The Aboriginal Ten Commandments

Australia Day certainly brings out many emotions. Pride. Passion. And I’m sorry to say, racism. I saw plenty of that on a couple of Facebook pages today. Here’s one:

Happy Australia Day ….. , Yes I know some of you will say invasion day, citizens day, genocide day ….. however I do not care… you nay sayers can go root a unicorn and fart out rainbows for all I care.

Charming. What a wonderful fellow.

Among the follow-up comments telling this racist chap how amazingly funny he is or how brilliant his statement was, came this equally ignorant quip:

If it wasn’t for Captain Cook none of us would be here . . .

Racism is a choice. Ignorance isn’t. But having said that, perhaps some people chose to remain ignorant. Like the commenter above.

Now here’s one from a real Aussie hero who didn’t like the idea that a particular person opposed the Government’s asylum seeker policy:

you sound like a big cry baby sore loser.

just accept the fact that half the country doesn’t want boat loads of leeches coming in here looking for a free ride (we have enough of our own thank you).

if you care about these “asylum seekers” so much, why don’t YOU take them in to YOUR home and look after them? put your money where your god damn mouth is, punk

But enough about the idiots. Just as there was some absolute bile on Facebook today, there was also a fair amount of the opposite, such as something posted by an Aboriginal friend: The Aboriginal Ten Commandments. It had no hate, no patriotism, nor racism. It simply spelled out what sound like some wonderful rules to live by. It was too good not to share with you. Here they are:

Honour and respect the Great Creator, the one who is above all.

Honour and respect the Earth for we are physically and spiritually connected to all living an non living things as we are in their custodianship.

Honour and respect our ancient philosophy whereby ‘what is good enough for one is good enough for all’ as no one is above another, for all are equal.

Honour and respect all members of humanity for we are all one ancient family, united and related through our kinship systems.

Honour and respect every person’s right to freely practice and express in their own way their unique forms of spirituality, faith and beliefs.

Honour and respect our ancient rule of sharing with one another so that no one is ever left without.

Honour and respect our ancient rule of caring for one another so that no one will ever feel alone.

Honour and respect both our Elders and Youth for each are very important when it comes to generational change and the advancement of our Peoples.

Honour and respect that violence ad substance abuse have no place within our lands, homes and families.

Honour and respect other peoples home boundaries and never walk into the home of another without first being invited in, as it is our ancient way.

Ten Commandments

Abbott picks his priorities

Tony-Abbott

I would like to start by wishing everyone a very Happy 2014.  This year, and hopefully not too far beyond is certainly going to be a challenge.

Shall I say it; Tony Abbott has exceeded expectations.  I think that all know from Abbott’s gilt-edged promises that “the Abbottoir” would fulfill his destiny and do his best to dismantle anything and everything which does not fit in with his perception as expressed in Tony World.  In Tony World for example, women of calibre are worth every single taxpayer dollar to enable them to employ au pairs and live in nanny’s.  In Tony World one visit to an indigenous community once a year means “taking an interest”.

Tony World is superficial.  Tony World avoids anything awkward such as having to provide truthful answers.  Tony World runs and hides, and hopes that it will all go away.

It was therefore shortly after the election, and with some feeling of dread that I read the announcement that Abbott had decided to take control of both indigenous and women’s issues, both of which require avoidance of the superficial, a commitment to provide truthful answers, and a determination to NOT run and hide.  These qualities being the antithesis of what all have come to expect from the person Tony Abbott.

My immediate impression was that by taking control of these two very important and to Abbott, somewhat vexatious issues, that he could grandstand – take the high moral ground by claiming that these issues were “so important to him” that he had decided to take direct control, whilst at the same time not have a minister who had to answer questions.

Almost two years ago, I wrote this article:  A Stint in Jail which in part reads:

Late June last year a report was tabled to the House of Representatives:  Doing Time – Time For Doing.  As well as the above, this report includes that:

  • Between 2000 and 2009, the incarceration rate for Indigenous Australians rose by 66%.
  • Between 2000 and 2010, the actual number of Aboriginal men in prisons rose by 55%, and the number of women rose by 47%.
  • 70% of remote Indigenous adults have hearing loss or problems, but that Australian Hearing, “which provides free treatment for children under the Hearing Services Program, doesn’t visit juvenile detention centres”.

