Demonising Native Title rights for indigenes

Following the decision by the High Court in the Wik case that a pastoral lease did not necessarily extinguish native title; and that, in some cases, some native title rights can survive the grant of a lease, farmers and pastoralists on Crown pastoral leases sought ‘certainty’ for themselves, by the federal government formally extinguishing native title.

Certainty also means the freedom to diversify their operations beyond the terms of existing leases. This would effectively make the leases de facto freehold, independently denying any native title right. Since many of the leases are reportedly already being used for a wide range of purposes, the question is how a pastoral lease, which is surely for pasturage of cattle, allowed full scale farming (as distinct from farming for sustenance). More intriguing was the claim that certain governments had ignored the law in granting mining leases.

The federal government then contributed to the panic that followed. What about our backyards, swimming pools, and tennis courts; can they take them too? This was asked by the newest demagogue then. The threat of Aboriginal intervention under native title will reduce the transfer value of the leases — this was yet another whinge. Apparently this has not happened yet. The federal government did little to allay these fears. Indeed, many of us realised that the government was actually fuelling irrational fears.

A white female pastoralist was reported in the late 1990s to have been fearful when her property was the subject of a native title claim by an Aboriginal community. She thought that, if successful, the Aborigines would simply take possession of her property. After she had met the claimants, she knew otherwise. Why had not the government or the media made this clear? Were they in cahoots with the powerful pastoralist lobby groups? It seems so.

She learnt that the Aborigines’ aim was co-existence.  They only wanted access to significant sites to conduct cultural activities for young people. She was quoted in the press as saying: “When sheep and cattle were moved in, the land the indigenous people lived off was badly affected. They had to find other ways to survive, and the problems were compounded by the aggressive acts of the pastoralists and the local white authorities. During the 1920s and 1930s indigenes were herded together in designated Aboriginal reserves, with little shelter and no water. The communities were split up, their culture fragmented. They gravitated towards the edges of towns … ended up outcasts, on the fringes of white society”.

Where politicians had promised ‘certainty’ to the pastoralists, she reportedly felt that she had been kept in the dark, misled, and betrayed. She was further quoted as follows: “… people like me were being used as tools, in what was obviously a political agenda being used to continue the hurt and dispossession of people who have been hurt their whole lives”; and “… there are people fanning the flames and spreading misinformation”.  She also quoted the Prime Minister of the day as claiming publicly that it would be possible for 78% of Australia to be under ‘veto’ (for development) by Aborigines. Has the government resiled from this ridiculous claim?

Her comment to that was: “I’ve no doubt that most Australians would have believed him. If I hadn’t informed myself, I’d have believed him as well”. Her final comments are noteworthy. “I did not hunt the (Aborigines) off their land: but what I have today I have partly because others did. If I inherited the fruits of the pioneers’ achievements, I also inherited a debt to those they dispossessed”.

That says it all. And what a wonderful human being — a beacon of light. This enlightened white lady has reached out to the Aboriginal people. She is also educating people in her situation about the need to work with Aboriginal people.

As asked by a respected academic in another, but comparable, context: “If lying comes to seem an acceptable political means to a worthwhile end, what will prevent democracy degenerating into a struggle between elites whose relationship to the electorate goes no deeper than the conduct of an auction …?” In any such auctions, the Aborigines will not be viable bidders.

(The above extracts are from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity.’ Since the book was published only in 2005, I do not believe that the Australian Constitution will be mended any time soon to recognise the Australian indigenes as the First Nation Peoples of Australia.)    

 

 

The Australian Aborigine – a 1997 view

The following are extracts from ‘Destiny Will Out: the experiences of a multicultural Malayan in White Australia’ by Raja Arasa RATNAM. The author has lived a highly integrated and contributory life in Australia (including holding leadership positions in civil society) since 1948. This and his later 4 books were based on his work and settlement experiences.

