Northern Territory Intervention: Michael Anderson says “We should not be bludgeoned into giving up our identity”

Michael Anderson launches worldwide campaign against the Rudd government’s policy of genocide against Aboriginal Peoples.

Press Conference 9:30am

Tuesday 26 May 2009

at Aboriginal Embassy

opposite Old Parliament House, Canberra

Euahlayi leader and founder of the 1972 Aboriginal Embassy, Michael Anderson, is in Canberra to launch a world wide campaign against the Rudd Labor government’s policy of genocide against Aboriginal Peoples.

Michael Anderson released the following statement today:

The UN Genocide Conventions defines crimes of genocide as including:

Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  Deliberately  inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical  destruction in whole or in part; Forcibly transferring children of the group to another  group.

Why haven’t governments learnt that their policies past and present fail Aboriginal people, or, is there a more sinister underbelly associated with government policies? We must remember that Aboriginal people have been subjected to the will of governors of the colony and, now, the Federal, State and Territory governments.

The political concern after federation was what to do with Aborigines. In 1937 the policy of assimilation was concluded between Commonwealth Ministers and State and Territory Protectors, with AO Neville, Chief Protector for West Australia having the final say:

An important aspect of the policy is the cost. The different States are creating institutions for the welfare of the native race and, as a result of this policy, the Native population is increasing. What is to be the limit? Are we going to have a population of 1 000 000 blacks in the Commonwealth, or are we going to merge them into our white community and eventually forget that there ever were Aborigines in Australia?

Nothing has changed. The overwhelming success of the 1967 Referendum shocked the then Prime Minister, Harold Holt, and his Cabinet. In a confidential Cabinet Minute dated ‘Sydney 2nd July 1968 Decision 314’, the Cabinet referred to its first objective which Aboriginal policy it serves. The conclusion was:

‘… it declared firmly that the ultimate objective would continue to be assimilation – a  single Australian community. While recognizing that it will take generations for the  Aboriginals to become fully assimilated into the Australian community, the Cabinet’s position that it will hold patiently and purposefully to this aim.’

Prof CD Rowley was correct when he wrote thirty years ago in his book A Matter of Justice:

‘The policy of detaining persons for being Aboriginal required a complex set of special  laws which made the Aboriginal subject to the will of officials.’

Governments of all political persuasions have not deviated from this course and have wasted a lot of money in their efforts to totally assimilate Aboriginal people into a single Australian society. Governments constantly argue that the failure of their policies is the fault of Aboriginal Peoples. We must remember that Aboriginals themselves do not make government policies nor do they decide on prioritising the programs that governments fund. Always the governments’ catch cry is that what we are doing is in the best interest of the Aboriginal people. What rot!” Anderson exclaims.

We are at a time in Australia’s history when we should not look to locate blame. What is happening under the Rudd Labor Government policies is an absolute dictatorship.

The 1970s Homelands and Outstation movements were more successful and beneficial to Aboriginal people than the 1970s family resettlement program in New South Wales, where, despite their destitution, Aboriginal fringe dwelling and camp life were more intact and functional than anything we have today. The basis for dysfunctionalism in Aboriginal communities in southern Queensland and New South Wales is a direct result of the so-called ‘well intended’ policies of government. A major outcome of the 1970s Resettlement program is the breaking up of traditional family support structures in the fringe dwelling town camps. For the biggest majority of Aboriginal people who took up the offer to be resettled in centres such as Bathurst, Orange, Newcastle and Wagga, this ‘well intended’ government policy left the people destitute and isolated. When the economic climate declined in the late 1970s and early 1980s, people lost jobs, causing financial disasters that resulted in further family break up, abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction and the list goes on.

One would think that if this Rudd Labor government pursues its current policy, by forcefully removing people from their homelands and out stations to the proposed 20 town centres, all they will do is make the same mistakes yet again – another offense against Aboriginal people. The people who will be impacted by this current policy have nothing but a nightmare and extreme trauma to look forward to.