So why are Indigenous young people imprisoned at 28 times the rate as white kids?  Creative Spirits provides the following:

Non-Aboriginal indifference

Police remain hard-hearted and indifferent to prison rates and, in some cases, to Aboriginal prisoners themselves. The Children’s Court is often being told imprisonment is the only option due to lack of accommodation.

“Incredibly trivial offences”

There is evidence to suggest that police treat Aboriginal people differently for trivial offences, for example some Aboriginal people end up in jail because they did not get the postal notifications of court dates after which bench warrants are issued and bail is unlikely.  Another example is being caught with 1.5 litres of any alcohol including beer in a restricted area carries with it a 18 month jail term.

Peter Collins, Legal Director of Aboriginal Legal Services in Western Australia (ALSWA):

“Every day of the week we act for Aboriginal people who’ve been charged with disorderly conduct. “Their crime: To swear at the police. They use the F word, they use the C word. Often they’re drunk or affected by drugs or both, or they’ve got a mental illness or they’re homeless or whatever. But it seems to me the only people in this day and age who are offended by the use of the F word and the C word are police. And so these [Aboriginal] people are hauled before the courts for these incredibly trivial offences.”

Lack of understanding of white law

More than 90% of people in Arnhem Land, NT, could not answer basic legal questions.  95% of Yolngu people could not explain the 30 most commonly used English legal terms, such as ‘bail’, ‘commit’, ‘arrest’ or even ‘guilty’. Even 90% of community leaders, school teachers and council representatives had no understanding of these legal terms.

This might explain why in 2008 over 80% of the Northern Territory prison population was Aboriginal. Many of them might as well be innocent because they didn’t understand what ‘guilty’ meant.

Richard Trudgen, CEO of the Aboriginal Resource and Development Services:

“People thought that pleading guilty actually got them through the court quickly and they didn’t go to jail. When they realised what the term guilty meant they were able to identify some of the things that they were convicted of that they never had anything to do with.”

Another reason why Aboriginal people make ‘false’ statements in court is that they are hearing-impaired through a cycle of poor health. There is a clear relationship between hearing loss and early Indigenous justice problems – 90% of Indigenous inmates in Darwin Correctional Centre suffer from hearing loss.

Priscilla Collins, North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA):  “Half the time our clients break the law because they don’t understand it”.

*** Note:  this young offender was given a custodial sentence, was raped while in jail and killed himself upon his release.

The horrors experienced by many young inmates, particularly those who are convicted of non-violent offences, border on the unimaginable. Prison rape not only threatens the lives of those who fall prey to their aggressors, but it is potentially devastating to the human spirit. Shame, depression, and a shattering loss of self-esteem accompany the perpetual terror the victim thereafter must endure.

Ref: Heilpern, David M, “Sexual Assault of Prisoners: Reflections” [2005] UNSWLawJI 17; (2005) 28(1) University of New South Wales Law Journal 286

Tony Abbott as Prime Minister: Indigenous legal aid to be cut by $13.4 million

The biggest blow toIndigenous funding was to legal aid – $13.4 million will be taken out of the sector over the next four years.

But the treasurer says it is part of returning the budget to good health.

“Much of the projected growth is from social programs, including welfare, education and health. Spending reform will inevitably require difficult choices about the policies that Australia needs now and in the years to come,” Treasurer Joe Hockey says.

As an example:  Those services cut (will) include the $45 million that was promised during the election campaign to set up four training centres that the government is hoping will train 5,000 Indigenous people.

Tony Abbott however will, set up a committee which will “meet three times a year with the Prime Minister and senior ministers, starting next month, and will inform the policy implementation of the government”.

I am highlighting just one of Tony Abbott’s delusions, that he intends to help indigenous people.  I will give him the benefit of the doubt, that he is delusional rather than stating specifically that he has lied.

A history of failure

The remarks Liberal MP Andrew Laming made after clashes between Aboriginal and Pacific Islander communities escalated at Logan, south of Brisbane, have been widely condemned. The MP for Bowman tweeted: “Mobs tearing up Logan. Did any of them do a day’s work today, or was it business as usual and welfare on tap?”

