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The Secret Country Wages War on Its Own People
International

The Secret Country Wages War on Its Own People

Australia has again declared war on its Indigenous people, reminiscent of the brutality that brought universal condemnation on apartheid South Africa.  Aboriginal people are to be driven from homelands where their communities have lived for thousands of years. In Western Australia, where mining companies make billion dollar profits exploiting Aboriginal land, the state government says it can no longer afford to “support” the homelands, John Pilger, the Australian-British journalist wrote for CounterPunch.
Vulnerable populations, already denied the basic services most Australians take for granted, are on notice of dispossession without consultation, and eviction at gunpoint. Yet again, Aboriginal leaders have warned of “a new generation of displaced people” and “cultural genocide.”
Genocide is a word Australians hate to hear. Genocide happens in other countries, not the “lucky” society that per capita is the second richest on earth. When “act of genocide” was used in the 1997 landmark report Bringing Them Home, which revealed that thousands of Indigenous children had been stolen from their communities by white institutions and systematically abused, a campaign of denial was launched by a far-right clique around the then prime minister John Howard. It included those who called themselves the Galatians Group, then Quadrant, then the Bennelong Society; the Murdoch press was their voice.
The Stolen Generation was exaggerated, they said, if it had happened at all. Colonial Australia was a benign place; there were no massacres. The First Australians were victims of their own cultural inferiority, or they were noble savages. Suitable euphemisms were deployed.

  Australia’s Singular Uniqueness
The government of the current prime minister, Tony Abbott, a conservative zealot, has revived this assault on a people who represent Australia’s singular uniqueness. Soon after coming to office, Abbott’s government cut $534 million in indigenous social programs, including $160 million from the indigenous health budget and $13.4 million from indigenous legal aid.
Having insulted indigenous Australians by declaring (at a G20 breakfast for David Cameron) that there was “nothing but bush” before the white man, Abbott announced that his government would no longer honor the longstanding commitment to Aboriginal homelands. He sneered, “It’s not the job of the taxpayers to subsidies lifestyle choices.”
Having reported on Aboriginal communities since the 1960s, I have watched a seasonal routine whereby the Australian elite interrupts its “normal” mistreatment and neglect of the people of the First Nations, and attacks them outright. This happens when an election approaches, or a prime minister’s ratings are low. The last frontal attack was in 2007 when former prime minister Howard sent the army into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory to “rescue children” who, said his minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mal Brough, were being abused by pedophile gangs in “unthinkable numbers.”
The 2007 “intervention” allowed the federal government to destroy many of the vestiges of self-determination in the Northern Territory, the only part of Australia where Aboriginal people had won federally-legislated land rights.
It is this “traditional life” that is anathema to a parasitic white industry of civil servants, contractors, lawyers and consultants that controls and often profits from Aboriginal Australia, if indirectly through the corporate structures imposed on Indigenous organizations. The homelands are seen as a threat, for they express a communalism at odds with the neo-conservatism that rules Australia.

  Fatal Burden
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, a federal agency, recently released a report on what it calls the “Fatal Burden” of Third World disease and trauma borne by Indigenous people “resulting in almost 100,000 years of life lost due to premature death.” This “fatal burden” is the product of extreme poverty imposed in Western Australia, as in the rest of Australia, by the denial of human rights. In Barnett’s vast rich Western Australia, barely a fraction of mining, oil and gas revenue has benefited communities for which his government has a duty of care.
In 2011, the Barnett government displayed a brutality in the community of Oombulgurri the other homelands can expect. “First, the government closed the services,” wrote Tammy Solonec of Amnesty International, “It closed the shop, so people could not buy food and essentials. It closed the clinic, so the sick and the elderly had to move, and the school, so families with children had to leave, or face having their children taken away from them. The police station was the last service to close, then the electricity and water were turned off. Finally, the ten residents who resolutely stayed to the end were forcibly evicted [leaving behind] personal possessions. [Then] the bulldozers rolled into Oombulgurri. The WA government has literally dug a hole and in it buried the rubble of people’s homes and personal belongings.”
The current distraction from these national dirty secrets is the approaching “celebrations” of the centenary of an Edwardian military disaster at Gallipoli in 1915 when 8,709 Australian and 2,779 New Zealand troops — the Anzacs — were sent to their death in a futile assault on a beach in Turkey. In recent years, governments in Canberra have promoted this imperial waste of life as an historical deity to mask the militarism that underpins Australia’s role as America’s “deputy sheriff” in the Pacific.

  Cult of Forgetfulness
In a country littered with Anzac memorials, not one official memorial stands for the thousands of native Australians who fought and fell defending their homeland. This is part of the “great Australian silence”, as W.E.H. Stanner in 1968 called his lecture in which he described a “cult of forgetfulness on a national scale”. He was referring to the Indigenous people. Today, the silence is ubiquitous. In Sydney, the Art Gallery of New South Wales currently has an exhibition, The Photograph and Australia, in which the timeline of this ancient country begins, incredibly, with Captain Cook.
Australian politicians are nervous of the United Nations. Abbott’s response has been abuse. When Professor James Anaya, the UN special reporter on Indigenous People, described the racism of the “intervention,” Abbott told him to, “get a life” and “not listen to the old victim brigade.”
An international momentum is building. In 2013, Pope Francis urged the world to act against racism and on behalf of “indigenous people who are increasingly isolated and abandoned”. It was South Africa’s defiance of such a basic principle of human rights that ignited the international opprobrium and campaign that brought down apartheid. Australia beware.

 

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