Saturday, May 21, 2011

Aboriginal people didn't 'OWN' the Land... so nerr!

I often hear a sad argument used against the idea of Aboriginal Land Rights on the basis that 'Aboriginal people didn't own the land, they belonged to the Land' and so therefore have no claim to Land Rights.

If people did not own the land, then what were the likes of Pumulwuy & Windradyne right through to Mabo and many others today fighting for? (NB: Eddie Mabo was actually Torres Strait Islander, not Aboriginal, but that is a topic of another blog somewhere in here so I will leave that point as is)

The idea that 'Aboriginal people didn't own the land, they belonged to the Land' is an idea that is meant to symbolise that Aboriginal people did not view Land as a commodity to be bought and sold but as a giver of life and something that they were responsible for protecting and caring for. Like any good person feels towards their Mother.

If someone asked me if I owned my Mother, I would laugh and say of course not. This doesn't mean I would be happy if someone tries to 'steal' her and then sell her to a major international conglomerate for export... even if they offer me an insignificant proportion of the profits and low level, underpaid, short term employment with their company.

'Nuff said.

Monday, May 16, 2011

What Reconciliation means to me...

For the last 10 years or so, 'Reconciliation' has been the term used by many Australians to describe the process of healing that needs to happen between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australia. 

The word ‘reconciliation’ also has a different meaning than the one most of are now use to. Accountants are very familiar with it.

The one we all know when we talk about "Aboriginal Reconciliation" (a phrase .the ending of conflict or renewing of a friendly relationship between disputing people or groups

2. The process of ensuring personal and/or business finanical records are an accurate statement of the balance sheet (according to the best available data); meet accounting standards and legal requirements.

The Australian Government under John Howard, who originally structured ‘Reconciliation’ clearly did not have definition two in mind. And not many people do today either.

But the truth is that Australia cannot achieve definition one, until after it achieves definition two. 

Australia’s outstanding debts to Indigenous people do not just include ‘moral debts’. 

They include the money, land and resources that have been and continue to be stolen from Indigenous Australians.

Not just the initial (and not to be forgotten) original theft of the entire Continent, accompanying islands and all of the natural resources and opportunities for 'wealth development' that came with them.
But that which has been stolen in the much more recent history, and continues today.

This includes wages earned but not paid, from the 'Stolen Wages' campaign to the ongoing stolen wages of CDEP participants. 

‘Compulsorily acquiring’ land on behalf of Private Commercial Enterprises, such as mining, housing developments, farms etc.

Funding paid to organisations to provide adequate service provision for Indigenous communities that are still not available to the same standards as are enjoyed by most non-Indigenous Australians. To schools, universities, TAFEs, and Adult Education providers to provide culturally appropriate and meaningful education to Indigenous students and communities, which still does not exist. To Government agencies and Government funded bodies to achieve improved outcomes in health, education, employment, which again, does not exist. And of course, not to forget the monies allocated to build houses which continue to not yet exist, despite supposedly being a 'top priotity' for several years now.

Australia has been witness to a 52% increase in Indigenous imprisonment rates across Australia in the first ten years of this 'new millennium'. This is a prime example of how money that could have spent achieving both definitions of 'reconcilation' is actually spent by Government.  

Everything from the lack of outcomes to the increased imprisonment rates has been paid for by the Australian tax-payer.

The profits of this have been enjoyed to some extent by the majority of Australians in the form of the varying quality of, and access to products and services that support basic needs and rights such as education,  etc. All opportunity that has ever been provided to any Australian has come at the expense of opportunities for Indigenous Australians as a collective group within Australia. There is is no avoiding that reality about our past and present, but there is a lot of ways that we can work towards that being the reality for our future.

When it comes to the first above listed definition of Reconciliation, the ending of conflict or renewing of a friendly relationship between disputing people or groups. It will be a long and exciting path that Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians must walk together. It is one that will increase true respect for each other in greater numbers and to deeper levels than have ever been achieved by Australia before in its history. At this stage though, it is very easy to claim progress, but very hard to achieve in realuty eg even if we only saw our incarceration rates go up by 30% in the next ten years the Government could claim that they were doing better than ever...

However, fully expect that we will have to drag the Government and media along behind of us most of the time. 

If our journey were to be likened to journey undertaken in the Lord of the Rings, our Government would be playing the role of the 'Gollum', staring at their 'Precious'... cheap labour, free land and natural resources, and doing everything it can to ensure it is not destroyed. 

The positive personal relationships that do exist today have not been achieved through Government and certainly not through accurate portrayals in mainstream media. They have more commonly been achieved in spite of Government, and in spite of media. 
It is the Government and Corporate Australia who must reconcile the accounts, but they will only ever do it if enough Australians demand it. 

The other factor we like to forget in our little corner of the World is, well, the rest of the World.
Paul Keating said in Redfern in 1992. "We simply cannot sweep injustice aside. Even if our own conscience allowed us to, I am sure that in due course, the world and the people of our region would not. There should be no mistake about this - our success in resolving these issues will have a significant bearing on our standing in the world."