For 9 years (in the 1980s), his work covered policy (at the level of Director) on ethnic affairs & multiculturalism; citizenship & national identity; refugee and humanitarian entry; and settlement assistance. Endorsements of his books by senior academics indicate that the author has a sound understanding of his adopted nation (of which he is proud).

Urban Aborigines are rarely seen in employment in offices and shops, or in public transport. I have been told in recent years by Aborigines that many of them are educated and have usable skills, but white employers will not give them jobs. Their poverty is endemic. “To fry poverty, you need no butter,” is a very apt adage.

‘Educated’ whites openly utter statements of prejudice. Their basic premise is that the Aborigine is lazy and will not work. What a convenient stance. Any anti-social conduct by youths is a class problem for whites, but a racial problem for blacks. It may not be long before this underclass (visible because of its colour) stops being quiescent. They might feel that “revenge is profitable, gratitude expensive.” In the event, Australia’s violations of human rights will come out into the open internationally. This may force some of our superior folk to get off their high horses and to desist from arrogantly squawking about the conduct of other nations, usually of coloured people. “Everyone loves justice in the affairs of another,” is a relevant Italian saying.”

“I am beginning to think that it is subconscious guilt that fuels the white man’s prejudice against the Aborigine; whereas, his dislike, initially, of European ‘reffos’ and latterly of the Asians, is more of an inter-tribal stance.

Unless Australia’s treatment of its blacks is seen by observers in Asia to be just, no one will expect equitable treatment for those of coloured descent in Australia. This would be disastrous for the nation.”

“A recent news report claimed that a volunteer effort for Aborigines in the north of Australia to provide a TV service for their people was opposed persistently by vested interests. The community at large accepts (I believe) that the white man’s greed controls the politician and his administration; and, inequitable treatment of the dispossessed is perpetuated. How does one get across the concept of karmic laws to those whose loss of their own faith allows them to behave in such an oppressive way?”

 “More honest government policies might have included the payment of substantial funds to each Aboriginal tribe driven off its land.”

(Reconciliation Week has just ended. I doubt, however, whether our indigenes can find a place in the sun as an ethno-cultural people, without officialdom admitting the injustices of the past – including the killing and the despoliation of cultures which followed. RAR 6/2017)  

 

Unacceptable religious interference

Nothing divides people more effectively than beliefs derived from their religions. For years, compassionate people, and those suffering ongoing severe pain (undiminished even with palliative care) have sought legislation permitting voluntary euthanasia. While reliable sampling estimated public support at about 85% – stable over decades – Australian politicians have refused to accept that compassion should over-ride religiosity.

It is not that our politicians are all religion-bound. It is that they fear the power of Christian churches – even in a secular nation – the principal objector being of the Roman kind. From time to time, legislation to enable physician-assisted death, under the strictest, most stringent protective criteria, is rejected by politicians. (Even human rights legislation is denied, allegedly through religious interference.)

Our politicians profess to represent their electorates in parliament. In reality, they represent their political party only – or face career extermination; and they are clearly under the collective thumb of authoritarian priesthoods.

What is strange is that “We are not allowed to have it. So, you too can’t have it” is the line followed by vociferous objectors to voluntary euthanasia. Then, archbishops, bioethicists, other religious functionaries, and some lay people go public, seemingly in a co-ordinated manner (as they are doing now in the State of New South Wales).

They claim that people will be killed – even by themselves (through suicide). Then, they bring up the slippery slope argument. The essence of this argument seems to be that the elderly will be put to death by their family – presumably for financial benefit.

As well, medicos are told that they are to save lives, not ‘take’ lives. Whereas the Hippocratic Oath says simply that medicos should do no harm – not keep patients alive at any cost (usually at the patient’s cost).

Not that long ago, the head of a State Branch of the doctors’ union asked the Federal Parliament for the right of a doctor, in his expertise, to over-ride the legally-binding document known as the Advanced Health Care Directive (AHCD) or its equivalent. This effectively says ‘Do not resuscitate’ in specified circumstances; or ‘Do not operate on me unless I say so.‘

More recently, the General Manager of a private hospital stated that his professional staff were “unhappy” at their being constrained by AHCDs (Really!); but nothing was said about their religious proclivities. Then an academic ethicist asked about the rights of his conscience. But, could each set of variable faith-based ethics have an independent legal status, binding all residents in a secular nation?