His comments have been widely condemned and rightly so.

Sadly, they reflect an attitude that has been entrenched in the Liberal Party for more years than we care to remember. As far as Aboriginal affairs go, they also have a history of failure (as do all governments).

Here’s my take on it.

I once heard a comment that went something like this: The aspirations of Aboriginal Australians are expressed through a political system designed, first and foremost, for the white majority. In my many years in Indigenous affairs and as a student of Indigenous history it was a theme that dominated my public and academic life.

Australian history has left a legacy of Aboriginal inequality and disadvantage. In our self-congratulatory celebration of egalitarianism and the fair go, we conveniently overlooked that fact that our treatment of Aborigines amounted to a contradiction of the very values we claimed to espouse. The inability to regard Aborigines as equals has never really left the white consciousness.

There are a number of measures that can be used to establish the degree of inegalitarian treatment accorded to Aborigines: legal equality; political equality; economic equality; equality of opportunity; and equal satisfaction of basic needs. I could broach social injustice, government ineptness, and bureaucratic mis-management in emphasising these inequalities.

There are many disadvantages suffered by Aborigines that need remedying, but what needs to be dealt with, and in what order? Is it inadequate housing? Is it the parlous state of Aboriginal health which still results in unacceptably high infant mortality rates as well as a diminished life expectancy? Is it the rapid loss of Aboriginal culture? Or the high rate of Aboriginal unemployment?  Undoubtedly the problem is complex, but where do governments start to seek remedies? What are the political solutions?

History illustrates government inability above all else to deliver any remedies, due mainly to the makings of the Australian polity. Federalism stands out, and in particular the complex space that Aboriginal affairs occupies within our political system. In a federation like Australia it can be very difficult to achieve uniformity of power. Why cannot governments that perceive the existence of a regional or national problem, for example Aboriginal health, work constructively to eradicate the problem? Who is to be blamed, Commonwealth or State?

Aboriginal affairs involves many areas of governmental responsibility, including education, health, sanitation, land use and relations with police forces, which are all State government responsibilities. When Commonwealth and State governments disagree in such matters, whose view should prevail? A great deal of essential service delivery falls within the responsibility of State governments, but these governments often fall short of delivering full and satisfactory programs.

However the argument goes much further than being based on pure politics. In a polity like Australia, where the development of the land by both farmer and miner has for so long been described as basic to Australia’s prosperity, it is difficult for governments to ignore claims from such powerful interests. The mining interest has fought particularly strongly against land rights and native title. The propaganda battle is rarely won by the central government.  It is easier for a State Premier to claim that the Native Title Act threatens peoples’ backyards than it is for the Commonwealth to explain the complexities of the legislation.

This is but one of the many shortcomings if I focus on program failure or distortion, for it is in these results that many hopes and expectations are deflected, destroyed or frustrated. An analysis of service delivery reveals that the problem is multi-faceted, not only having to do with the nature of modern bureaucracies, but also with the activities of politicians, the attitudes of white Australians, and the perceptions o Aborigines themselves.

In this arena of political and public perceptions, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) used to come under some heavy fire; from politicians, the media, and the wider community. Perhaps there was resentment because ATSIC had given Aboriginal people a voice in the political system.

The argument on this was compelling. Many Australians watched distrustfully as, under Whitlam’s grandiosity in 1972, large amounts of money were directed to Aboriginal affairs.  As a result there was a great deal of importance placed on the need for ATSIC, in particular, to be accountable for its operations, reflecting no doubt the uncertainties of whites concerning the standards of operations of black institutions. Following accusations of the misuse of money, audits were made of various bodies, again nominally ATSIC, and government funds for many Aboriginal services were reduced, and eventually, ATSIC was wiped from the political and social landscape. Yet claims about ATSIC’s waste of public money usually ignored the difficulties that that body had in delivering any worthwhile services to the Indigenous community. ATSIC had an unbelievable array of demands on its finite budget and was simply not in a position to meet every demand.

