add elements of 4, 6 and 8, there is a strong shift to the right with a sense of an essence of fascism pervading.

In the current federal government there is:
– a complete disdain for human rights (treatment of indigenous communities, gay people, people who need welfare support payments, disability pensioners, refugees);
– they have manipulated the population by identifying an enemy and scapegoats (“terrorists”, Muslims, refugees);
– the military is not supreme but it is being utilised for civilian purposes, therefore it has been elevated (customs and border control, the indigenous intervention); there is sexism (as demonstrated by Abbott, Pyne and Bernadi among others), and to add – Umberto Eco writes that fascism thrives on creating fear over difference;
– there is a sense of control by cronyism with media, and there is censorship in regard to the refugees coming by boat;
– there is an obsession (pathological) with national security;
– religion is not intertwined but members of the government use their religious affiliation as a bargaining point and they use religious rhetoric to push agendas (Bernadi on the traditional family – whatever that was or is);
– corporate power is definitely protected, even exclusively with environmental considerations, workers rights, and community needs overlooked;
– the corollary is that labour power is suppressed by legislative means;
– there is an unmitigated obsession with crime and punishment (this would be more true of State rather than Federal government but it is present in both).

Umberto Eco makes the point that the very first appeal of a fascist movement is the appeal against the intruders (find a scapegoat and you control a large portion of the voting public).

So is Australia Fascist, well no, not in the historical sense of 1920 or 1933, but there is an alarming trend towards fascist methodology (whether overtly or otherwise) and there is a trend towards corporate control, which is a move away from the rights of groups and individuals, and there is a disregard for our international treaty obligations. The government clearly uses manipulation of the population as to be judged by the government rhetoric that is parroted back on talk back radio by the public often couched in fear ( the refugees would be the clear issue here). There is a disdain for the environment too. And in the proposed education review there is a desire by the education minister to go back in time in terms of how we present contemporary history, labour history, indigenous history, international history (it was Herman Goerring who liked the phrase “when I hear the word culture I reach for my gun”).

The fourteen points demonstrate that what is at stake is freedom, language, history, culture, national identity, and human rights. Fascism is an attitude, albeit a political one, but one that pervades the way governments think and behave.

With seven of the fourteen points by Britt recognisable in current government action and rhetoric there should be more concern in the community about our identity as a nation and therefore our future as a nation. Umberto Eco puts it well when he says “Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plain clothes.”

Bibliography:
Giorgio Agamben. ‘Homo Sacer Sovereign Power and Bare Life’ California, Stanford, 1998
Giorgio Agamben. ‘State of Exception’ Chicago, Chicago Press, 2005
Hanna Arendt ‘The Origins Of Totalitarianism’ Florida, Harcourt, 1968
Umberto Eco. ‘Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt’ New York Review of Books, 1995, pp. 12 – 15.
Roger Griffin. ‘The Nature of Fascism’ Oxon, Routledge, 1993

This article was first published on Paul’s blog Parallax and reproduced with permission.

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Are Tony Abbott’s matters of public importance still important?

With thanks to Open Australia here are the Hansard transcripts from 18 June on Tony Abbott’s matters of public importance. The then Prime Minister had already called the election for September 14 and Tony Abbott had submitted to the House a matter of public importance. The importance, of course, being the election of an Abbott Government. The following is self-explanatory:

Photo of Ms Anna Burke Ms Anna Burke (Speaker)

I have received a letter from the honourable the Leader of the Opposition proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

The urgent need for stable government to build a stronger economy for all Australians.

Photo of Tony Abbott Tony Abbott (Warringah, Liberal Party, Leader of the Opposition)

With the standing of the government and respect for this parliament at near record lows I regret to say that this parliament, the parliament now drawing to its close, has been a low and dishonourable one.

At the beginning of the life of the current government, the Prime Minister stood and said to the Australian public that she would be:

… faithful to the trust that has been extended to us.

In 88 days time the public will finally have their chance to pass judgment on just how the Prime Minister has been faithful to the trust that was placed in her. I suspect that that will be a critical judgment because, wherever you look, this is a parliament which has let down the Australian people and a government which has betrayed the trust that the people extended to it—only just, nevertheless, they did extend to it—at the last election.