It cannot, however, be denied that a couple of European nations of a predominantly Roman Catholic persuasion already have laws permitting physician-assisted death (viz. voluntary euthanasia).Reportedly, they have adequate safeguards to prevent ‘killing’ and ‘slippery slopes.’  How backward is Australia, and how lacking in compassion. (This situation also allegedly applies in the non-availability of medicinal marijuana for those who can benefit most significantly from its application. I have seen a video of its benefits.)

In a multicultural nation whose citizens are encouraged by the government to maintain their diversity in cultural values and practices, ridiculously, the religious edicts of a minority Christian population are allowed to dominate the lives of other communities.

It should be noted that voluntary euthanasia will not be compulsory. Do allow compassion free reign. If an authority will not extend compassion to fellow humans, then that authority will necessarily be time-limited. Does God not see all that happens?      

The myth of ‘racial’ discrimination (Part 2)

Instead of the confusing use of the semantically misleading terms race and racial, as argued in my previous post, statements of prejudice, as well as acts of discrimination, can sensibly refer to skin colour – a major trigger of hate (or stupidity). There could, however, also be an inherited cultural sensitivity associated with ignorance.

I do admit to being sensitive about colour in one instance. I will not eat beetroot because I do not like its purple colour.

Returning to reality, being a foreigner (or outsider) can be accepted as another trigger for prejudice and discrimination. This would include entering not only ‘white space’ but also British white space (although the latter is now seemingly superseded).

Another trigger is tribal superiority and prejudice. This would cover religion (a major source of claimed superiority); cultural values and practices (eg. the taboo in Australia against killing a goat in one’s backyard for a festival); and social mores (eg. spitting in public) – quite a catchall! Using ethnicity as a marker for abuse can have no future when there is so much cross-ethnic marriage (including partnership and cohabitation).

Countering prejudice and discrimination through the law is available only to the wealthy; or to those with access to pro bono lawyers. Education? The ignorant will probably ignore any media campaign (if they are aware of it); while the opportunists will do what it takes to achieve their ends. Morality (like Grace) needs to be bestowed; although it may of course be learned.

In the sphere of international relations, where there is no place for morality, there is a strange assertion about racial discrimination. Anyone criticising Israel for one of its policies (while clearly not anti-Israel) can be accused of being ‘anti-Semitic’. Yet Western Asia has speakers of a range of Semitic languages who subscribe to a variety of religions; they are all equally Semitic!

There is clearly a need to get rid of the concept of ‘race.’  Which government will dare take necessary action?  A recent attempt to go part of the way foundered on a confusion of semantics, politics, human rights, free (but responsible) speech, egoism and exceptionalism. There were hidden ‘sacred cows’ behind some of the waffle.

Is modern Australia lacking the necessary intellectual depth to deal with human rights and free public expression? When voluntary euthanasia is described during a recent debate as ‘killing’ (reflecting only a particular theology), I wonder whether there is a place for not only compassion but also for honesty in public policy.

 

 

‘Generations of lost children’

How is it that, in a modern civilised nation, so many children are in need of protection from harm? A news report in the Sydney Morning Herald of 17 March 2017 points out that, in the State of New South Wales, “Almost 200,000 reports relating to 278,521 children were made to the FACS (Department of Family and Community Services) helpline in 2015-16. Only 30% of children assessed as being at risk of significant harm received a face-to-face visit from a caseworker. There are about 20,000 children in out-of-home care … …”

The harm to which the children are exposed range from negligence, to emotional violence, to physical violence, to sexual abuse. How terrible!

What does this say about the morality of the parents, the coherence of family, and the future of society itself? The financial cost to the taxpayer of this program is $1.9 billion annually.

