Is it possible for a country founded on racism to ever move past its history to accept not only this country’s Indigenous people but people of every race?
Last week on my facebook Newsfeed Amnesty International Australia posted the iconic image of Gough Whitlam as he poured a handful of Daguragu soil into the hand of Gurindji elder Vincent Lingiari as a symbol of the land being returned to the Gurindji people. As I looked at this powerful image for a fleeting moment, I was empowered by this historical step in the Land Rights movement, however this feeling left as quickly as it came when I realised that not much has been done since then. Land rights are still a fundamental issue for Indigenous people as we fight for the right to something that was taken away from us. This is most clearly seen down at The Block in Redfern where Aunty Jenny and the whole mob down there are facing eviction from their land as they demand the basic human right of affordable housing. It seems that in the face of ‘progress’ and development human rights get left behind while racism prevails.
Human rights seems to be all but forgotten in the Northern Territory as the NT Intervention continues with little protest from the wider Australian community. The Australian government have restricted individuals rights and freedoms but have done so purely based on race. The measures introduced within the Northern Territory communities only apply to Aboriginal people, this discrimination and stigmatisation of the Indigenous people has caused the United Nations to openly condemn the Australian government actions, yet still nothing has been done. With little to no improvement in education and literacy rates within these communities it seems that even the so called ‘positive’ aims of the Intervention havn’t been made, so why are they still there?
The Paternalistic approach to indigenous issues has prevailed since colonisation and reinforces the idea that we are not able to help our self. That some how we are different from non-indigenous Australians and that we need the government. This idea is rooted in racism that allows the government to exercise control over the Indigenous population under the guise of helping.
In looking at the issues Indigenous people face today has there really been progress? Yes we are now counted as citizens, a momentous step in the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people but citizens of what? A country that still vilifies a whole race? A country that still refuses the accept the true history of colonisation? A country that counties to break international human rights laws? Has anything really changed? Are we not still the victims of extreme discrimination and prejudice in our own country? Until Australian truly addresses the history of colonisation and its past and current treatment of this country’s Indigenous people we will always be living in a racist country.