At the time I was passionate in my condemnation of the Howard Government. Howard’s commitment to the reduction of government spending in Aboriginal affairs administration has often been cited. Also political parties have come to be so divided on Aboriginal issues – why the likes of the Howard Government was less sympathetic to Aboriginal issues, or too cautious in the invocation of Commonwealth power for the benefit of Aborigines than were the previous Labor Governments of Hawke and Keating. It is forcefully argued that Howard was indeed influenced by the claims of the more powerful interest groups.

Political parties’ 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 or the more contemporary Northern Territory intervention.

Members of parliament – support for Aborigines

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

I could attack the media with as much veracity as I do the political interests. Press coverage should help ensure that the area of public policy is kept well and truly on the political agenda, for without it would be very difficult for Aboriginal interests to achieve anything of importance. Perhaps the best example in recent years has been the manner in which the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody disappeared from sight once the report became public. Such a lack of sustained coverage makes it easier for governments to ignore many matters of short-term notoriety. The desire for a story often overrides considerations of accuracy or fairness. Who could argue with this? Drunkenness, rioting and poor living conditions are given more attention than the stories that could show Aborigines playing a positive role in the general community.

In recent years, the desire of Aboriginal people to lead lives with as much freedom from government constraint as possible has grown to the point where it is now a major element in the way in which they see their future relationship with the Australian nation. Aboriginal people were sovereign before 1788, and many demand the right to be sovereign again. This desire for autonomy is just one of the perspectives of how Aboriginal people would like to be perceived by governments.

That would be a good place to start.

Getting rid of idiots like Andrew Laming would be another one.

Aboriginal Australians: they’re not all alike

When this blog first started, as well as posting political and media related topics, we also posted many informative topics on Indigenous Australia. It is a topic that is close to most of us here and we have always endeavoured to the best of our ability to promote an awareness of our Indigenous brothers and sisters in the country they settled 60,000 years before Europeans.

This post was first published in June 2010 when we had just a handful of contributors and readers so I would like to re-introduce it now that we have gathered a large number of both along the way. It is a post that challenges the pan-Aboriginalisation opinions of the Indigenous Australians by the wider community, which is, simply; ‘they’re all alike’.

On balance I do not think it is valid to refer to Aboriginal characteristics in a general way, especially when those characteristics are based on culture.

One of my old university lectures broadly defined a culture as the human behaviour which is learned in a social environment and adapted to that environment.  As Aboriginal societies developed and adapted throughout a continent that contained a variety of environmental zones, it is concluded that Australia thus contains a variety of Aboriginal cultures.

However, these cultures do share common threads.  Three major points of similarity in cultural concepts include values towards the land and environment, relationships, and the creative stories of the Dreaming.

Aboriginal culture cannot be separated from the land.  Aborigines believe they are related to the land and that the land is sacred.

The land was created during the Dreaming and all people were born from this land, and within it the ancestral spirits still dwell.  During the creation the spirit beings took (among others) human form, and as they travelled the earth their activities, formed the environmental landmarks that are still visible today.

The values placed on relationships (in a broader sense than meaning kinship), is based on the principle of helping each other.  Within groups all possessions would be shared.  It was a moral requirement that foods be distributed to all group members, and any surplus would be traded (or offered) to other tribes, as would any item that the receiving tribe may not have access to.

The third similarity between cultures relates to the Dreaming.  Each culture may have their own interpretations of the Dreaming stories and even their own descriptive name for the event, but the mythical or religious significance of the Dreaming is a source that makes possible the celebration of life.

All aspects and activities of life are based on the Dreaming, be it in the rituals, the arts, hunting and gathering, and the two cultural similarities already discussed; the bond with the land and the principles of relationships.

How life was lived by the spiritual ancestors in the Dreaming is as it is lived by people now.  This is a concept that is difficult to explain to non – Aboriginal Australians, yet it is a concept so easy to express by those who live by it.

The similarities of attitudes to the environment itself can also be the greatest influence in creating cultural differences.  As there are environmental differences, there must be cultural diversity, and that the environmental differences in Australia had indeed given rise to socio – economic patterning.