What about the emotional damage to the children? Will more money and caseworkers change the behaviour of those responsible for inflicting this harm? Are penalties applied? What is meant by preventative policies? Would de-sexing the proven guilty be of any value?

What effective policies are available to change the attitudes and behaviours of those who harm children?

Who cares for the psychological needs of children?

The ethos of individualism of nations such as Australia may have leached into rights-filled communities, aiding those who are inclined to be whingers. The following story is, I believe, an indication of the partial deterioration of society in modern Australia.

I had a neighbour who established 5 businesses locally. He managed one, and his wife managed another. One day he found himself locked out of his home; and his wife walked away from the business she was managing (so he said to me) . This left him with a huge debt, resulting in him sleeping in his car for a few months.

He was fortunate, I thought, that his wife had not taken out an Apprehended Violence Order against him. That seems to be the practice when a wife chooses to be vindictive. There may, of course, be situations warranting such an order. When one of these is delivered at a man’s work, the damage to his reputation can only be guessed at. A magistrate in Australia’s national capital once wrote in that city’s newspaper that he would issue the order when requested; but he could not investigate the need for it.

My former neighbour went with the flow (so to speak), which enabled him to collect his children for a day’s outing each Sunday. One Sunday, I saw him sitting in his car, outside the family home, crying; the children were not allowed out. I knew the little children. I felt deeply sorry for them. They were the innocent sufferers, perhaps with only one of the parents morally responsible for their unhappiness.

The feminists would no doubt argue that the woman had the right to do what she did. Others might claim that it is better for the children to be denied the father in order to live without turmoil in the home. Why turmoil? Isn’t civilised behaviour appropriate and possible? Or, would that diminish certain adult wants, whatever they might be?

Two serious questions arise: Why not separate sexual freedom from family responsibility? Does the lifestyle wants of an adult always over-ride the psychological needs of children?

(Re-post from July 2013)

Phonics vs. whole word/ whole of language

Ramesh

When i worked with primary grades i also found half of the students are finding difficulties to read and write by using whole language approach. Its difficult to memorize 100,000 words to teach the students read and write. The phonics approach is working well, Tamil language had 12 vowels and 18 Consonants and 12 CVC, Once children learn this 12+18+12 They will be able to read and write whatever they want. Phonics is simple approach that can apply to teaching reading.

AYOPEJU FALEKULO

Phonics cannot be taught outside of the child developing a rich use of vocabulary, neither can the study of language end at the gateway of phonics! English language is complex, and even if it wasn’t you still need to delve into the structure of words, sentences and continue to build vocabulary knowledge over the years.

I do not believe that we should complicate the life of a child by making them memorize each written word, it is better to start with auditory perception of language structure, that is the child learning that the words they speak are made up of sound (phonemes) , which is phonemic awareness even before they start learning the symbols, they can hear the sounds and know them, then add on the symbols and start reading, then add onto this knowledge of phonograms and continue to build on the structure and grammar of language as the child enters the elementary years.

The whole language concept is something that has its place in elementary years. I really do not think it serves us well to use this as a method to teach 3 to 5 years old how to read, neither does the Phonics method work if it is done without a good foundation in vocabulary building and language use. Both sides of the coin have their use. That is why following the child is so important, if a child can’t get it via one method then you surely will find what works for the child! Anyway that’s my take.

What Does the Research Say?

Because of disagreements over the years about which type of reading instruction is best, phonics or whole language, the National Reading Panel began a study in 1997 to settle the debate. In 2000, the Panel released its findings, stating that there are five essential components that must be taught in an effective reading program: phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary development, and reading comprehension.1

Cons of the Whole Language Approach

Aside from overlooking spelling and technical mistakes, the whole language approach can also present problems for students with reading difficulties. Students with dyslexia and other language processing disorders need explicit instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, and decoding in order to improve their reading skills. With the high prevalence of processing disorders (15-20% of all students), many reformers believe explicit and systematic phonics instruction should be used to teach every student how to read – in order to prevent these students from falling behind. The whole language approach works for many students, but explicit and systematic phonics instruction works for students of all levels (and greatly decreases spelling and pronunciation errors).

