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John Passant

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January 2009



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
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Australia Day -a celebration of genocide

Australia has a black history.

For 65000 years Aboriginal people lived here in harmony with themselves and the environment.  Yet Australia Day does not recognise that proud history and prior stewardship. It whitewashes this history by celebrating the arrival of a bunch of convicts, guards and governors a mere 221 years ago.

Quite rightly many Australians are horrified by the Israeli invasion of Gaza and the destruction of human life, homes and infrastructure this has entailed. Israel is built on the bones of Palestinians.  

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, but they also died as a result of the consequences that flow from genocide and dispossession – 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 221 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 white Australia’s amnesia about the invasion and its consequences. It is also about lulling working people into a mistaken belief they have an interest in the present economic system.  (The economic crisis is causing some at least to doubt that, although the trade union movement support for reduced working hours at reduced pay and a freeze on wage increases is a disgrace and accepts the trickle down theory that what is good for the bosses is good for workers.  We have a long way to go.)

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 Pelumwuy’s death or capture. That worked. Pelumwuy’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 the correctness of 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 Aboriginal people from their land, their identity, their culture and themselves. For example there is a shocking 17-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.

We 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 in 2008 and 2009.

Disgracefully the Rudd Government has continued Howard’s racist invasion, 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.

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 our actions, in removing children from their parents in order to wipe out the Aboriginal race, as 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.

That quote appears to me to answer the dog whistlers in the Rudd Government who will not countenance or pay compensation to the Stolen Generations. A cost-free guilt trip is what Macklin and the rest of the ALP left are delivering us. I would suggest to Minister Macklin that she re-read the report and implement its recommendations: recommendations that for years have festered in the bowels of John Howard’s mind.

Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations was symbolism substituting for action.  It is clear that Rudd has 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 wider 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, Garret is now a committed member of the Rudd 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 Rudd and Macklin will not work.

Now is the time to mobilise Aboriginal people and their millions of supporters to 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.

There will be a  demonstration against the racist Northern Territory invasion at the opening of Parliament House here in Canberra on 3 February.  It is assembling at 11 am at Old Parliament House for a march to the hole in the ground Parliament. I urge you to attend.

Australia Day perpetuates our founding myths and enslaves our Aboriginal brothers and sisters. In the spirit of true reconciliation let’s abolish this celebration of genocide. Let’s instead celebrate the 65000 years of indigenous history and their stewardship of this land.  And pay the rent.

This is an updated version of an article first published in Online Opinion on 24 January 2008 entitled ‘Trapped in our genocidal history’.



Comment from Terry Blacker
Time January 23, 2009 at 12:05 pm

“Australia has a black history.” John, I love your racial joke!! Keep it up.

Comment from dezza
Time January 23, 2009 at 2:14 pm

the abos were neolithic cavemen when the bits got here. while the rest of europe had advanced civililisation, the abos were still in caves and practicing canabalism – the women even breast fed dingoes

Comment from Terry Blacker
Time January 23, 2009 at 3:05 pm

And now a dingo joke!! John, I love it!!

Comment from philip
Time January 23, 2009 at 3:25 pm

it’s a wonderful thing to celebrate the dregs of europe’s arrival.
some say invasion.
i say survival.

Comment from Paul.
Time January 24, 2009 at 6:31 pm

Our country is subject to racism.

Mostly from those who present arguements constructed with racist ideological prejudices.

Busy with their arguments concerning racist divisions they become part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Our country is the country of those born and alive, alive today, and alive tomorrow.

Our country certainly owes much to our memories for those no longer with us, greatest of all is for us all to look at them and advance ourselves outside those barriers which previously restrained us all as a nation.

To profess opposition to racism yet regularly divide everyone by racial grouping, is to be part of the problem, not the solution.

We are Australians.

On August 17, 1900 the Queen’s proclamation was issued establishing the Federal Commonwealth of Australia as from 1 January 1901.

Australia Day is 1 January 1901.

We have been Australians since our Constitution of Australia came into force, on 1 January 1901 creating the Commonwealth of Australia.

Edmund Barton became our first Prime Minister with the Ministry at a ceremony in Centennial Park, Sydney on 1 January 1901 in accordance with our Constitutiion.

Those who divide us further lessen the rights and responsibilities of us all.

Pingback from Global Voices Online » Australia Day brings on a stoush
Time January 27, 2009 at 12:01 pm

[…] An online debate about the appropriateness of this date was already simmering before indigenous leader Mick Dobson was named Australian of the Year on 25 January 2009. The old left position was captured by John at En Passant: Australia Day perpetuates our founding myths and enslaves our Aboriginal brothers and sisters. In the spirit of true reconciliation let’s abolish this celebration of genocide. Let’s instead celebrate the 65000 years of indigenous history and their stewardship of this land. And pay the rent. Australia Day -a celebration of genocide […]

Pingback from Global Voices in het Nederlands » Australia Day leidt tot onenigheid
Time January 28, 2009 at 10:18 am

[…] Een online discussie over of het wel passend is om deze dag te vieren broeide al voordat de inheemse leider Mick Dobson op 25 januari 2009 tot Australiër van het Jaar werd benoemd. De positie van oud links werd op En Passant beschreven door John: Australia Day is een voortzetting van de mythen over onze stichting en maakt onze Aboriginal broers en zusters tot slaven. Laten we, in de geest van ware verzoening, deze viering van genocide afschaffen. Laten we in plaats daarvan de 65.000 jaar inheemse geschiedenis en hun zorg voor dit land vieren. En onze huur betalen. Australia Day – a celebration of genocide […]

Pingback from En Passant » Racist thugs attack Indian students
Time June 3, 2009 at 5:12 am

[…] As Leonie and John have argued on this site, Australia is a nation founded on racism. (See Rudd and refugees: the new racism? and Australia Day: a celebration of genocide). […]

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