To expand on this, a more detailed look at what identifies a culture would need to be examined than the broad offering of my old lecturer.  Cultures are integrated systems consisting of a great variety of ideas and activities influenced by the ecosystems, or simply, a way of life within an ecosystem.  A particular ecosystem may exist for desert dwellers than that say for tribes that lived on the coastal regions.  The foods hunted would be different as would the weapons used.  Language could thus be different as perhaps would art.  Different climatic conditions would also influence the way of life.

On balance I do not think it is valid to refer to Aboriginal cultural characteristics in a general way.  To do so would be classifying the Aboriginal people as a race, and I don’t believe that they are a race.  I support the opinion that throughout the continent there were territories clearly defined by language, geography and descent which divided the land into hundreds of identifiable nations.  Would you call Europeans a race?  Would you say that the Scots have all the same cultures as the English.  It is my belief that to misrepresent a person’s culture is denying that person their identity.

On balance do you think it is valid to refer to Aboriginal cultural characteristics in a general way?

2:3 Normal or de jure version of flag, or obve...

The Australian Aboriginal Flag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Celebrate progress to revive First Nations’ languages

NOTE: This was originally published on my personal blog on 20 October as “Progress to revive First Nations’ languages

The other day I was reading through my RSS feeds and stumbled across an excellent article about the revival of a nearly-dead Australian First Nation’s language. The article, Aboriginal language back from the dead, highlighted how a language that was nearly dead was revived through the dedication of a handful of people.

This is important news.

It’s important because it means that it is possible to revive languages that are on the brink of dying out. It’s also important because such revival of languages means that the cultures they speak to will be revived. The beautiful thing about languages is that through knowing them you learn about the cultures; you learn about the life and times of culture; and you learn about the intricate nuances of the cultures.

Sure not much fanfare will be paid to such news but we should be celebrating it. We should be celebrating the fact that in a country with such a terrible record of injustices towards its indigenous peoples’, a language nearly lost has been revived.

I think we should also be celebrating the fact that we can revive these ancient languages. It would be a great loss to the world to lose the culture, history and art of ancient languages but unfortunately Australia seems to ignore the alarming rate at which indigenous languages are being lost.

Yet this piece of news, while hardly celebrated, was celebrated hardly by at least me.

In the year 2050

Tony Abbott has lamented that the introduction of the carbon tax has not been “absolutely catastrophic” but warned Australians they will be $5000 worse off by 2050 unless it is abolished. Because of that dastardly Julia Gillard the carbon tax will take $2.53 a week out of our pockets for the next 38 years, quipped Blogotariat.

So that’s the worse thing Abbott reckons can happen to us and our future generations over the next 38 years. I can live with that.

In 2050 Australia will probably be a good place. Thanks to a long-gone Prime Minister way back in 2012 we’ll awake to clear blue skies and we’ll have jobs to go to. Our economy will continue to be the envy of the world and our telecommunication systems have been modeled around the world, as have our green technologies.

There is no such thing as a minority group as Australia will be a country where all people are equal. Even our Indigenous brothers and sisters can walk down the street without being racially vilified.

Tertiary education is affordable and there are enough hospital beds to house the sick.

The image of Australia in 2050 paints a very attractive picture.

But I wonder what it’ll look like had Tony Abbott have been Prime Minister way back in 2012. Allow me to amuse myself with the following picture.

Those people lucky enough to have jobs – and there aren’t many of them – will don face masks before they leave for work. The streets will be empty; acid rain has been forecast.

Twenty people have been killed by the riot police in Melbourne’s shanty town.

The nation’s capital, Port Hedland, now has a population of four million.

Areas of Western Australia that were once sacred sites containing art work from a lost civilisation are now big holes in the ground.

Prime Minister Thomas Rinehart dismisses calls to end Australia’s ties to the monarchy.

Meanwhile, the war with Malaysia goes well. It’s also good for the economy and helps line the pockets of the billionaires.

The unemployment rate of 46% is steady.

Refugee boats are sank as soon as they enter Australian waters. Tony Abbott’s long ago promise to stop the boats has been a success.

The reintroduction of the assimilation policies have failed so Aborigines are again sent to reserves.

Gay marriage is illegal.

It’s now been 12 years since a fish has been caught in the Murray. The waters are too polluted to sustain life.