There are cries coming out of the Northern Territory where people such as Yananymul Mununggurr who, when speaking on behalf of the Laynhapuy Homelands Association, asserted in a press statement that ‘the Northern territory government has either refused, or is unable, to fully understand the cultural significance of Homeland.’ She added: ‘The Northern Territory government announced a policy that relegates our homelands to third world conditions, if not extinction. She also asked in her press statement of 21 May 2009, when questioning the NT government’s A Working Future Policy : ‘Where is the economic modeling, the data collection or cost/benefits analysis recommended by the NTG’s own consultant, Patrick Dodson, when establishing these town centres?’

Prof Jon Altman, Director at the ANU for the Centre of Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, criticises the proposed development of the 20 Aboriginal communities at the expense of the other 500 communities throughout the NT by saying: ‘It’s a terrible idea.’

We know from the past that governments have not be able to fulfill nor deliver in full their policy objectives of assimilation. The centralizing of Aboriginal people of different language groups, different skin groups, all of whom belong to different nations will have long term disastrous affects that will be felt for generations to come. We here in the south are a testament to the failures of this type of policy and strategy.

Dr Gawirrin Gumana AO, a Yolngu Elder, posed a challenge to the Australian government last Thursday, when he said: ‘Government, if you don’t help our Homelands, and try to starve me from my land, I tell you, you can kill me first. You will have to shoot me.’ He added: ‘I don’t want to move again like my father moved from Gangan to other places like Yirrkala or Groote. I don’t want my children to move. I don’t want my family to move. I will not lose my culture and my tribe to your games. Like a bird moving from place to place, looking for its camp or to sleep in other places, on other peoples’ land that is not our land.’ His final plea: ‘I do not want my people to move form here and die in other places, I don’t want this. We don’t want this. We want to stay on our own land. We have our culture, we have our Law, we have our land rights, we have our painting and carving, we have our stories from our old people.’ Dr Gawirrin Gumana last words to the government were: ‘I know you have got the money to help our homelands. But you also know there is money to be made form Aboriginal land.’

What this government is doing to Aboriginal people is genocide by nature and design. Even the Muslim people in this country have the right to exist as a free people with their schools, mosques and the right to gather and live in one suburb. The Italians and Greeks who escaped the atrocities of the WWII have the right to go home to their old countries and live on their homelands while being paid Australian pensions.”

Why is it that Aboriginal people cannot be free to decide their own future, live where they want to live while maintaining their culture and traditions.

Why can’t we teach our own culture, languages? Why don’t we have the right to retain our national identity in our own land?

We accept there is a lot wrong, but because government policies have failed we should not be bludgeoned into giving up our identity, our traditions, our religion, our culture for the sake of trying to be like a whiteman.

All we ask governments to do is: ‘Work with us, don’t dictate to us.’ Governments must overcome their paranoia of Aboriginals asserting our right to self-determination. We can enjoin and develop by way of treaties through informed consultations and negotiations. We seek to be free and have the right to make our own choices for our children’s future.

The current path under the Rudd government policies is designed to make us like the non-Aboriginal communities. We are and never will be suburbanites. We have our own Dreamings, the Story of creation. We don’t want to be part of a world where, in the name of the creator, wars are fought. Hate, mistrust and distrust pervades the society that you wish us to become part of. The path of assimilation ends in genocide and we will fight against it by any and every means possible, because the only possible outcome for this Rudd policy will be further ‘mental harm to members of the group’ and can only result in ‘conditions of life set to destroy the group in whole or in part’ both of which are definitions under the Genocide Convention.

In the 1930s, the Chief Protector of Aboriginal people in Queensland, J.W. Bleakley, argued that the public interest in Aboriginal affairs had grown to the point where definite measures needed to be developed for the protection of the remaining Aboriginal population because: ‘…it seems to be the generally accepted view that the extinction of the Australian Aborigine is inevitable.’

He questions: ‘Is it any use trying to preserve these people? Is not their extinction inevitable?’ Then Bleakley reaches the core of the issue by quoting Lord Glenelg, when Secretary for the Colonies: ‘ “Let us not cast upon Heaven a destruction which is our own and say the aborigines are doomed by Divine Providence when the guilt lies with ourselves?”’

Michael Anderson,

Aboriginal Embassy, Canberra

26 May 2009

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: