Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University, Wellington. Vol. 22, No. 6. Wednesday, June 24, 1959
Aussie's Colour Shame Lack of Human Rights
Aussie's Colour Shame Lack of Human Rights
No one will deny that the "assimilation" of aborigines is quite a problem in Australia (although perhaps not so grave as the race problems in South Africa and the United States). Let's be quite objective about it, and examine the factual evidence.
Coming back to the rocket range which extends through the Warburton Ranges in Western Australia. The findings of a Parliamentary Select Committee show that there have been catastrophic effects on aborigine life due to the placing of a rocket range (part of the Woomera programme) right through the land that for centuries had been the hunting and camping grounds of aborigine tribes.
The sensitive balance between natural resources and the needs of the tribe, so marvellously created by the aborigine from a land that would have been an impossible challenge to other civilisations, has been suddenly and rudely upset over a huge area surrounding the range (of course in the actual range area itself the inhabitants have been ordered right out).
The results? Actual starvation in some cases and a ghastly wave of diseases due to malnutrition over much of the area, the most common being the dreaded eye disease trachoma.
Let us leave rocket ranges and view some of the more glaring anomalies from which people of aborigine extraction suffer.
There is not the space here to treat every part of the problem in detail; we will limit ourselves mainly to our own State.
In terms of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, rights in which most Australians already share and which are by declaration of the General Assembly of U.N.O. are for everyone including minority groups.
Yet somewhere, somehow, large numbers of aborigines have just missed out.
In Queensland, for instance, aborigines under the Aborigines Act — and this means the majority—have little power to decide for themselves where they are going to live. In fact, they can and are incarcerated against their will on a Government or Church mission reserve.
(Law students note). There is no trial by jury for these original Australians, but by officials who may, in fact, be the accusers. In some parts of the Act the onus of proof is shifted from the accuser to the accused, contrary to the well established practice of British Law.
The private property of an aborigine may be seized arbitrarily. The Act provides that where a dark-skinned Australian refuses to obey such an order he "shall be guilty of an offence."
Here are just three points by which specific articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed by the General Assembly of U.N.O., are totally disregarded.
There is not the space to treat other things in detail, such as censorship of mail, compulsory work and low wages inadequate social service benefits, lack of education and cultural development, and totally inadequate training in democracy—all of which apply to Australia's first citizens in this year 1959.
While racial discrimination is a hot topic in New Zealand Salient thinks it might be interesting to look at others' problems close to home. The accompanying article by Tom Toogood is reprinted from Queensland University's "Semper Flor--eat."
So it is not exaggerating to say the situation is shocking.
Who is to blame and who should take the job of righting the wrongs? The Government? Our ancestors? The Australian people as a whole? The aborigines?
The reasons why Australia's first sons are in such a sad state today, and why "white" Australians have thought it necessary to discriminate against them through such legislation as we have discussed, are not simple.
Lack of understanding of a tribal culture, brutalities perpetrated by a minority of the early' settlers, false ideas of the inferiority of the aborigines, the thoughtless confiscation of tribal lands for industrial purposes—all these threads and more may be discerned in the past.
However one thing is clear. You can't blame the aborigines for their present plight.
Names like Nicholls, Blair; Namitjira and many others have proved both in civilian life and in two world wars that they can and will co-operate in building and defending a nation if we will only give them the opportunity.
The grim record of the past cannot be undone. It is no use passing the buck to our ancestors and forgetting about the problem ourselves.
What about the Government? But if you blame the Government you are again passing the buck; for that organ, after all is said and done, expresses (however lamely) the will of the people.
Perhaps you are not absolutely clear as to what you can do. Well, here are some suggestions.
- Adopt an aboriginal child and put him or her through a good school.
- Board an aboriginal apprentice, student or working youth in your own home.
- Invite people of aboriginal blood into your home and to your entertainments.
- Join and/or financially support the only independently-functioning club in Queensland devoted to assimilation — the Kangaroos Sports Club at West End
- Join the Aborigines' Advancement League (c/- Pastor D. Nicholls, M.B.E., 46 Russell St., Melbourne, C1.).
- Press for full citizenship rights and for better education for aborigines.
But Aussie has not got it all to itself—read "Stay Home Kiwi," Page 5.