The Dreamtime – Quo Vadis?

There is a Third World black nation, co-existing but only just, within white Australia. The White Australia immigration policy was finally heaved overboard with great fanfare, officially in the early 1970s; yet its generic roots remain embedded in the roots of Australian attitudes and social policies. Indeed, it is the rooting by white men which is responsible for the plight of the Aboriginal population.

The heritage of these people is of being rooted and dispossessed, or is it the other way round? Despite the political rhetoric about ‘compacts’ and reconciliation, this heritage includes being disowned socially and economically. From the very first contracts with British colonisers, the Aboriginal people were rooted out of their land, with which they had lived in harmony for thousands of years; their women were rooted, if not killed; resulting offspring were rooted out of their homes and communities, and offered assimilation in the role of slaves in white homes. The people who survived ethnic cleansing, which was carried out systematically (occasionally sneakily), became slaves on pastoral properties or were herded into reserves located on unwanted, unproductive land (following US practice with its ‘Red’ Indians).

The founders of this nation were like the founders of the USA; they had the gun and the Good Book in their hands, and greed and lust in their eyes and loins. They took what they wanted, chanting ‘Terra Nullius’ with each step they took. … And men of the cloth apparently blessed this physical and cultural genocide. Greed overcame the recorded objections to this practice from fair-minded and knowledgeable people in the UK, who asserted that the Aboriginals had indeed ‘occupied’ the land. … Some say that this is why a highwayman is a national icon in Australia.

Even in the early 1960s, an Aboriginal community was forcibly removed from land wanted by the mining industry. This industry, mainly foreign owned, has received (at least, to date) some credit for successfully preventing any form of justice to the Aborigines in relation to land rights and other forms of national reconciliation. … The pastoral interests are closely behind the miners in their opposition to justice for blacks, claiming that a (government) lease (of pastoral land) equals freehold (wouldn’t that be lovely for the rest of us?). So Australian governments genuflect in the face of export dollars and the power of foreign investors, and justice can go to hell. What does one say about a woman who asks the man who repeatedly rapes her not to leave her, because she would then lose the replacement underwear he regularly provides her; that she worries too much about the draught?

… … Historically, both pastoralists and miners were not alone in pretending that the Aboriginal was not human or was an inferior pre-human. Convicts from Britain (including many of Irish extraction), the priests and the politicians, all collaborated with the pastoralists and miners in their cultural imperialism and sexual exploitation. Shooting and poisoning were normal means of clearing the land. Yet the Aboriginal people did not disappear from the face of their land …

… … Thus after two centuries of the white man’s benevolence, the black people were, in the main, landless, almost cultureless, almost tribeless, nearly family-less, stateless (denied citizenship). They were also denied a vote, personal dignity, legal rights, pride, self-respect, education, a place they could safely call their own, freedom, gender equality, class equality, ethnic equality, a share of the largesse of multiculturalism policies, an opportunity to better themselves, hope and, in heir marginalised places of living, limited to no health care, sanitation, water, and freedom from fear of further dispossession, harassment, or incarceration. …

(As my first memoir ‘Destiny Will Out’ was written in 1995, from which these extracts were drawn, it reflects the historical record of Australia (not one to be proud of). Is it any different from the history of the First Peoples, the indigenes of the Americas? Did not the despoliation of the pre-invasion rights and associated cultural practices in these two continents continue well into the twentieth century?

Whenever I read about Western nations (including the former colonial ‘powers’) preaching to developing (emerging?) or materially less-developed peoples everywhere about freedom, human rights, property rights (that too), and democratic structures of governance, I keep wondering when they will begin to practice what they enjoy preaching.

This situation also reminds me of those missionaries accompanying the invaders who successfully converted to Christianity some of the ‘natives’ at the lowest socio-economic levels, but provided them with no material benefit from being clutched to the bosom of Christ – for whom I have the greatest of respect.)