Australia Day celebrates genocide
I posted this last year, and the year before, in slightly edited forms. The message is timeless because the genocide and racism are ongoing.
If Wikileaks teaches us anything it is that our leaders lie. And lie. And lie.
Australia Day will be no different. Bourgeois clichés about the lucky country (what irony!) and our great nation will compete with bullshit about our brave soldiers overseas and how we all in this together.
It’s time for some truth about our genocidal and racist history. As George Orwell said, and Wikileaks emphasises, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
Australia has a black history.
For 65000 years Aboriginal people lived here in harmony with themselves and the environment. Australia Day does not recognise that proud history and prior stewardship. It whitewashes this history by celebrating the arrival of a bunch of neocolonialists and their convicts and guards a mere 224 years ago.
Australia is built on the bones of aboriginal people.
Our country is trapped in its genocidal history. Henry Reynolds estimates that, between 1788 and 1920, 20,000 Aboriginal people fell defending their land in an ongoing war against the invaders. The Indigenous population dropped from 300,000 at the time of the invasion to 70,000 130 years later.
Many of these people died because of disease, itself a consequence of the invasion, but they also died as a result of the consequences that flow from genocide and dispossession – murder, poverty, alienation, loss of social structure, alcoholism, racism, lack of food, stolen generations to name a few.
Genocide against Aboriginal people is one theme that runs through the history of the last 224 years. The failure to recognise that genocide is another ongoing theme.
The myth of Australia Day – of Australia as some sort of peacefully settled country – reflects the white bourgeoisie’s attempts to airbrush its brutal role from history. It is also about lulling working people into a mistaken belief they have an interest in the present economic system, that we are all in this big one happy family together.
Aborigines were not passive victims of the white invasion. In and around Sydney, for example, Pemulwuy was a famous freedom fighter defending his land and life. From 1790 to 1802 he waged a sporadic, and then more concerted, guerrilla war against the white invaders.
In 1801 Governor King ordered that Aborigines around Parramatta, Georges River and Prospect could be shot on sight. Late in the year he offered a reward for Pemulwuy’s death or capture. That ‘worked’. Pemulwuy’s killers decapitated him and sent his head to England in alcohol.
There are many other Indigenous freedom fighters we whites ignore; fighters who in a less racist society would be honoured for their stance and the courage of their resistance. Where are our monuments to these fallen heroes?
It was Marx who wrote that the tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the mind of the living. This is true in two senses for Aborigines.
First the consequences of the invasion continue today. The war against Aborigines, what I describe as genocide, has fundamentally alienated many Aboriginal people from their land, their identity, their culture and themselves. For example there is a shocking 10-year gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.
The second aspect of being trapped by the past is that the policies of dispossession and genocide are being implemented even today.
The Howard Government invaded the Northern Territory in 2007 to further the destruction of our Indigenous people’s links to their land and culture. 1788 is being repeated today.
Disgracefully the Rudd and Gillard Labor Governments continued Howard’s racist Northern Territory intervention, an invasion clearly aimed at further dispossession of aboriginal people and their complete subjugation to the dictates of their white masters around grog, what they can buy, how much they can spend and whose land it really is.
The Stolen Generations represented an attempt to wipe out Aborigines through forced assimilation.
The Bringing Them Home Report on the Stolen Generations says that the past is very much with us today, in the continuing devastation of the lives of Indigenous Australians.
The report clearly recognises that removing children from their parents in order to wipe out the Aboriginal race is genocide. It says:
Systematic racial discrimination and genocide must not be trivialised and Australia’s obligation under international law to make reparations must not be ignored.
Far from being socially divisive, reparations are essential to the process of reconciliation.
I would suggest to ‘left-wing’ Labor Party Minister Macklin that she re-read the report and implement its recommendations: recommendations that for years festered in the bowels of John Howard’s mind and have remained undigested in the constipation that is the ALP.
Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations was symbolism substituting for action. It is clear that Rudd and now Gillard have no intention of taking the apology its next logical step,a step Roland Wilson urged in his Stolen Generations report – reparations for this attempted genocide.
Land rights at present are a sop to big business and the racist mentality that aborigines will steal our backyards.
I have been struck by another solution, encapsulated in a Midnight Oil song called Beds are Burning. Peter Garrett sang:
The time has come
To say fair’s fair
To pay the rent
To pay our share
The time has come
A fact’s a fact
It belongs to them
Let’s give it back
Exactly Peter. Let’s pursue real land rights in the context of fundamental reconciliation, because reconciliation is about more than a half-hearted apology aimed at disguising the lack of action.
For overseas readers, Garrett is now a committed member of the Gillard Labor Ministry and such words no longer pass his lips. He has sold out.
It is not the man who changes the system but the system that changes the man. Or maybe it is a case of the host taking over the parasite.
Like the warriors of old, Aborigines today will need to fight for justice. Appealing to the good nature of all Australians will not work. Relying on Gillard and Macklin will not work.
Now is the time for Aboriginal people and their millions of supporters to mobilise and force the ‘Labor’ Government to recompense the stolen generation, withdraw the troops and others from the Northern Territory, introduce land rights that recognise prior ownership and set up a system of compensation for the loss of sovereignty.
The equal love campaign with its large and vibrant demonstrations has put gay marriage on the agenda. Without that campaign the issue would not even be on the horizon. land rights is not at the forefront of most people’s ideas about political priorities.
Demonstrations like the one of 1500 people today in Canberra marking the 40th anniversary of the Tent Embassy and with lively chants for land rights can bring the issue back into sight and change government approaches. (I will report back later today on this site on the demo.)
Aborigines have never ceded sovereignty to the colonial invaders. There must be a treaty recognising prior ownership and all the legal, social and financial responsibilities that flow from that. Just as importantly there has to be aboriginal management of aboriginal affairs.
None of this will be won by petitions, or electing aboriginal people to Parliament, or relying on Labor. As the Arab Spring shows, only struggle from below offers the chance of changing the world.
That means to me uniting the struggle for aboriginal liberation with the struggle for the liberation of all humanity – the fight for socialism.
Australia Day perpetuates the country’s ‘founding’ racist myths and is part of the system that enslaves our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters and as a consequence, all of us here. In the spirit of true reconciliation let’s abolish this celebration of genocide. Let’s instead celebrate the 65000 years of indigenous history and stewardship of this land. Recognise aboriginal sovereignty, negotiate a treaty and pay the rent. It is time to fight for justice.
Watch this if you have a spare five minutes. Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that this video contains images of people who have died