Plans are being drawn up to move the major coastal cities inland due to the rising tides. This should help employment.

Meanwhile the war with India goes well.

There is great excitement in the country after the Government announces the go-ahead of a National Broadband Network.

In the finance sectors, interest rates have dropped to 26% and the dollar is 35 cents against the Greenback.

A new university is planned for Port Hedland. The country will then have five universities.

Religious Instructions are compulsory in primary schools.

The skies are black, the riverways are murky and the beaches are sludge. Nothing grows.

The billionaires thank Tony Abbott for their lucky life. And for a white Australia.

Meanwhile, the war with Somalia goes well.

All Aborigines are drunks!

I think most people would have seen articles in the news lately about a particular racist Facebook Group. Aboriginal Memes was created purely for the purpose of targeting Aboriginal people with racist taunts and the propagation of negative stereotypes aimed at damaging public opinion. In essence, the site ‘celebrated the destruction‘ of Aboriginal people, portraying them as inferior drunks who sniff petrol and bludge off welfare. Rightly, there have been questions raised as to whether this site is in breach of the Racial Discrimination Act and much of the offensive material has been subsequently removed.

I’m sure that most people would also be aware that the current Opposition, if it wins Government, has targeted the pertinent section of the Racial Discrimination Act for repeal as it is their view that it undermines the right to freedom of speech. So in 18 months such racist, hate-driven sites will be lawful.

Get ready for the onslaught. We might will be bombarded with all sorts of myths.

If we can’t stop the rubbish, maybe we could do our best at dispelling the myths.

A post I wrote almost a year ago attempted to do exactly that. As the subject is now topical because of the publicity surrounding Aboriginal Memes, I’ve dusted off the cobwebs to again promote what I consider to be an important message. It’s about the consensus reality that all Aborigines are drunks.

I heard the phrase consensus reality while listening to a recent talk.  I liked it.  It stuck with me.  I also liked what it defined, when explained, that it is a shared, social construction of reality that we believe to be true.  It doesn’t have to be true; we just need to nod our heads in agreement that we believe it to be true.  A bit like herd mentality, really.

Can you think of any examples?  I can.  Many, in fact.  The pages of history are filled with them.  The earth is flat!  The earth is the centre of the universe!  God created the earth in seven days!  Or some more contemporary ones: The dingo didn’t do it!  All politicians lie!  All dole-bludgers are lazy!  All gay people die of AIDS!

One I used to hear a lot in my former line of work always put me on the front foot: All Aborigines are drunks!

This is the horrible perception shared by the majority of non-Indigenous people in this country.  The consensus reality.

Let’s face it, we’ve all seen Aboriginal people drinking or drunk in parks, yelling at each other or intimidating passersby.  These may be the only Aborigines that many city dwellers see on a regular basis and hence they fall victim to consensus reality.  Every Aborigine I have seen has been drunk, so it must be true; they’re all drunkards.

I’m quite happy to tell you that it isn’t true.  More the truth is that Aboriginal people drink in open areas, whereas non-Aboriginal people tend to confine their drinking (and unsocial behaviour) to enclosed areas such as hotels, restaurants, clubs or their or someone else’s home.  For every one drunk Aborigine I’ve seen in a public park I’ve seen 500 drunk white people in a public bar.  Further, for every Aborigine I’ve seen drunk in a public park I’ve seen hundreds of sober Aborigines in country towns or remote lands.  I for one don’t share the consensus reality that all Aborigines are drunkards, yet this is the stereotype often reinforced by the media and the wider community.

There is an element that are, but this is not the purpose of this thread.  Nor is the important reason why some drink, notably due to loss of culture and identity.

Now let’s look at some facts on Aboriginal alcohol consumption:

Contrary to public perception surveys have in fact found that proportionally fewer Aboriginal people drink alcohol than whites do.

29%  of Aboriginal Australians did not drink alcohol in the previous 12 months, almost double the rate of non-Indigenous Australians.

Aboriginal people are 1.4 times more likely to abstain from alcohol than non-Aboriginal people.

Further statistics I have found, which are similar to those that were produced while I was at ATSIC show that:

By comparison with non-Aboriginal people, a large proportion of Aboriginal people do not drink alcohol at all and, in some Aboriginal communities, alcohol consumption has been banned by the residents.