There is the carbon tax that was never going to happen, which did happen. There was the surplus—the ‘no ifs, no buts surplus’—that would happen come hell or high water and that has never happened. Instead, we have a debt that is now racing towards $340 billion. There is the mining tax, which has achieved the extraordinary outcome of damaging investment, damaging confidence and employment, without actually raising any revenue.

There was the live cattle ban, in panic at a television program—perhaps the most disastrous decision ever taken towards one of our near and important neighbours in our country’s history. There was the political execution of an excellent Speaker because it suited the political convenience of the Prime Minister. We have had three leadership challenges in three years. We have had the protection racket that has been extended towards the member for Dobell by a Prime Minister only too familiar with the operation of union slush funds.

There was the Australia Day riot, which turned out to have been orchestrated out of the Prime Minister’s office. But, above all else, there was the failure that will haunt the memory of this parliament and this government: the ongoing disaster on our borders, a disaster that the Prime Minister promised to fix on 24 June 2010.

We have had almost 45,000 illegal arrivals by boat—more than the population of Gladstone, more than the population of Coffs Harbour, more than the population of Shepparton and more than the population of Mount Gambier. No-one wants to see any Australian government fail. No-one wants to see any Australian government give up on governing but that, I regret to say, is what this government has done.

We have 88 days until the election. The people will then have their chance to pass judgment on this government. They will have a choice between an incompetent and untrustworthy government and a coalition that will stop the boats, that will repeal the carbon tax and that will get the budget back into the black. That is the pledge that we make to the Australian people and that is a pledge that we will honour.

As things stand, the Australian people are frustrated and angry. They are frustrated and angry with a government that has let them down and a government that has repeatedly betrayed them. Indeed, Labor people—decent, honourable Labor people—are embarrassed and even ashamed at the performance of this government. I am pleased that the member for Hotham has stayed in the House to listen to this MPI, because the member for Hotham called it for Australia. That is what he did: he called it for Australia when he said he could no longer serve on this Prime Minister’s frontbench. I regret to say that this particular government is now beyond cure. This particular government is now past the point of no return. The poison is so deep, the division and dysfunction so deep that there is nothing that can save the contemporary Labor Party except time out to decide what it actually stands for and what it now believes.

The Australian people are an optimistic people. We know that better times can come. We know that better times are ahead of us but what we need is a government that you can trust and a government that is competent to deliver effective administration. I want to say to the Australian people: I am proud of the team that I lead. I am proud of the fact that the team I lead is representative of the breadth and depth of the Australian people. I am confident that there would actually be more former tradesmen on this side of the parliament these days than on that side of the parliament. I am proud of the fact that the first Indigenous member of the House of Representatives is sitting on this side of the parliament for the Liberal Party. I am proud of the fact that, if every coalition candidate in this election were to come to this parliament, the most common name in the Liberal Party party room would be Nguyen. It is a sign of just how much the modern Liberal Party is standing foursquare with the decent people of our country.

I know that our team is ready to form a stable and competent government. My team does not need to learn on the job, because my team has done the job before. Sixteen members of the shadow cabinet were ministers in a government that did stop the boats, that did bring the budget back into the black, that did get taxes down, that did abolish unnecessary taxes. We have done it before and we will do it again. We understand in the marrow of our bones that you cannot have a strong society, you cannot have strong communities without a strong economy to sustain them, and a strong economy pivotally depends upon profitable private businesses. We understand this. We get this. We know that it is not government that creates wealth; it is business that creates wealth. No government has ever taxed a country into prosperity. Plenty of governments have taxed a country into the ground. Not one has ever taxed a country into prosperity.

So our economic plan starts with abolishing the carbon tax and the mining tax. We will cut red tape. We will boost productivity so that the creative businesspeople of this country can get a fair go to survive and prosper, and so the workers of Australia can get a fair go to keep their jobs and to prosper. A strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia—that is how this coalition will deliver hope, reward and opportunity should we be entrusted with the government of this country in 88 days time. We will relieve the pressure on families. We will relieve the pressure that we know the families and households of Australia are under. Under us they will keep the tax cuts and pension and benefit rises, but they will most assuredly lose the carbon tax.