Constructivist Theory

The philosophy of whole language is complex and draws from education, linguistics, psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Whole language is a constructivist approach to education; constructivist teachers emphasize that students create (construct) their own knowledge from what they encounter. Using a holistic approach to teaching, constructivist teachers do not believe that students learn effectively by analyzing small chunks of a system, such as learning the letters of the alphabet in order to learn language. Constructivist instructors see learning as a cognitive experience unique to each learner’s own perspective and prior knowledge, which forms the framework for new knowledge.

The above are extracts from ‘What is the “Whole Language” Approach to Teaching Reading?’ from   The Reading Horizons Blog (Sept.23, 2010), with my added emphasis. How different is Constructivist Theory from post-modernism?

 

 

 

Separate legal rights for minority populations? (2)

By the third generation, an immigrant cultural group will have accepted the host nation’s institutions and adapted to prevailing social mores. While institutions are necessarily durable, social mores will be an on-going feast, with mutual adaptation.

The cohesive influences in this process are public education, habituation (that is, being  comfortable in  on-going contact through sport or just socialisation with those whose ancestors may once have been ‘them, not us’), and that innate or instinctive reaching out displayed by very young children who have not been taught any prejudice about skin colour, language and other irrelevant matters.

Most importantly, in Australia, everyone is free to pray as they wish, to cook, dress and eat as they wish, and to speak their language freely.  They are only required to accept the host nation’s institutions and social (ie. behavioural) mores, and to respect all other cultural communities.  Immigrants know all about this as they seek to enter Australia.  On what basis, by what right, can they then seek to have the host nation’s institutions altered, especially when religion has been successfully kept separate from governance?

Different laws and different institutions for each separatist ethnic minority immigrant community?  How quaint!

In my second book ‘The Karma of Culture,’ initially published under my birth name Arasa, I deal with the cross-cultural impacts of a diverse immigrant intake, and the potential for Asian cultural and spiritual values to influence Western thinking about democracy, human rights, and societal values.

The book also teases out the implications for immigrants who choose to retain their cultural values and practices unaltered, in terms of a possible diminished access to the prevailing equal opportunity; and examines the consequential benefits of relinquishing inconsistent behaviour and attitudes. 

I am an 88-year old bicultural Asian-Australian who had published three experience-based narratives with analysis on ethnic affairs, multiculturalism, citizenship, refugee entry, and migrant settlement assistance; and a memoir which overlays a blend of history, sociology, and personal experiences with an Asian spirituality onto an integrated Australian persona, under my conjoined Westernised name. 

 

International laws – why bother?

The recent development in the USA, the nation of exceptionalism, of a policy of ‘America first’ has implications for the future of international laws. The following extracts from ‘Lawless World: America and the making and breaking of global rules’ by Philippe Sands, an eminent former professor of law and a practising barrister in the UK, seems pertinent.

“In the 1940s the United States and Britain led efforts to replace a world of chaos and conflict with a new, rules-based system.  … …  they hoped to make the world a better place, free from fear or want. They proposed new international rules to place limits on the use of force, promote the protection of fundamental human rights, and enshrine free trade and international economic liberalisation.”

“Over the next fifty years the mission to deepen and develop international law was, broadly speaking, successful. … … But it may have been too successful a mission. The rules which were intended to constrain others became constraining of their creators.”

“At the opening of the twenty-first century the world was a very different place from the one restructured by Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill half a century earlier. International law had wrought a revolution, with rules reaching into the nooks and crannies of everyday life. … … With the election of George W. Bush in November 2000, a US Administration took office that was outspoken in its determination to challenge global rules. Soon it turned into a full-scale assault, a war on law.”