Up to 35% of Aboriginal men do not drink alcohol compared with 12% of non-Aboriginal men.

40% to 80% of Aboriginal women do not drink alcohol compared with 19% to 25% of non-Aboriginal women.

In the Northern Territory, it has been estimated that 75% of Aboriginal people do not drink alcohol at all.

So why do we perpetuate the myth, the consensus reality that all Aborigines are drunkards?  I am certain that events such as the Northern Territory Intervention helped perpetuate the myth.  But it is about as far from the truth that the earth is flat.

Our Indigenous brothers and sisters deserved better than of the image society has created of them.  Let’s not stereotype all Aborigines because of the visible ones.  The invisible ones are a proud people.  Perhaps that’s the consensus reality we should be promoting.

Let’s make our voices louder than the Aboriginal Memes of the future.

Andrew Bolt: his rights, our freedom

Photo: Justin McManus. Digital illustration: Stuart Ivers

In an address titled “Freedom Wars”, Tony Abbott has declared that it is his intention to repeal s18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, claiming that this section of the Act impacts upon Freedom of Speech. This ideal of freedom of speech is that which we should all aspire to, however is it as our friend Aquanut once stated: You mean the freedom to be an asshole.

The text of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) can be found via Austlii.

Section C18 of the Act, that being which Tony Abbott so vehemently opposes concerns offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin. That’s correct it’s offensive behaviour, with the specifics being:

For an act to be unlawful it must fulfill the following criteria:

  • that the action causes words, sounds, images or writing to be communicated to the public; or that it is done in a public place.
  • that the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people.
  • that the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.

So let us consider that which is not considered unlawful under s18C of the Act.

It is not a group of friends in a public bar talking amongst themselves, even if the subject matter would offend and humilitate a person standing directly next to them. For example, racist jokes.

It is not public discussions for the purpose of information, education or analysis.

There is also the matter of intention plus “the reasonable person test” that is, would a reasonable person given an identical set of circumstances feel humiliated or intimidated. With regard to intent; for example a remark said in public about a person’s religion might offend that person, however if there was lack of intent on the first person’s part to cause offence, then it is not racial vilification.

Therefore, what we are dealing with is people who want the right to make statements in the public forum, and with the intention of causing offence and humiliation. Enter Andrew Bolt..

Is it nothing more than a sheer coincidence that Abbott announced his intention of changing the racial vilification section of the Racial Discrimination Act just prior to Bolt writing this one, How dare they try to censor this flyer.

Andrew Bolt:

Sadly, the ACT Government seems only too keen on the idea:

Attorney-General Simon Corbell said laws prohibiting religious vilification should be considered by a review of the act that is being conducted by the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council.

How dare these people presume to strip others of the right to speak? How dare they?

And..again, where Bolt once again attempts to defend freedom:

I make no comment on their opinion but on the principle

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott rightly calls the laws under which two of my articles on this matter were declared unlawful an offence against free speech, and says he will strip them back. But the Left is furious, and introduces absurd excuses for their excesses:

As reported in news.com, Mr Abbott’s speech came after he wrote in The Australian that section 18C of the act was a “threat” to freedom of speech.

“Expression or advocacy should never be unlawful merely because it is offensive,” he wrote.

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon’s response is that section 18C provides protection for many vulnerable people, and that, “This legislation also helps to protect the community against those who advocate violence on the basis of race.”

Ms. Roxon might nod in agreement at the statement made by Aquanut: You mean the freedom to be an asshole.

NAIDOC Week salutes importance of the Tent Embassy

This was first published on my personal blog.

If you haven’t heard it’s NAIDOC Week.  This important weeek reminds us that despite making some progress to-date, there’s still a long way ahead to make sure equality between Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians exists.

This year’s NAIDOC Week  has the theme, Spirit of the Tent Embassy: 40 years on. With such a theme it is an opportune time to refocus energies for a fair and equal Australia. It’s also a particularly opportune time to refocus energies given the passage of the misleadingly named Stronger Futures legislation.

