Australia’s Apartheid

Freemantle Prison

‘Since Rudd‘s apology, Aboriginal poverty indicators have gone backwards. His “Closing the Gap” programme is a grim joke, having produced not a single new housing project.

An undeclared agenda comes straight from Australia’s colonial past: a land-grab combined with an almost prurient need to control, harass and blame a people who have refused to die off, whose genius is their understanding of an ancient land that still perplexes and threatens white authority. Whenever Canberra’s politicians want to look “tough”, they give the Aborigines a good kicking: it is a ritual as sacred as Don Bradman worship or Anzac Day.

The indigenous affairs minister, Jenny Macklin, has decreed that unless certain communities hand over their precious freehold leases, they will be denied basic services. The Northern Territory contains abundant mineral wealth, such as uranium, and has long been eyed by multinationals as a lucrative radioactive waste dump. The blacks are in the way, yet again: so it is time for the usual feigned innocence. Rudd has said his government “doesn’t have a clear idea of what’s happening on the ground” in Aboriginal Australia. What? The learned studies pour forth as if the sorcerer’s apprentice is loose.

One example: the rate of incarceration of black Australians is five times that of black South Africans during apartheid. Western Australia imprisons Aboriginal men at eight times the apartheid figure, an Aussie world record.

On 16 November, a 12-year-old Aboriginal boy appeared in court charged with receiving a Freddo Frog chocolate bar from a friend who had allegedly taken it from a supermarket. Only the international headlines forced the police to drop the case. Two-thirds of Aboriginal children who have contact with the police are jailed; two-thirds of white children are cautioned. A young Aboriginal man was jailed for a year for stealing £12 worth of biscuits and soft drink’.

– John Pilger, ‘Return to a secret country’. New Statesman 26 November 2009.

It seems that I can’t put away my sackcloth and ashes just yet …