Wednesday, December 14, 2005

"Wiping Out" the Aborigines

In replying to my comments on the Cronulla Race Riots a friend said. "If you think the P.M. is not as aware as you are, and probably much more so, well!!!" I didn't mean to say that the PM's comments were naive or that I was more aware than he (though I admit my comment may have sounded that way). My concern is that he can't just come right out and say that the violence in Cronulla has underlying racism beneath it. Why can't he just name 'the "r" word.' The police commissioner has done so, why can't the PM? The only way to healing in our communities is to start to speak the truth without doublespeak or spin. When "white Australians" (for what of a better term) are wearing swastikas, draping themselves in the Australian and/or Eureka flags, chanting ""Today is ethnic cleansing day," "Death to Lebs!" and "F**k Allah," I think it's safe to say that racism may be behind it - why can't the PM call it that and then work toward healing?

(Here's another flag draper - Pauline Hanson).

My friend also took exception to my reference to the brutal history of white and black relations in this country, by stating that "While there were massacres on both sides with the present people and the European 'invaders,' at least there was no plan to wipe them out." In one sense there WAS a plan to "wipe out" the Aborigines and that was the government policy of removing "half-castes" from their family groups and resettling them in white families with the hope that they would be integrated into white society, marry Europeans, have children and eventually have their aboriginality "bred out." The prohibition on speaking their own language often encountered in missions, schools, and foster families was also a powerful method of "wiping out" their aboriginality.

At first the colonial government had a quite enlightened policy toward the Aborigines. Governor Phillip was under strict orders from the crown to deal justly with the Aborigines and not to take possession of any land without consent. Phillip was quite a just man in this respect. There was an early idyllic period when black and white Australians were given an opportunity to co-exist harmoniously. However, pastoralism put an end to all that, because to have sheep, cattle, and crops you need land, and if the country was going to fulfil its manifest destiny to grow and prosper it was going to need land. The Aborigines were in the way and when they defended their country they were killed by a civilization with much greater firepower. Social Darwinist ideas soon began to affect white attitudes. The Aborigines are lower on the evolutionary scale than the whites. They are doomed to extinction. The stronger race is destined to supplant the weaker and so on. It was thought to be only a matter of time until the Aborigines died out and then all the land would be ours anyway. The problem was that Aboriginal women were bearing the children of white men (sometimes as a result of rape, sometimes through consenting relationships and even marriage). The "full blooded" population had diminished considerably by the late nineteenth century but the "half-caste" population was on the rise. So a new policy was devised - assimilation. This was a policy that was designed to Europeanise the "half-castes" and leave the few "full bloods" that were still living in the traditional ways alone in the far reaches of the outback where they couldn't get in the way of the nation's destined prosperity and growth. Even then, Menzies allowed the British government to test nuclear bombs at Maralinga, without telling any of us until it had already happened!

Since the 1970s when Aborigines began to get a little more organised and militant about their cultural identity and rights, we have had to learn to face this ugly past. It seems to me that the history books that "don't tell it like it is" are the ones we read when we were at school,in which the settlement of this country was a very heroic and rather polite affair of nice men in red uniforms raising union jacks on beaches while quaint looking blackfellas looked on from the background in polite admiration. All blood was expunged from the record. We need to redress this imbalance in our public discourse.

For sane and well balanced histories that are sympathetic to both Aborigine and Settler, you cannot do better than Richard Broome's Aboriginal Australians and his more recent Aboriginal Victorians.


markoos said...

the race riots are the result of years of racial tension and underlying social tension.

the more recent aggression to middle eastern nations and peoples has acted as a catalyst and brought the whole ugly mess to a head.

Master Peebody said...

I'm not sure what howards problem with words are. Saying sorry a few years ago, he just wouldn't go there and now he advoids the word racist. It's like he doesn't want to admit that there are racists in our country. Everyone knows it. But really, does it matter what howard says? Noone really listens to him anyway. :)

Ludicrousity said...

I think it's more about what Howard feels he can say as prime minister adn what he thinks will come back to bite him rather than what he actually thinks. Just a theory.


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