The Tent Embassy was established on 26 January 1972 when four men placed a beach umbrella into the lawn of Parliament House in Canberra in an iconic protest against the refusal to acknowledge Aboriginal land rights. This act represented for many a symbol of strength and defiance against injustice. The Tent Embassy’s protest on government policy, along with the Wave Hill walk off by the Gurindji people and the Gove land rights case of 1971, have been cornerstones in the history of the land rights movement in Australia. And of course we can’t forget the contributions of the Mabo case.

The Tent Embassy has maintained a presence in Canberra over the past 40 years and remains a powerful symbol for advocacy in Indigenous affairs. It provides a constant reminder to keep the challenges faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on the  political agenda and adds much needed visibility for equality and justice.

As Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda noted:

It is a symbol of struggle, of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ power as a people to protest for positive change and to reclaim the pride undermined by centuries of dispossession and discrimination.

It is vital we acknowledge the legitimacy of the discrimination, disempowerment and frustration experienced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and focus efforts and energies on securing equal rights.

Marriage: it’s a ritual

There are issues which although they may not effect one personally, nor even effect one’s friends and family, that it becomes a matter of justice.  That which is right; in the name of equality.

HISTORY….

In 1959, Gladys Namagu was denied permission to marry her white fiancé, Mick Daly.  In response, the Menzies government promised that such discrimination would never be written into Australian marriage law.

The history of this travels back somewhat further into misconceptions as to the meaning of Terra Nullius.  Originally meaning a land which belonged to no one, it was later interpreted that the inhabitants of the land, our Aboriginal peoples were not human, a subspecies at best hence “no one”; nonentities.

Although there are many examples, and far too many for our white culture to come to terms with, where Aboriginal women were forced into sex, there were also many loving couples who were refused the right to marry, due solely because of the color of one’s skin.  In Queensland we had white/black unions forbidden, while in WA we had black/black unions forbidden.  The reasoning for the former was to maintain racial purity, whereas the reasoning for the latter was to “assimilate” black people so as to allow the race to die out naturally, by being gradually diluted.

In 2004, John Howard sought to overhaul the Marriage Act so that marriage could only be between a man and woman, and to stop courts recognising foreign gay unions.

Prior to this, the Marriage Act had evolved from customary law, the major change in modern times being the introduction of civil registrations in 1856.

That which motivated former Prime Minister Howard was that after extensive lobbying by the then powerful fundamentalist church lobby groups, that it was insisted that he, John Howard “shore up” the Marriage Act to ensure the exclusion of same sex couples, and to deny recognition in Australia of same sex couples who had married overseas.  Mr Howard sought this action in a move he said was to defend traditional families.

The Rev. Fred Nile was particularly vocal:

The federal government under John Howard recently introduced a bill to amend the Marriage Act 1961 to secure the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life,” Nile said. ”That was done deliberately because of threatened legal challenges. Three Australian same-sex couples, including one couple from Western Australia, had been to Canada to get marriage licences. They returned to Australia and announced their intention to seek legal recognition of their Canadian marriages from the Family Court of Australia.

These are major examples of senseless discrimination which have existed in Australia.

Forward to today, 18th June 2012: Churches lay down law on gay marriage

Church heavyweights have been spurred into action by the bills, with the heads of the Catholic, Anglican and Greek Orthodox churches issuing strong statements to their congregations yesterday urging them to oppose any move towards same-sex marriage.

I would ask these “church heavyweights” the question, Why.  Why do you oppose an item of contract law which has not been your sole jurisdiction since 1856?  Do you the church, believe that you have the right to say who one should love, and who one should not love?

You, the bishops and priests had the right to choose your vocation, and to marry or not to marry.  Gladys Namagu chose to love, but did not choose the colour of her skin.  Our dear gay and lesbian friends choose to love, and the gender of their loved one is but an incidental.

I hope, not just hope, but I pray to the angels that this last piece of discriminatory legislation will soon be overturned.  The heartache that this has caused defies description.

In 1958 Sir Robert Menzies vowed that discrimination would never be written into Australia’s marriage laws, but in 2004 John Howard did just that.

**For Lloyd, Paul, Joni and their partners, this one is for you.

And of course for Reb too.