Know your place; we were born to rule…

“I would love to read your thoughts on the following concept,” said…

Tim Wilson Can Go To Hell!

No, I haven't started playing rugby. I'm suggesting that Tim Wilson can…

Corporate Gangster: Adani’s Pursuit of Scientists

The Adani conglomerate should be best described as a bloated gangster, promising…

Speech is never free ...

By Keith Thomas Davis  We may have a right to it, but in…

Can Labor accommodate an inclusive and open internal…

I’ve been copping some criticism for my decision to publicly disagree with…

Danny and Moira (part 3)

Continued from Part 2.It was the Sunday night a couple of weeks…

Morrison's government fails major test of good faith.

"Art doesn't imitate life, it imitates bad television", quips Woody Allen.  ScoMo…

Won't Somebody Please Think of the Christians! Vile…

Former leader of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) Lyle Shelton has come…

«
»
Facebook

Tag Archives: indigenous

Cape York in Crisis

Once again Cape York is in crisis.

Tens of thousands of hectares of native bushland are being cleared on Cape York on a scale not seen since the Bjelke-Petersen years. The aim is to open up the region to high-value agriculture in a bid to boost the struggling economy of the Cape.

The controversial approvals were quietly granted by the Queensland LNP government on January 20th just 11 days before they were voted out in a landslide defeat, and without any environmental impact assessment by the commonwealth.

It’s a horrible deja-vu.

Tim Seelig of the Wilderness Society said the timing of the decision raises serious concerns about the politics involved, “coming just a few days before the outcome of the election was known.”

Changes to land clearing legislation

The incoming Labor government inherited the weakened laws around tree-clearing from the LNP government, who made changes to the Vegetation Management Act in 2013. The amendments made it easier for farmers to clear native bush for high-value agriculture, no longer needing to apply to the Department of Natural Resources for permission.

The 2013 changes were strongly opposed by environmental groups, calling it “the biggest roll-back of environmental protection in Australia’s history”. It was also opposed by the opposition Labor government with Jo-Ann Miller saying, “The Newman Government will be back on its D9s, back on its big machinery, ripping the guts out of Queensland.”

In the lead up to the 2015 election the Labor government had campaigned to tighten restrictions on clearing, but since coming into office in February have done very little to act.

Olive Vale Station

90km west of Cooktown on the Laura River lies Olive Vale Station. Previously owned by Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch, the 136,000 hectare cattle station is now run by Ryan Global.

With almost 32,000 hectares approved for destruction, more than any other property on the Cape, Olive Vale is now the centre of an investigation into the questionable approvals process.

The bulldozers quickly moved in with clear-felling taking place an unprecedented scale to make way for commercial trials of high-value crops like rice, sorghum and chickpeas. Owners Ryan Global also hope to increase their head of cattle on the property from 15,000 to 25,000.

Image: Wilderness Society

Image: Wilderness Society

Conservation groups warned that the project would have unacceptable environmental outcomes on the heritage value woodland and wetland impacting 17 threatened species including the Gouldian Finch, increasing run-off pollution into the Great Barrier Reef catchments, and contributing to nearly 2% of Australia’s annual CO2 emissions.

Amid pressure from environmental groups the Palaszcuk government ordered an urgent investigation into the approvals. According to Palaszcuk, “The allegations into the clearing of land on Olive Vale Station while the caretaker conventions were in place, is a matter of great concern to me.”

Warren Entsch was less diplomatic, accusing environmental groups of “bullshit” and hyping the issue to raise funds for their own campaign issues.

On June 12th the clearing was halted while the commonwealth assesses the claims under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. Federal environmental compliance officers visited the Olive Vale property on June 11th and 12th after which owners Ryan Global agreed to suspend the clearing while the investigation takes place.

Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles welcomed the decision to suspend clearing and expressed his deep concern about the approval.

Northern Australia white paper

The Abbott Government released their first ever Northern Australia white paper last Thursday which outlined a blueprint to create an “economic powerhouse” in Australia’s north, particularly through large scale, intensive agriculture and the development of the resources industry. This is hardly a new idea, with many governments trying and failing to bring this dream to fruition.

