The passage through Parliament last week of a motion expressing regret at the treatment afforded aboriginal people in the settlement of Australia, was not concluded without some shabby posturing on the part of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Beazley. Despite the fact that the wording of the motion was endorsed by the only aboriginal member in the Federal Parliament, Mr. Beazley denounced the motion as a “shoddy backroom deal”. That is something he should know about, given that he was the Minister responsible for the debacle surrounding the awarding of the Collins Class submarine project to the Swedish firm, Kockums.
But the use of the word “regret” in the Parliament’s motion is an entirely appropriate expression. There is much to regret in the history of Australia, as there is in the history of all nations; indeed in the history of mankind. We can regret that so many people were torn away from their families and homeland and transported half way around the world, because of relatively insignificant offences against the authorities of the day.
We can regret that the collision between two utterly different cultures had such a deleterious impact on the tribal peoples of Australia at the time of settlement. Regret is something we can all relate to when we wish, with hindsight, that things might have been done differently.
But saying sorry is not something a Parliament can properly do. When it comes to saying “sorry”, we can only speak for ourselves.
There is a case to be made, however, for an apology from successive governments and the “Aboriginal Industry”, consisting principally of PEPA’s – that is Predominantly European, Part Aboriginals – who have hijacked government policy on aboriginals since the Whitlam years. An apology should be made firstly to the Australian taxpayer who has coughed up more than $25 billion in that time, without any impact on the relative disadvantage of real aboriginal people, or without, evidently, any impact on racial discrimination. Many of these PEPA’s, leaders of the “Aboriginal Industry”, have built well-paid globetrotting careers on the back of this extraordinary largesse. They are the ones who should be saying “sorry”, along with the governments that lack the courage to get up and speak the truth about these matters and fashion policy accordingly.
An apology should be made, too, by the “Aboriginal Industry” to the genuine tribal aboriginal people of Australia, imprisoned in tribal communities where they are dependent on government handouts and victims of the patronising attitudes of their city dwelling part brethren who have the ears of Ministers and bureaucrats. For so long, the aboriginal people of Australia have been exploited and manipulated by the “Aboriginal Industry”.
The policy of Governments in relation to the aboriginal people has been an utter shambles for the last thirty years. In a referendum in 1967, the Australian people voted overwhelmingly in favour of granting aboriginal people full citizenship rights and responsibilities, hitherto excluded under the Constitution. Since then, successive governments, State and Federal, have done exactly the opposite, engaging in the practice of separate development for the aboriginal people. The Afrikaans word for this is apartheid.
The policy of assimilation was abandoned in the early seventies, despite the 1967 referendum result indicating that Australians generally favoured integrating the aboriginal people into society as a whole. The new policy, we were told, was to allow the aboriginal people to follow their traditional lifestyle. What is traditional about herding the nomadic aboriginal people into communities, building accommodation and facilities and sending cheques each fortnight? What is traditional about calling the Royal Flying Doctor Service when a woman goes into labour, then sending her off to Alice Springs hospital for a caesarean section? The only people that this policy suits are the PEPA’s, who will maintain influence and control and well-funded careers as long as the rest of us feel guilty about the state of the real aboriginal people.
The real need for aboriginal people in the bush is to have an economic base for their continued existence in their traditional lands. Only in this way, will they be truly independent of the stifling bureaucratic juggernaut that keeps them in bondage and dependence.
Those that control aboriginal policy are the ones who should be making the apology. They not only fail to offer any real future for these unfortunate people, but they waste squillions on themselves in the process and are dividing Australia into a land of warring tribes.