Wednesday, November 06, 2013

What Lurks Down Under

By some accounts Australians have become the wealthiest people on earth, largely from flogging massive quantities to coal to China.   Yet not all Australians are well off, especially not the first Australians, the aborigines.

Asia Times brings to light the little town of Wilcannia, winner of the national Tidy Town award, where the indigenous townfolk usually die by the age 35 and where the Cuban government operates a literacy programme.

Politicians in Canberra are among the wealthiest citizens. Their self-endowment is legendary. Last year, the then minister for indigenous affairs, Jenny Macklin, refurbished her office at a cost to the taxpayer of $331,144.

Macklin recently claimed that, in government, she had made a "huge difference". This is true. During her tenure, the number of Aboriginal people living in slums increased by almost a third, and more than half the money spent on indigenous housing was pocketed by white contractors and a bureaucracy for which she was largely responsible. A typical, dilapidated house in an outback indigenous community must accommodate as many as 25 people. Families, the elderly and the disabled wait years for sanitation that works.

In 2009, Professor James Anaya, the respected UN Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, described as racist a "state of emergency" that stripped indigenous communities of their tenuous rights and services on the pretext that pedophile gangs were present in "unthinkable" numbers - a claim dismissed as false by police and the Australian Crime Commission.

The then opposition spokesman on indigenous affairs, Tony Abbott, told Anaya to "get a life" and not "just listen to the old victim brigade". Abbott is now the prime minister of Australia.

It's a compelling article, well worth reading.   Canada's treatment of our First Nations has been shameful enough but at least most of us are coming to recognize what we have done.  In Australia, the white establishment institutionalize it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I spent about 3 months in 2005 living and working in Wiluna, Western Australia which has a very diverse Indigenous population. It still had a segregated pub, the "reserve" I visited was filled with parent less children running wild, a good chunk of which were infected with TB. Australia is a racist state, just like Canada, but alot of the misery is swept under the rug cause it's taking place in very remote parts of the country.