neighbours part 2

Posted: July 11, 2007 in reflections

when i was writing the previous post i had in the back of my mind the current aust. governments immediate & heavy-handed approach to tackle social issues within indigenous communities in the NT. i was skeptical when i first heard of the move, particularly because the howard government hasn’t only decided to deem whats best for indigenous communities in the NT, but they have also taken the power off the NT government to govern in order to push their own agenda. No where else in Aust could this have happened [except the ACT] because as far as i’m aware the federal government has no jurisdiction to impose legislation like this within the states – only within the territories of australia. everywhere else in the country the states are left to resource, support, and implement policy. So why does howard and brough want to get their hands in on indigenous affairs so urgently – to the point that they’d use their federal power to override the authority and determination of the Northern Territory? one might suspect its a proactive attempt to demonstrate their leadership in the leadup to the election, another hot contender wonders what could possibly link the welfare or sexual abuse of indigenous children to the Aboriginal Land permit system.

when announcing their intentions, John Howard stated that this is our Katrina, creating a link to the hurricane disaster and the obvious social implications and issues that were exposed in southern usa in its aftermath. I was confused by such a statement – Howard wanted to tell us that this is of national interest, and so deemed it a national emergency – therefore giving him the power to act as he wished – but he did this by comparing it to a weather event?

On monday a MP from the Maori Party in New Zealand labeled Howard a ‘racist bastard’ for his intervention in the NT. Hone Harawira’s words were blunt and i doubt he would have got airplay in Australia if he hadn’t used them. but what he then went on to offer as a member of a first nation peoples is certainly insightful. Harawira picked up on Howards use of Katrina, and offered that perhaps his governments actions were far more interventionist like Iraq. He went on to say that this would not happen in NZ because such action would illicit violence. What a sad indictment on the indigenous people of australia that they are too peaceful.

so our neighbour across the tasman sounds the alarm bells. our actions here in australia haven’t gone unnoticed. in many debates about indigenous issues, status and place in australia we as a country often fall into us & them – one opinion piece in the age on sunday unfortunately highlights this too well. Terry Lane writes: “we may be as sentimental as we like about indigenous culture, but it is simply incompatible with real life and must change or be changed….Realistically there is no alternative to assimilation”. If Terry Lane had any idea about aboriginal culture he would understand that for example football – both league and afl have become for many as intricatly woven into its fabric as many other traditional elements. the point is that indigenous culture has been evolving for 1000’s of years, and kept doing so post 1788. Lisa Hall, a school teacher in central australia wrote a response to the age over Lane’s words, you can read it here. Clearly all we who understand ‘real life’ are the ‘us’, and those aboriginal people are the ‘them’. What nonsense!

i could write more, and more and more – and include the piece i heard on monday about Mal brough’s intentions to claim land in this affair. i could wonder why this has popped up now after indigenous communities rejected the 70 odd million dollors promised to them some months ago over a 99 yr lease.

if you want to read some more check out:

this piece in the smh

lateline transcript from 2 weeks ago

Monday’s westaustralian report on NT govt.

or NZ MP Harawira’s comments – or just google ‘howard racist bastard’!

  1. Luke says:

    I personally think that branding Howard as a racist, and comparing the government’s intervention in the NT to the invasion\occupation of Iraq is hysterical. I recognise that
    Howard does not have a good record when it comes to indigenous issues, including
    his refusal to apologise to the Aboriginal people for the oppressive policies of past
    Australian governments, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to take something Terry Lane
    said and connect it to the Howard government. Dave, I dont understand what you
    said about Hone Harawira’s comments being “a sad indictment on the indigenous
    people of Australia that they are too peaceful.” Are you saying you think Aboriginal
    people should react violently to this? If that’s the case I don’t think that would help the
    suffering and poverty in these communities or the image of the Australian Aboriginal
    community and would, rightly or wrongly, lead to the abandonment by the government
    of efforts to improve the quality of life in indigenous communities all across Australia.
    While I realise that as a Christian your primary concern needs to be the poor and
    oppressed, but thinking violence would be an appropriate response, if that is what you
    thought, is not particularly Christian is it? What about the non-violent teachings of Jesus
    or the peaceful protest movement of Martin Luther King Jr or Desmond Tutu in Sth Africa?
    Of course we could and should understand the violent response of Aboriginal communities
    if such violence broke out, I dont think the non-violent response we’ve seen so far from the
    Aboriginal community is an indictment on them, far from it. I do however wonder why the situation in the NT and other indigenous communities was compared to Katrina, given that the situation here is no natural disaster, but the poverty of African Americans in New Orleans that was revealed to the world by the hurricane is probably similar to that suffered by indigenous communities in the NT and elsewhere, although in both cases the poverty has a history connected to racism, all the more reason to wonder why Howard chose Katrina as an analogy to the problems in Australian indigenous communities. I blame the speech writer, whoever he\she is rather than the alleged racism of John Howard or the Australian Govt.

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