26 Jul. 2007

War On Aborigines: Did We Win?


Can it really be only a month since John Howard declared a "national emergency"? So what happened? Not that recall of Parliament, that's for sure. We've moved on. Once again it seems that Aboriginal art revenues are more important than the sexual abuse of Aboriginal kids.

As Andrew Bartlett says, the lack of further discussion could have something to do with the fact that more than 500 state and federal police have been seconded to the Haneef case. Or it could have something to do with those polls showing the whole War On Aborigines thing was not going to be a vote-winner for the PM.

Meanwhile, ordinary decent folk like Dr Brian McCoy are still out there in the desert, tackling the real issues, day after day:
I observed that, as the police moved in and charges were laid, family and community members backed off. They did not engage in public discussion, ring up lawyers, talk to the media or even call a community meeting. They retreated back to those whom they could hold onto and trust, their own families.

This movement away from public conversation and scrutiny may have happened because desert people have experienced a long, and often painful, history of public scrutiny and negative judgement by other Australians. A critical ingredient of that history is their relationship with the police. When the desert people of this region, the parents and grandparents of the today’s adults, first met missionaries they also met police. At this first encounter sheep belonging to the missionaries were speared. Police were called and men were taken away in chains. And that was at the first encounter! The Kukatja word for police became wayirnuwatji, ‘the one who comes with chains’, the description of a relationship that was to be remembered for future generations.

Not surprisingly, family members today remember not just those early days but many times since, when police have intervened to take members of their families away. Police have used violence against young and older desert men in the past decade. Rarely was there accountability, explanation or communication with local leaders or families...
You are not going to build a relationship of trust between now and the election, Mr Howard. And certainly not while our police forces continue to be bastardised, politicised and corrupted.

The sins of the fathers become the sins of the sons. If the sons do not renounce those sins, they shoulder them and perpetuate them. Australia today has a long list of apologies waiting to be made to the world.

I was talking to a fellow soccer Dad at training last week and he said that Aboriginals would not steal from outback pubs because they were "too stupid". He seemed like an otherwise decent bloke, and he blushed when I gave him a look of disgust. "Don't get me wrong..." he protested.

But that's the core of this problem, right there: long-standing racist attitudes that have survived through generations. That's where real leadership is required. We're never going to get such leadership from Mr John Winston Howard.