This is not just about creating a richer country; it is about creating a better country too. What I want to achieve—what my team wants to achieve—is giving the Australian people confidence that we can come closer to being our best selves. We are all conservationists now. That is why I want direct action to improve our environment, not a great big new tax that will clobber the economy without actually reducing our emissions. As well as an emissions reduction fund for more trees, better soils and smarter technology, there will be a green army 15,000 strong marching to the help of our degraded land and waterways. Anyone who looks at our country knows that land care needs more than the largely volunteer efforts of farmers and of understaffed local councils. We will give our country the workforce it needs if our remnant bushland is to survive and if our creeks are to run clean. We will give idealistic young people and older people a way to turn their environmental commitment into practical action so that our gift to the future will be a country in better shape than that which we inherited.

Should the coalition win the election, I will continue my practice of spending a week a year as a volunteer in a remote Indigenous community. If people are expected to live there, a Prime Minister should be prepared to stay there and senior public servants should be prepared to stay there too. Nothing would focus people’s minds more on the issues of remote Australia than conducting the government from there even if it is only for a week. I do not underestimate the challenges of crafting an Indigenous recognition amendment that will be an advance for Aboriginal people without creating two classes of Australian. No, I do not underestimate the difficulty of this challenge; but, should there be a change of government on 14 September, we will persevere and get this right. In so doing, this nation of ours—this great nation—will finally be made whole.

Everyone knows that I am a late convert to the cause of a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme. I am a late convert, but I tell you I have a convert’s zeal. Why should people get their full pay while on holiday and on sick leave and just a welfare wage while on parental leave? If blokes had babies, this never would have been tolerated. I did not always understand this, but I do now. A fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme is an important economic reform. It is good for population, it is good for productivity, it is good for participation—in fact, all three of the Ps which economic strength requires. Most of all, a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme is an issue of justice—justice for the women of our country that will finally be delivered under a coalition government.

I know I surprised people three years ago with this commitment to a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme, but serious people do have the capacity to grow and I am pleased to say that I understand this issue much better now than I did a decade ago. I have learned from watching the example of good leaders—people like Bob Hawke as well as John Howard, who made the transition from tribal chief to national leader. I understand that a Prime Minister should never set out to deliberately divide one Australian from another, as we have seen in this current parliament. A Prime Minister should never think that he or she is somehow bigger than the party or the country. Prime ministers must always be the servants of their party and, above all else, the servants of their country.

Finally, should there be a change of government on 14 September, this parliament must be a better place. There has been too much venom and too many baseless accusations of bad faith—and I suspect we might even have a few in a few moments. We are better than that, and I hope to have a chance to demonstrate that we are better than that. After 14 September I am confident that the people of Australia will be able to have more pride in their parliament.

So in summary:

Tony Abbott’s team is ready for the job. They do not need to learn anything.

Tony Abbott will be abolishing the carbon tax and the mining tax.

He will cut red tape.

He will boost productivity

He will deliver hope, reward and opportunity.

He will relieve the pressure on families.

He will deliver justice for the women of our country.

He is now a conservationist.

He will have “green army 15,000 strong marching to the help of our degraded land and waterways”.

He “will give our country the workforce it needs if our remnant bushland is to survive and if our creeks are to run clean”.

He will spend a week a year as a volunteer in a remote Indigenous community.

He will craft an Indigenous recognition amendment.

He will make Parliament a better place.

And of course, he will stop the boats.

Let us see if those matters which were of such public importance to Tony Abbott on 18 June are still important from this day forward.

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Feigned Love

Tony Abbott has declared fixing Australia’s greatest “national failure”, dire Indigenous disadvantage, will be one of his personal priorities if he wins office.

Personally, I think it’s all talk. It’s just a display of feigned love.

This is just talk from the man who, when Indigenous people traveled for three days to get to Canberra to put their case to a Parliamentary committee, walked in late, didn’t apologise, sat down and then fell asleep.

This from the man who said ‘There may not be a great job for them but whatever there is, they just have to do it, and if it’s picking up rubbish around the community, it just has to be done’

This from the man who, at the Australia Day celebrations this year, said “The first lot of Australians were chosen by the finest judges in England, not always for good reasons, and from that rather inauspicious beginning we have become a rich, a free and a fair society which has contributed so much to the wider world in good times and in not so good times.”

This from the man who has previously said ‘Now, I know that there are some Aboriginal people who aren’t happy with Australia Day. For them it remains Invasion Day. I think a better view is the view of Noel Pearson, who has said that Aboriginal people have much to celebrate in this country’s British Heritage’ and ‘Western civilisation came to this country in 1788 and I’m proud of that . . . Aboriginal people have much to celebrate in this country’s British Heritage’.

This from the man who ignited the debate as to who is a ‘real’ aborigine when he said he wanted Territory Indigenous Advancement Minister Alison Anderson in federal politics because she would be an “authentic” indigenous representative in parliament. He described federal Liberal lower house MP Ken Wyatt as an “urban Aboriginal” – a “good bloke” but “not a man of culture”. “It would be terrific if, as well as having an urban Aboriginal in our parliament, we had an Aboriginal person from Central Australia, an authentic representative of the ancient cultures,” he said.

This from the leader of the Party that refused to make an apology to the Stolen Generation and, when it was later famously made by Kevin Rudd, there were several Coalition MPs conspicuously absent including Sophie Mirabella, Alby Schultz and Don Randall. The West Australian backbencher Wilson Tuckey departed immediately after the opening prayer to join those who had not bothered to show up. The Victorian Liberal MP Chris Pearce attended the event but refused to stand at the end of the speeches. Beforehand, he was outside the chamber deriding the ceremony as a “pantomime”.

And this from the man who suggested to the rally at the Tent Embassy that it’s time for them to move on that sparked a wave of support from most non-Indigenous Australians.

And from the same man who thinks the most hated policy – in the eyes of Aboriginal Australians themselves – the racist and appalling Northern Territory Intervention didn’t go far enough.

And, whilst not Abbott, who could forget Andrew Laming, the Liberal MP for Bowman, tweeting: “Mobs tearing up Logan. Did any of them do a day’s work today, or was it business as usual and welfare on tap?”

They certainly have history when it comes to their disgraceful treatment and disrespect for Aboriginal people.

Their views are extremely important in helping explain the place of Aboriginal people in the Australian political system. A series of questions that were asked of a sample of members of parliament – while Howard was prime minister – revealed the existence of varying party views that form an important framework to the development of Aboriginal policy. Some of the differences between Labor and Coalition MPs were imposing. It is worth having a look at some of these answers as they clearly identify who did and did not support Aboriginal causes. Consider them as a backdrop to discussions on issues such as Mabo, Wik, Native Title, the Stolen Generation, the Northern Territory Intervention or Abbott’s current promises.

Members of parliament – support for Aborigines
Government has responsibility to grant land rights: ALP 93.2% Lib/Nat 40.8%
Settle land claims before development: 78.2 24.2
Aborigines should have special cultural protection: 76.7 43.7
Approve of treaty recognising Aboriginal rights: 85.6 11.2
Law should allow for Aboriginal customs: 60.0 21.4
Constitution should recognise Aboriginal self-government: 29.0 4.6
Aborigines should not be assimilated: 80.3 42.2

You could excuse my cynicism. I’ve been that way since working in Aboriginal affairs under the Howard Government when one of his Ministers confided that “Aboriginal bashing is good politics.”

If Tony Abbott does become Prime Minister, this is one pledge I won’t expect him to deliver.

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Some reasons why the Libs don’t want you to vote for the Greens

If anybody wants to know what the Coalition plan to do in Government then they need look no further than the Coalition Speakers notes 1 July 2012 for an insight of the frightening world they would hope to thrust upon us. It looks at all the topical issues including Border Protection, Communications and Broadband, Employment and Workplace Relations, Foreign Affairs, Heath Higher Education, Indigenous Australians, Multiculturalism, Population, Superannuation and Youth.

But typical of any Coalition document it focuses more on attacking the other major parties than how and what should be done. The ‘hows’ and ‘whats’ are nothing more than a bit of chest thumping. There is much more passion in their criticisms of both the Government and the Greens than there is in beating their own drum. Just the usual scare tactics, you might say.

What struck me the most about the document was their rabid hatred for everything the Greens stand for. The Greens are not my party of choice, but after reading the document I’m convinced that they stand for much more than I gave them any credit for. And if anything, I’m more determined to vote against a party that opposes – or condemns – what the Greens want for our society.

I’ve made a list of some of the reasons why the Libs don’t want you to vote for the Greens. Upon reading them, you might also ponder how much the Liberals must be out of touch with the modern, progressive Australian. Here’s the list of what the Coalition fear:

The Greens believe in legalising same sex marriages.

The Greens believe in reintroduction of voluntary euthanasia laws in the NT & ACT.

The Greens support holding a plebiscite for an Australian Republic.The Greens will legalise the use of cannabis for specified medical purposes.

The Greens moved a private members bill entitled Anti-Terrorism Reform Bill 2009 to relax terrorism laws and calls for amendments to the Criminal Code and Crimes Act.

The Bill calls for greater freedom of expression and association, freedom from arbitrary detention, legal due process and privacy.

The Greens will repeal the sedition laws and will repeal mandatory sentencing legislation.

The Greens will prohibit the use of electroshock weapons and Tasers.

The Greens want an open door refugee and asylum seeker policy.They have said that they want to increase the number of refugees and asylum seekers Australia takes, but they haven’t said by how much; they also want to decrease the number of skilled migrants and increase the number of family reunion migrants.

Abolition of mandatory detention of illegal immigrants.

Restore Australia’s migration zone to match Australia’s territory and accept responsibility for processing all asylum seekers who seek protection in that zone.

Allow illegal immigrants unrestricted movement in and about reception centres.

Immediately grant illegal immigrants an asylum application visa (AAV) and move them into community reception centres after medical and security checks are satisfied or after 14 days.

Allow illegal immigrants with AAVs the right to work, travel, income support and access to ongoing educational and medical services anywhere in Australia while their claims are being assessed.

Ensure that refusal of an AAV is reviewable by the Administration Appeals Tribunal and that the illegal immigrant is housed in a facility close to an urban area.

Closing Australian ports and territorial waters to nuclear powered vessels and create nuclear free zones, municipalities and ports;

Prohibit mineral exploration, mining, extraction of petroleum and gas in terrestrial and marine nature conservation reserves.

Ban the exploration, mining and export of uranium and the storage of low-grade domestic nuclear waste in a remote location in Australia.

The Greens want a commonly agreed national benchmark to measure poverty and reform the social security system to ensure an adequate income for all.

The Greens will increase the number of marine reserves and implement a national framework for managing recreational and charter fishing.

The Greens will introduce an Oceans Act and establish a statutory National Oceans Authority to coordinate the sustainability of ocean uses. The Authority will report to the Parliament and enforce cosystem-based regional management plans and targets.

The Greens have called for a treaty with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders that recognises prior occupation and have sovereignty enshrined into the constitution.

The Greens will pursue the conclusion of a multilateral convention based on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and enact its provisions into Australian Law.

The Greens believe in the full restoration of the Racial Discrimination Act in the NT and ending the federal intervention into indigenous communities regardless of any consequences.

The Greens will repeal amendments to the NT’s land Rights Act as they believe the amendments disadvantage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Want to abolish SES funding for private schools, which would discourage private investment in education and create more dependency on taxpayer funding to fund school education.Impose new federal controls on where new non-government schools can be built or how many students they could enroll, which would severely limit parental choice.

Want Commonwealth funding for private schools kept at 2003/04 levels, which would see many schools be forced to close or sack teachers in order to stay open.Oppose performance payments for teachers.

Believe that education unions are the appropriate industrial representatives in all educational matters.

And finally …

Will increase Youth Allowance to the level of a living wage, irrespective of the cost to taxpayers

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Do some research and you’ll find it’s OK not to be black enough

Aborigines face the unending task of resisting attempts, on the one hand to cut them off from their heritage, and on the other to bury them within it as a thing of the past. This statement is indicative of the struggles that Indigenous Australians face in the constructions of their own Aboriginality.

This was never more evident than during the Andrew Bolt case where:

… in two famous columns in 2009 he took a swipe at “political” or “professional” or “official” Aborigines who could pass for white but chose to identify as black for personal or political gain, to win prizes and places reserved for real, black Aborigines and to borrow “other people’s glories.”

More recently, Tony Abbott reignited a similar argument when he foolishly described Western Australian Liberal MP Ken Wyatt as “not a man of culture”. Ken Wyatt is an Indigenous Australian.

I would have hoped that both incidences found their way into the dustbins of history, but they haven’t. Bolt’s comments, in particular, have entrenched themselves into our vernacular. Never before have I had the displeasure of hearing so many degrading comments aimed at our Aboriginal brothers and sisters as I have since the Bolt case. “He’s too white to be an Aborigine”, “She’s white but calls herself an Aborigine”, or the ultimate insult “He’s only a half-caste” are common speak.

Hence this article.

If people/journalists/politicians are prepared to make wild exaggerations about Aboriginal Australians then they should be prepared to at first learn where and how they belong in our society. Perhaps then they’d remain silent. Respectfully silent.

Bolt asserted that the hue of one’s skin is the only thing that matters when a person identifies themselves as an Indigenous Australian. He for one had failed to do some simple research and as a result of his laziness – and his influence – Aboriginal people are now being ‘classified’ like never before in the last decade, as I alluded to earlier.

I have done the research and this is what I have found.

If we cast ourselves back to 1788 we would embrace an environment where Aboriginality did not exist, but was to soon be invented by the colonising power. The European invaders constructed Aborigines as an ethnic category based on their own notions of culture and saddled Aboriginality on the Indigenous Australians, and European ideology continued to shape European ethnic perceptions. Prominent among the perceptions it was believed that culture was carried in the blood.

Over the next hundred years European ideology continued to shape the whites’ perception of Aborigines. Among these perceptions it was believed that culture was carried in the blood, that culture was the external indicator of biological ancestry and culture, and that cultural characteristics, either heredity or unchanging, separated human groups from one another.

Ethnographic evidence indicates that before the arrival of Europeans, numerous distinct groups had occupied the Australian continent. Although these groups shared physical and cultural features and had ties of affinity, trade, and religious cooperation, these societies were distinguished by geography, language, and culture. With the benefit of hindsight, the ethnographic evidence failed to recognise that in determining identity, Aborigines traditionally attributed greater importance to culture and genealogical ties to heredity. Groups were differentiated on the basis of presence or absence of certain beliefs and behaviours, and of spiritual ties between people and land.

Basing their construction of Aboriginality on inadequate theories of culture, early anthropologists defined Aboriginality as constituting a pristine and timeless and cultural condition. Some still saw them as savages, remaining noble, despite constraining nature and unbending adherence to rules; the Aborigines typified a fossilised and primitive stage of social evolution. Ethnocentrism further led to the attribution or projection of negative characteristics. Even to this day – again, refer to my earlier claims – many people have a stereotype of Aboriginal people as being very black, standing on one leg with a spear and living in the desert.

Up until recently, the social and cultural practices in Australia rendered Aboriginal people invisible. As a consequence, while Anglo-Australians have continued to ‘know’ about Aborigines they have known them only by report. Even in the rural Australia, local Aboriginal people have been ignored in favour of ‘real Aborigines’, supposedly living in a tribal life in the bush. The public has been largely dependent on representations of Aborigines to be found in the statements of various ‘authorities’, the work of painters and photographers, the printed and recently the electronic media, or even artifacts aimed at the popular and tourist markets.

Such representations of Aboriginality called into doubt the special status of those who called themselves Aboriginal, but lived in urban settings, practised no traditional arts or ceremonies, and generally failed to ‘look the part’. Such people had constructed their Aboriginality in other modes, primarily by reference to proximate ancestors and living kin. Some have identified it as a major component of what is called ‘the Aboriginal commonality’, implying as it does a continuous network embracing all Aboriginal people throughout the continent.

Regardless, under the doctrine of Social Darwinism it was always expected that the Aborigines would not survive alongside the presumed European superiority. However, only Europeans had selected Aborigines for extinction. Nature had not. While Australia was told that Aborigines were not going to die out, it was also given to understand that Aboriginality was doomed. Timeless and unchanging, Aboriginal culture was incapable of coexistence with the modern world: the old Aboriginal cultures are collapsing everywhere under the impact of while settlement, mining exploration, pastoral expansion and the effects of State assimilation policies.

Managing Aboriginal people under one guise or another, the State has been in a position to influence their public constructions. Not only has it determined who should have access to them, but it has played a major role in the assembling of information about them, has commissioned much of the research conducted by experts on them, and has acted as patron for artistic representations of them. Consider, for example, the Western Australian interpretation of what constituted an Aboriginal person. Every person who is:

  • an Aboriginal inhabitant of Australia, or
  • a half-caste who lives with an Aboriginal as husband or wife, or
  • a half-caste who, otherwise than as wife or husband habitually lives or associates with Aborigines, or
  • a half-caste child whose age does not apparently exceed sixteen years, shall be deemed an Aboriginal within the meaning of this Act … ” (Western Australia Aborigines Act of 1905, Section 3).

Aborigines are no longer silent objects of study, but increasingly challenge the very terms in which they are written about. However, it is not easy to re-examine the intellectual heritage; a heritage that is a body of knowledge understood by those sharing the same discourse and built into our contemporary consciousness in many intricate and hidden ways. Aborigines are exploring their own Aboriginality and are finding that the white Australia cannot accept their own view of themselves. You can’t define Aboriginality in terms of the colour of their skin or in terms of what genes and chromosomes were inherited. Aboriginal people have a very strong spiritual heritage: above anything else it is the essence of being an Aboriginal.

Consider how different an Aboriginal interpretation of Aboriginality compares with the political or social construction. The emphasis on spiritual and cultural unity is absolute. They identify the following characteristics as common to all Australian Aborigines:

  • descent from the original inhabitants of Australia; a shared historical and cultural experience, particularly that arising from relations with non-Aborigines;
  • the Dreaming, or Aboriginal worldview; intimate familial relationship with the land and the natural world, and knowing the pervading moulding character of these in all matters Aboriginal’;
  • social interaction based predominantly on the mutual obligations of kinship; observance and social importance of mortuary rituals; and
  • bi- or multilingualism.

Whilst these elements constitute Aboriginality, Aboriginal values such as reciprocity and individuality could also be included although these are not unique to Aborigines. However the list provided could be considered typical of cultural inventories: they constitute a coherent set of characteristics that are present and enduring in all Aboriginal people. However, significantly, the operative definition of Aboriginality has shifted from biological to the cultural. The Aboriginal emphasis on kinship and behaviour in determining identity is apparent. Another notable characteristic of Aboriginal social life is the self-conscious identification with notions of sociability and behaviour ascribed to Aboriginality, a world view with definable social values, attitudes and cognitive orientations.

In denying people the right to relate to themselves through their bodies and where notions of kinship are organised around cultural notions of the body is denying Aboriginal a major aspect of their Aboriginality. The dominant theoretical prescription of ideal Aboriginality would act to prevent Aborigines from creating their identities out of the body and out of biology, and would also in effect prevent them talking descent and moreover reinventing their notions of descent.

The assertion of Aboriginality is part of a political process. Although the legal and social status of Aborigines has changed significantly, they are by no means equal participants in Australian society. They still suffer severe social disadvantage and defacto discrimination; in the eyes of many whites, being Aboriginal is still a social stigma. Against this background, many Aborigines are consciously and actively working to establish positive images of themselves and their cultures. This involves the rejection or reversal of dominant European definitions; the promotion of colour as a desirable feature rather than a taint; and the revival, invention, or adoption of distinctively Aboriginal cultural behaviours and symbols … the construction of a new identity in which all Aboriginal people can share.

In other words, it’s OK not to be black enough.

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