“I trace the efforts of the first George W. Bush Administration to remake the system of global rules, from the abandonment of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, through the attempt to disapply the Geneva Conventions and other human rights norms at Guantanamo and other places, to the virtual disavowal of the United Nations’ prescriptions prohibiting the use of force. … … Faced with this onslaught the British Government was often silent or, in certain respects, a willing handmaiden to some of the worst violations of international law. Together the two countries were trying to remake the global rules.”

The above extracts were from the Preface. The following extract is from the back cover of the book.

“ … America has reneged on agreements governing war, torture and the environment – with Britain often turning a blind eye or colluding in some of the worst violations. In recent years, America had abandoned the Kyoto Protocol and the Statute of the International Criminal Court, ignored human rights standards at Abu Graib and disregarded the UN’s prohibition on pre-emptive force. Are we on the verge of a new world order where the most powerful nations can put aside the rules that no longer suit them?”

“Leading international lawyer Philippe Sands has been involved in high-profile cases including Guantanamo and Pinochet.”

From p. 238 Final chapter

“There are usually good reasons why international laws have been accepted. For the most part they work reasonably well. Imperfect as some of the international rules may be, they reflect minimum standards of acceptable behaviour and, to the extent they can be ascertained, common values. They provide an independent standard for judging the legitimacy of international actions.”

A personal comment.

As a former colonial subject, I am inclined to believe that rules have never applied to, or restrained, the powerful in the history of mankind. Even if agreed international human rights standards are ever established, there has to be a balance between the integrity of sovereign borders and the accountability of international agencies and courts.    

On religion – A Seeker’s personal path

In my book the ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity,’ the following quotation heads the chapter ‘Which way to the Cosmos’:

“Now, my own suspicion is that

the universe is not only queerer

than we suppose, but queerer than

we can suppose.”

– J.B.S.Haldane

“Because of my own personal catastrophe early in my life, I became deeply interested in matters relating to faith and destiny. I remember lying on my back at the beach, with nothing to look up to except the sky. I remember shaking my fist in the direction of the stars and saying to the gods up there “To hell with you”.  I had prayed regularly and frequently, and broken enough coconuts to signify my devotion to God. Yet, there I was, with no future (apparently pre-ordained). My existence was precarious, un-buttressed by family or friends. So, there was only one way to go — up.

As I struggled to climb up to a firm economic base, I came to realise that there was a coherent current moving me along! The unceasing and unpredictable buffeting was de-stabilising. Yet, I remained afloat. What was the significance of this? How did it all work? As I matured and began to eat well, I embarked upon a search into the various paths to the universal Creator. It is this unending search which I touch upon below. The options available to a seeker are indeed wide. But is there a single track which might subsume all options? Whilst I seek unity in diversity in all matters human and cosmic, like Mahatma Gandhi, “I consider myself a Hindu, Christian, Moslem, Jew, Buddhist and Confucian”.

That is, I am a freethinker. I believe all faiths are equal in their potential. The core belief in all faiths represents a yearning to rejoin the Creator — and offers much the same message. I just happened to have been born into the Hindu faith in this life. It is the core metaphysics of this faith which holds me — because its explanation of the complexity of existence is comprehensive, yet simple.

Why then am I happy about the value of other faiths? Because I suspect that I have experienced them subjectively in earlier lives on Earth. I am comfortable with, and comforted by, them too — but at a different level. I refer only to that core of each faith, leaving aside the trappings and trimmings added by those who constitute the religious institution surrounding each faith.

Whilst each of us must find his path to the Creator in his own manner and time, I looked (in this book) at how the adherents of the major faiths in Australia uphold their beliefs; and whether these adherents are contributing to a unified people in the new Australian nation-state. That is, how tolerant are the adherents of each faith of other faiths? Does each faith contribute to inter-communal acceptance? And to an understanding that we are all on different roads to the same destination?”

My message is that we humans are co-created; we are thereby bonded to one another. We need to look both sideways and upwards while paddling as peacefully as possible on our respective rivers of destiny. Ultimately , all rivers will flow into the sea.