19 Feb. 2008

"Rudd should hold his head in shame"

Via not the motorcycle diaries, a post from Sydney indymedia:

Driving 1,500 km to shop - “Rudd should hold his head in shame”
Posted February 17th, 2008
By Diet Simon

Sydney, 17 February 2008 — How would you feel having to drive 1,500 kilometres to buy your household supplies, limited to 60 dollars per person?

How would you feel about police and troops with guns swarming through your community, your house, your possessions totally accessible to them without any legal instrument?

How would you feel about not being able to spend your own or your dead husband’s war veterans pension after he served in Vietnam?

All of that and more is happening in the intervention in the Northern Territory, which is moving up community after community from the South Australian border to the coast, terrifying people.

And now the architect of it, former army man and minister for Aboriginal affairs under John Howard, Mal Brough, has been invited by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to be part of his “war cabinet” to tackle Aboriginal disadvantage.

“The people are screaming in horror at this,” says Aboriginal leader Michael Anderson, “in one fell swoop he has unwound all his good intentions in the sorry speech.”

“People are terrorised by the number of police around them, their limitless powers, soldiers with guns.”

Workshop with elders

The prime minister should hold his head in shame, says Anderson, who workshopped on Tuesday with key leaders from NT communities in Canberra before parliament opened. The workshop was held in the grounds of the Aboriginal Embassy, founded in 1972 by four black power activists, of whom Anderson, aged 56, is the sole survivor.

Those leaders described what was happening in the communities as the imposition of martial law and charged that the media and politicians are misrepresenting the whole situation.

“They told me of extreme police powers, with total access to communities, vehicles, homes – they need no legal instrument to do whatever they want, they can stop and search wherever and whoever they want,” Anderson told me.

Anyone found with an empty beer can in their car faces a fine of $1,000 the first time, $2,500 the second time, Anderson reports from the meeting. “At the third time they are classified as a supplier – without any definition of quantity – which carries a minimum fine of 75,000 dollars.”

No vehicles of white people, just those of Aborigines are searched, the elders told the workshop, which they ran to try to get public attention.

“The quarantining of war widows’ or veterans pensions is hurting in a big way, it’s the biggest hurt,” Anderson quotes the community leaders as saying.

Shopping 750 km away

Most of the people in the communities affected by the intervention have to shop at Centrelink-approved stores a long way from their homes in the bush, up to 750 kilometres in some cases. They’re all Coles, Woolworths and K-Mart stores. They are not allowed to shop in their own community stores.

“The leaders say this is forcing people off their land to come into the cities. They see it as a stealthy move to seize Aboriginal lands,” Anderson quotes from the workshop. “It’s a very well thought-out move.”

To shop and get their welfare benefits, people have to prove their identity to get ID cards, usually by birth certificate. “Most of the old people were never recorded, they don’t have a piece of paper on them. That even applies to some of the younger ones because they were born in the bush.”

“So, they get no card and get no money. How are they supposed to live? And on $60 dollars per person per week no-one can feed and clothe kids. How do they survive? This is worse than the original situation.”

“We don’t need to be treated like this, it’s gone back to the 50s, it’s more of John Howard.”

Anderson, a lawyer by training and the elected leader of the 16 Gumilaroi clans in northwest NSW and southwest Queensland, accused Rudd of “shallow dealing” with Aboriginal affairs.

Talks on the ground

“He has to open his eyes a little wider. He has to talk to the people in the communities, not some bureaucrats in Sydney or Canberra.

“This has to be fixed from the bottom up. He has to get out there and listen to them, community after community. He should just look at his own speech.

“One size does not fit all. There’s been much talk of the culturally appropriate approach. Well, in these communities, not by their choice, there are mixtures of clans and tribes who don’t get on.

“In past mistakes bureaucrats and pollies saw single, homogenous communities and policies have been very divisive.”

14 Feb. 2008

After the apology, the war

Having issued a crocodile apology for the treatment of Aboriginal people by the Australian government, Australia has immediately holus bolus declared "war" on Aborigines. Of course, the war is not officially on Aborigines at all, but rather on Aboriginal separateness. While closing the gap between Aboriginal people on indicators like life expectancy and education is "justice" in a Rawlsian sense, it also constitutes a declaration of the intention to wipe out difference and create via a crusade a unified Australian nation on this continent. This intention was laid out in Rudd's "apology" yesterday.

13 Feb. 2008

That apology in full . . .

Here. No great surprises.

It's assimilationist, although to an extent that is banal and utterly unsurprising: it asserts that Aborigines are "our fellow Australians" (with Australia defined implicitly as a nation), and most ridiculously that the apology is "part of the healing of the nation". Insofar as this refers to the actual nation that Rudd represents, White Au$tralia, this is perfectly sensical. But the attempt to assimilate Aborigines to Au$tralia is not an act of healing, but an act of ingestion!

It does however apologise in much too limited a way. It apologises specifically only for the Stolen Generations (capitalised!). It does not apologise for the murdered generations before that, nor for the stolen land before that, or since. It does not apologise for the continuing oppression of Aborigines. Here it is particularly invidious in declaring "this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again" and that "the time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia's history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future". Unless this signals a coming massive change of public policy, it's outrageous.