As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, we are often told that we are the problem. We are what is wrong with society and we should just conform to the dominant structure “because it works”. The fact is that it doesn’t work.
Many of the people who use this line are often people who really have no idea what kind of lifestyle we live on a day-to-day basis. You often hear “I can understand why children were/are being taken away by their families because there’s nothing they can do to benefit them.” Or, “Nobody wants to see communities being closed down but we cannot afford to continue to fund them if they choose to live that lifestyle.”
The thing is, I would probably believe these excuses if, in the process of making these statements, the current government hadn’t actually doubled the national deficit and simultaneously cut funding to the Aboriginal Legal Service, the Aboriginal Medical Service, Aboriginal Housing, or had not cut the Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme (ITAS) last year.
You see, while the people who hold our living conditions in the palm of their hand tell us what is best for us, there were 701 Aboriginal deaths in custody in the space of 7 years with a 150% increase since 1991. On top of that our youth suicide rate has increased putting us as the highest suicide demographic in the world.
Most will tell us that we need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get to work. Well… we would if there were employment opportunities and health services for us. We would if there wasn’t a fear that we would be detained for infringements such as offensive language rather than actual criminal offences in public so many non-Indigenous people take for granted. In fact while everyone is jumping up and down about police brutality in the U.S.A, Aboriginal people are 8 times more likely to be subject to the same circumstances in this country.
If you see these same issues that I see and the same demographic of people consistently living below the poverty line in a 1st world country like this one, ask yourself if we are actually the problem.