The Guardian May 10, 2000


Editorial:
It's still genocide

Ten years ago, the call went out from the then Prime Minister Paul 
Keating for "reconciliation" between the indigenous and non-indigenous 
people of Australia. A Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation was set up. It 
has laboured long and hard. There is no doubt that a very large proportion 
of the non-indigenous population not only want to see reconciliation 
achieved, but also want the connected questions of recognition of 
indigenous land rights together with real attention to jobs, housing, 
health care, education, etc. Corroboree 2000 and the many actions on May 
28, the day after, are expected to be well supported.

In NSW the State Government is supporting a walk across the Sydney Harbour 
Bridge. The Council is set to release the final Reconciliation document 
this week which, among other things, is expected to call on Prime Minister 
Howard to make an official apology on behalf of the Australian people for 
the crime of the Stolen Generations. Howard has repeatedly refused to make 
such an apology using the fatuous excuse that the current generation was 
not responsible for the seizure of Aboriginal children from their parents 
by the governments and churches during the '40s, '50s and '60s.

An apology is important, but it will not in itself change the policies that 
have been pursued by successive governments since the British invasion of 
1788 and the subsequent dispossession of the indigenous people of their 
land.

Basically a policy of genocide has been followed. There was the shooting 
and poisoning of the Aboriginal people by the early settlers, the herding 
of the indigenous people onto reserves when "protection" was the slogan of 
the times. The Aboriginal people did not die out as expected and the policy 
of "protection" was replaced by "assimilation", the idea being that they 
could be absorbed into the white community and be eliminated that way. 
Assimilation involved the destruction of indigenous culture and, of course, 
the abandonment by them of any claims to their traditional lands. This 
policy did not work either, although it was accompanied by the destruction 
of many Aboriginal families and communities by the deliberate and conscious 
seizure of their children.

All of these policies were based on the central idea that the Aboriginal 
people (for their own good, of course) should be eliminated as a people. It 
was genocide. There is no other word for it.

Has this objective changed? No, it has not! That is why nothing effective 
is being done to recognise land rights or alter the basic health and 
housing conditions of the indigenous people, or to provide education, jobs 
and hope.

Listen to the words of one Aboriginal woman, Lyall Munro of Moree, quoted 
in the Sydney Morning Herald (4/5/00): "We've all been just asking 
`Why haven't things been completed? Why hasn't justice been done to the 
Aboriginal people?'

"In the early days, we almost lost our race right across this country ... 
We now see that we are fast slipping away with drugs, which is going to be 
a very big danger."

Hear Mrs Julie Whitton from Tommelah: "My nephew down there [in Bathurst 
jail] died from it [drugs] in jail ... it was two weeks before he was due 
to be released.

And Lester Bostock: "We are losing our culture through the education 
system. It does not recognise our cultural ways."

These are all good reasons why Pat Dodson and other prominent Aboriginal 
leaders refuse to go along any more with the facade of meaningless 
discussions which does no more than produce a piece of paper with 
platitudes written on it.

If it's not guns and poisoned flour or the theft of children, the same 
objective underlies the deprivation and despair caused by perpetual 
unemployment, lack of medical facilities, shocking housing and, of course, 
the racist mandatory sentencing laws of the Northern Territory and Western 
Australia.

"Reconciliation" was always a dubious idea and can easily be interpreted to 
mean that the Aboriginal people should be reconciled to their physical and 
cultural destruction  to genocide.

What is needed is "recognition"  recognition of Aboriginal rights as a 
national minority in Australia, and above all their right to land so that 
there is work for young Aboriginal men and women and a real opportunity to 
preserve and practice their cultural ways.
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