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August 28, 2007

Assimilation lives!

Sorry - rant coming...

The recent changes to laws relating to Indigenous communities has been a hotly debated issue, as the Federal Government has moved to quell what it claims is an epidemic of child abuse. The government has assumed control of all Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, including the removal of land rights and the scrapping of the permit system which allowed Indigenous communities to control who had access to their land. Whilst acknowledging the existence of problems in many (not all) Indigenous communities, one has to be suspicious of a return to the paternalistic policies of bygone eras. Surely we can trust Indigenous people to work through the issues, properly supported by the government, rather than simply told what to do.

But the real agenda was released today when the PM declared that the only way forward for Indigenous people was assimilation:
"We have a simple aim and that is whilst respecting the special place of Indigenous people in the history and the life of this country, their future can only be as part of the mainstream of the Australian community," he said, reported in an ABC news item. This is simply appalling - a declared return to the type of cultural imperialism which has left a series of messes around the world, not least of all most recently in Iraq. Whilst the Western way of life offers many positives, there are serious downsides (which unsurprisingly our PM refuses to acknowledge: climate and environmental issues amongst the prime)

It's time we recognised that cultures are not morally neutral. There are good and bad elements in every culture. Pretending that our Western culture is perfect - or better in every way - exhibits a blindness of fatal proportions. Unfortunately the cost will fall most heavily on our Indigenous peoples and the lands they (now) own.

Indigenous Australians have survived in this land far longer than we, who would not ourselves have survived but for the wisdom of the Indigenous people. We've created many of these problems, let's help and support these communities in resolving the issues in their own ways - in ways which give proper respect to their culture.

Posted by gary at August 28, 2007 07:55 PM

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