Reconciliation is really about Australia building a stronger, healthier nation. To achieve this, we must take stock of our past and out present, and consider our path for the future. 

Only when this is achieved can Australia take its place on the Global stage as a responsible Leader in innovation, civilisation, human rights, freedom and justice.

There can be no Reconciliation without Justice.

Reconciliation is Justice.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A New Standard in Indigenous Affairs

When you consider Indigenous Australians are barely represented at all as employees and contract providers within 'Indigenous Affairs', you have to ask the question: How did ‘who is Aboriginal?’ become an issue?

Non-Aboriginal people are the overwhelming majority of employees in Indigenous Affairs and many of these people do not have the essential skills, experience, networks or understanding that is required to occupy such positions. For any person to be effective working in Indigenous programs, they need to have a firm understanding of Indigenous perspectives, community protocols and have appropriate levels of training and experience for the responsibilities of their position. They need to understand and be able to identify the difference and importance of programs WITH Indigenous people rather than the programs AIMED AT Indigenous people.

Many of these senior non-Indigenous Public Servants, often self-proclaimed ‘Indigenous experts’, are effectively acting as the Gatekeepers to Indigenous employment. Most of these ‘experts’ could count every Indigenous person they know on one hand and more often than not, they do not have the support of the few Indigenous people who work, several levels below them, in their Departments. For many of these key decision makers, a small stint in Indigenous affairs is essential for their career progression. The only outcome they are interested in is having this accolade on their resume so they can go for the jobs they actually want.

Government funds Indigenous programs, claiming that the intended outcome is to ‘Close the Gap’. Any informed observer can plainly see that this is not the case. Indigenous initiatives are not funded with this goal in mind. The key identifiable outcome from this strategy is career progression opportunities for non-Indigenous employees within the Public Service and Government funded positions in the Private Sector.

To add insult to injury, these strategies are presented as socially responsible initiatives to address an issue of great importance to many Australians.

The government creates programs that give taxpayers money to Australia’s biggest companies and consultancy firms to ‘explore’ and ‘research’ Indigenous employment opportunities which they then use to create Social Capital as Responsible Australian Entities.

Ever increasing numbers of Australians have serious concerns over Government’s lack of outcomes for Indigenous Australians and many of them have begun asking awkward questions. Questions like “How many houses does 300 Million dollars build?”

We need to hear more qualified and relevant Indigenous voices on Indigenous issues. In Government, as in media, it is more common than not to see only a minor contribution from Indigenous people on Indigenous issues, and just as (if not more) often than not in both Government and media, that input is either misrepresented or ignored completely.

It is unacceptable that Government says one thing to Indigenous Australia, another thing to non-Indigenous Australia and then goes and does something completely different anyway.

It is unacceptable that Indigenous Australians continue to cop a majority share of blame for the mismanagement of funding and programs that most Indigenous people have little to no influence over. It is an atrocity that the people in Government are the sole reason Indigenous people are not adequately represented in Indigenous Affairs, and are also one of the worst perpetrators of engaging in victim-blaming.

It is unacceptable that the Government have waited as long as they have to act, and it is unacceptable how they are acting.

We cannot change what they have already done, but we must change what they are currently doing. 

Australia needs to demand new standards in Indigenous Affairs:



Sean Pearson - @AbvantageOz
Luke Pearson - @AboriginalOz

Saturday, May 7, 2011

"They all look alike to me..."

We have all heard the phrase "They all look alike" when talking about other races, some people actually mean that for the most part, they have great difficulties telling people from the same backgrounds (different to themselves) apart from each other.

I was watching a clip recently that explained this phenomena... except they were talking about crows, not people.

It turns out that crows can recognise not just other crows by sight, but humans as well. While most people cannot tell crows apart at all. The reason for this, it is suggested, is that crows over their long standing history with humans have found reasons to tell humans apart and to know them by their faces. This is because one human may try to harm you, and another you might be able to approach. As such, it is important that crows can tell these people apart. Whereas for the majority of humans, crows are just crows. Even if you actually really like crows, if you don't know several individual crows you may have some difficulty telling them apart from each other. This is because like or dislike what you know about them, it has not been relevant to differentiate between them, for many people crows are only really considered collectively, if they see one crow do something, 'that is what crows do'.

When you hear a person say about another group of people 'they all look alike', It is saying a lot more about the speaker than it does about the people being spoken about. They may claim to 'like or dislike them', but it has clearly not been relevant to differentiate between them, or they would be able to. The speaker is telling you, "I have never found a reason to respect or identify that group as individuals, I consider them collectively. When I see one person do something, that is what I believe they all do".

If you know a pair of 'identical twins', at first they may seem identical, but as you get to them they become quite easily distinguished. Even though most people of the same race are not even close to identical to begin with, apparently to some people they are... just like crows are to most humans.

If they ever to get to know a few individuals, this seemingly strange racial 'sameness' will usually disappear.

Crow Paradox: