March 31, 2011

Australia's shame

I'm the first to admit I'm not well-acquainted with aboriginal culture or aboriginal people. I live on the land of the Bunourong people but thats about where the relationship ends.

Hop on a plane to New Zealand and Auckland airport's glossy billboards welcome you in Maori on arrival; Maori culture is central to New Zealand's national identity. The difference in how we treat our indigenous peoples is stark.

I've always felt that the way our Government treats indigineous Australians and the livelihoods they endure is the ugly underbelly of this supposed 'lucky country'. The White Australia policy and the 70 years of forced removal of children from their families for the purposes of 'assimilation' was a long and dark chapter in this country's short "white" history but how much further have we really come?

Not far, if you read Chloe Hooper's account of the 2004 death of an Aboriginal man in custody on Palm Island. It left me feeling angry and overwhelmed with the insurmountable problems White Australia has created for Aboriginals. And the inherent racism of many whites living alongside Aboriginals is quite plainly, repulsive.

Talk to anyone who's been to Darwin, and the stories aren't pretty. Drinking, petrol sniffing and abuse are daily problems among the Aboriginal population. But how did it get this way and who is responsible - and more importantly, how do we fix it? These are complicated questions with no hard and fast answers, and Hooper doesn't pretend to have these, but you're left wondering what we possibly can do to improve the situation and make meaningful inroads to reconciliation.

The Tall Man provides a harrowing insight into the inequalities between white and black Australians, and the tragedy of the senseless death of one Aboriginal man at the hands of police, and the impact on his family and community. You should read it.

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