Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Rudd apologises

Australian PM Philip Rudd is to say sorry for past treatment of the Aborigine communities, in particular “the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country”.
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The move is controversial. Some argue that there wasn’t a stolen generation at all, although there is certainly evidence of there being a discriminatory policy towards targeting particularly so called “half caste” aboriginal children through much of the 20th century, and evidence of disconcerting practices and policies towards them.
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As a result I don’t know what is truth and what is not, but one thing is clear, if it were true, it would a damning indictment upon Australian federal and state governments. Saying sorry would be the right thing to do.
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What? Me an objectivist libertarian believing in collective guilty? No. It is the guilt of the state, the Australian federal and state governments in what was theft, theft of people. Australian governments nationalised children. The Director of Native Affairs in Queensland literally was guardian of all indigenous people under 21 after 1939. He had complete authority over them all. What is this other than the racist nationalisation of children?
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It is also difficult to escape the testimony of some of those who talk of being taken from their parents, and how they were treated. Yes, some were taken from abusive environments, some were given up by their families, but some were not. My question for those denying it is simply this : do you trust the federal and state governments to be parents?
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It is fair to acknowledge that in some cases the removal benefited some children, as the odds are that some were in abusive or negligent families, and that they benefited from removal. However, that is what the state should do regardless of race, remove abusive parents from their children, not remove children completely from families.
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It is also fair to acknowledge that materially some of the children were better off because of it, but this does not make it right. It is not right for the state to break up families when there is no evidence of criminal abuse or neglect of the children. The ends do not justify the means. Children are not the property of the state.
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The stories that some have told are gut wrenching and vile. It went on up through to the 1960s. This isn’t concern about what happened before people were born, there are generations today who were stolen, and no doubt people alive who were part of this bureaucratic process.
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The “Bringing them home” report commissioned by the Federal government notes the attitudes of the 1930s were not dissimilar to those of South Africa at the time:
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Mr Neville [the Chief Protector of WA] holds the view that within one hundred years the pure black will be extinct. But the half-caste problem was increasing every year. Therefore their idea was to keep the pure blacks segregated and absorb the half-castes into the white population.”
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A problem based on race.
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Statements like “We was bought like a market. We was all lined up in white dresses, and they'd come round and pick you out like you was for sale.” ( New South Wales: woman fostered at 10 years in the 1970s; one of a family of 13 siblings all removed; raped by foster father and forced to have an abortion)
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So let's say for argument's sake, the woman concerned had abusive parents, or their parents gave them up willingly, does it absolve the government from placing them with an abusive foster father with no checking?
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Beyond the apology and acknowledgement that wrong was done, needs to be acceptance that the appropriate process for compensation is through the courts and proving harm was caused. It is not a reason to grant blanket compensation that could be fraudulently claimed, it is also not a reason to engage in additional racism. However, when governments act as it appears happened in Australia it is wrong – pure and simple.
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Those of conservative bent should think very carefully about this. Statements like:
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"The truth is that "reconciliation" already took place thirty years ago. This took place at the time of the Constitutional referendum in 1967, in which certain constitutional changes were proposed, allegedly for the benefit of aborigines. Many Aborigines campaigned for a Yes vote at this referendum, and were ecstatic when a staggering 97% of Australians voted "Yes". This was a recognition that Australians wanted one people, treated fairly and equally, and were fully prepared to extend the hand of brotherhood, citizenship and reconciliation to aboriginal Australians."
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Sorry? Reconciliation started when you granted Aboriginal Australians the full rights of citizenship in the 1960s? I guess all them black fellas should be so grateful it took until 1967 to extend citizenship to them, on the land they were on first. The USA did the same to Native Americans in 1924, and funnily enough Australia granted Maori in Australia the right to vote in 1902. Aborigines got the same in 1962.

2 comments:

ruth said...

Excellent post. I've shared it with my readers via Google Reader.

Anonymous said...

"Children are not the property of the state." Says it all simply.