A common and worrying theme of the paper is the need to reduce red tape and to create a more welcoming investment environment through the establishment of a, “single point of entry for investors in major projects to help them through all regulatory hurdles.”

This includes plans to create a one-stop shop for environmental approvals, loosen fisheries restrictions, provide infrastructure loans to the resources industry, and to dam certain river systems for use in agricultural irrigation.

The document repeatedly states that the development plan will greatly benefit the Cape’s indigenous population and is something that communities both want and need. Cooktown Mayor Peter Scott is supportive of the plans which he says are important for economic growth and employment in the heavily disadvantaged region.

Others are more sceptical.

Labour Senator Nova Peris says the white paper will benefit big business and investors, but does little to help native title holders steer their own development outcomes. In fact, the document proposes “a whole lot of mucking around with native title”, encouraging title-holders to open up their land to development.

The Australian Conservation Foundation has questioned the suitability of intensive agriculture in the region.  In 2013 Traditional Owners said that a push to open up Cape York to more farming was, “grabbing at the sky”. Michael Ross, former chairman of Cape York Land Council, warned that most of the Cape is not suitable for farming with weeds, erosion and regrowth affecting cleared areas.

Image: ACF Online

Image: ACF Online

Cape York is one of our most precious wilderness areas, a biodiversity hotspot and a region of rich indigenous culture and heritage.

It’s difficult to reconcile the white paper with plans for a World Heritage listing for Cape York, which environmental groups have been pushing for years. Despite missing the deadline to submit a proposal to UNESCO in 2014, Environment Minister Greg Hunt still maintains that it’s committed to seeing a World Heritage listing happen but only after “broad community agreement” on the issue.

Working with the land instead of against it, Cape York has the potential to become a world leader in sustainability and attaining World Heritage listing is central to that. The short term and exploitative approach to economic development outlined by the Federal Government will ultimately fail the Cape’s marginalised communities.

 

Choosing to Lie About Indigenous Australia: Why Tony Abbott Should Do More Than Just Apologize

Tony Abbott has, yet again, demonstrated his appalling lack of knowledge on even the most basic aspects of our society with comments made last week that claimed the problems Aboriginal people face are a result of “poor lifestyle choices”.

The irony of a rich, Catholic white male lecturing a people who have routinely been consciously disadvantaged by government after government after government in this country is palpable.

Anglo-saxon relationships with the indigenous people of Australia have been consistently poor, to understate the matter, since our cultures first crossed paths. The response of our “noble forefathers” to the presence of what they considered to be savages was to engage in mass killing, in genocide, to allow easier access to the land and it’s resources.

There are no Tasmanian aborigines left with 100% aboriginal genes.

Just think about that for a moment.

Imagine what it must be like to know that from an indigenous perspective, to understand that the white man has since the beginning been a force of slaughter, of death, of discord to your people.

Imagine then what it must feel like to hear one of these white men telling the nation he leads that it is the fault of the Aboriginal people that their living conditions rank among the worst in the developed world, that white police officers murder them in custody, that mining magnates such as Lang Hancock, Gina Rinehart’s father, have proposed they be sterilised.

In short, Tony Abbott is blaming the victims, and he’s not apologising for it.

“I’m not going to concede that. I accept people have a right to be critical of me, but I’m certainly not going to concede that.”

This statement made by the prime minister in response to journalists remarking that his framing of indigenous living conditions as a choice may have been a poor choice of words, demonstrates that this monkey in a suit has even less understanding of the situation than he does empathy towards it.

Was it a “lifestyle choice” that resulted in children of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders being forcibly removed from their families for over a century?

Does the prime minister believe that these human beings are choosing to live seventeen years less than non-Aboriginal Australians?

This behaviour, from the man who is supposed to represent Australia on the world stage, is despicable. It alone is reason enough to oust Gina Rinehart’s praetorian guardsman and ensure he never holds a position of power in this country again.

For those wanting to learn more about Aboriginal Australia and the horrifying disparity between indigenous people and the rest of the populace, head on over to youtube and watch John Pilger’s excellent film, Utopia.

You can find it here.


This article was originally published on the author’s blog, which you can find here.

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.

Scroll Up