Monday, November 11, 2013

The Brutal Past and Present Are Another Country in Secret Australia

John Pilger
November 7, 2013.

Suppressing racist truths, while venerating Australia's servile role in the colonial wars of Britain and the United States, has almost cult status in Canberra today.

The corridors of the Australian Parliament are so white you squint. The sound is hushed; the smell is floor polish. The wooden floors shine so virtuously they reflect the cartoon portraits of prime ministers and rows of Aboriginal paintings, suspended on white walls, their blood and tears invisible.

The Parliament stands in Barton, a suburb of Canberra named after the first prime minister of Australia, Edmund Barton, who drew up the White Australia Policy in 1901. "The doctrine of the equality of man," Barton said, "was never intended to apply" to those not British and white-skinned.

Barton's concern was the Chinese, known as the Yellow Peril; he made no mention of the oldest, most enduring human presence on Earth: the first Australians. They did not exist. Their sophisticated care of a harsh land was of no interest. Their epic resistance did not happen. Of those who fought the British invaders of Australia, the Sydney Monitor reported in 1838: "It was resolved to exterminate the whole race of blacks in that quarter." Today, the survivors are a shaming national secret.

The town of Wilcannia, in New South Wales, is twice distinguished. It is a winner of a national Tidy Town award, and its indigenous people have one of the lowest recorded life expectancies. They are usually dead by age 35. The Cuban government runs a literacy program for them, as they do among the poorest of Africa. According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth report, Australia is the richest place on Earth.

Politicians in Canberra are among the wealthiest citizens. Their self-endowment is legendary. Last year, the then- minister for indigenous affairs, Jenny Macklin, refurbished her office at a cost to the taxpayer of $331,144.

Macklin recently claimed that, in government, she had made a "huge difference." This is true. During her tenure, the number of Aboriginal people living in slums increased by almost a third, and more than half the money spent on indigenous housing was pocketed by white contractors and a bureaucracy for which she was largely responsible. A typical, dilapidated house in an outback indigenous community must accommodate as many as 25 people. Families, the elderly and the disabled wait years for sanitation that works.
Read the rest here.
Comment: Pilger calls Australia's treatment of Aboriginal people "apartheid".  It is a telling condemnation but not really surprising.

I cannot wait to see his film.


No comments: