TODAY, Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull confirmed that his government is considering testing those seeking the “privilege” of permanent residency in the country.
Some of his tests will include the ability of immigrants to speak English, as a way to aid integration into “harmonious” Australian life.
Speaking in Tasmania on Friday, Turnbull said he believed that Australians all had shared beliefs and values. He said: “Isn’t it remarkable that we live together is so much harmony because of the values we share and those Australian values, of democracy, freedom, the rule of law, respect for women, equality between men and women.”
Senior Labor front bencher Anthony Albanese, also spoke about how he believed Australians live in a land of tranquillity and friendship, telling the Nine Network on Friday: “Australia, I think, is a bit of a microcosm for what the world should be. People from different religions, races and backgrounds living together overwhelmingly in harmony.”
These government officials words however, seem to contradict the actual reality of life for Australian’s first nation, the indigenous population of the country.
While Albanese has heralded the equality of all Australians, his words ignore the stark inequalities presented amongst Australia’s indigenous communities in comparison to the non indigenous people of the country.
Indeed, the social, political and economic indicators of Indigenous Australian wellbeing have, since the 1950s, been an acute source of international embarrassment to Australian federal and state politicians – problems they have tried to keep out of the limelight.
Likened to the southern states of America and post apartheid South Africa, the Australian government’s mis-treatment and institutional racism of the indigenous population is still a stark reminder that life in Australia is not equal or harmonious for all.
The median weekly income for Indigenous Australians was $542 in 2014-15 compared with $852 for non-Indigenous Australians.
Aboriginals make up 3% of Australia’s population, but in 2017, accounted for 27% of Australians in prison. The amount of indigenous children aged 10-17 years in detention centres was 26 times the rate for non Indigenous youth in 2016.
More and more first people are being forced off traditional lands by state and territory governments and by mining companies that pay little or no tax on the continent.
The rate of suicide in indigenous Australians is 6 times higher than that in non indigenous communities, with 80% of suicides recorded in 2011 being Aboriginal.
Yet before the settlement of Europeans in 1788, there was no recorded word for suicide within Aboriginal languages.
“Death is our life,” said South Australian Elder Tauto Sansbury, describing the state of the Aboriginal landscape Australia-wide, of mourning and sadness for young lives lost to suicide.
A number of researchers suggest that deeper underlying causes of these high rates of suicides and continuing inequality between Aboriginals and non indigenous people include “intergenerational trauma” resulting from the ongoing and cumulative effects of colonisation, loss of land, language and culture, the erosion of cultural and spiritual identity, forced removal of children, and racism and discrimination.
Indigenous peoples were not counted in the country’s census as Australians until 1967.
And, up until the 1970s, Aboriginal children were being taken from their own communities and forced into institutions, continuing the centuries long attempt of European settlers to “breed out” the indigenous peoples and solve the “Aboriginal problem.”
But what is being done by the government to help the indigenous population?
Not much according to Former Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Kyam Maher: “Tony Abbott said connection to culture and country is a mere ‘lifestyle choice’ and Malcolm Turnbull turned his back on the aspirations of Aboriginal people by ignoring the Uluru Statement.”
The Uluru Statement a proposal of constitutional reform that would establish a constitutionally enshrined First Nations representative body to advise parliament on policy affecting Indigenous peoples.
It would also commit Australia to a process of truth-telling of its colonial history through the establishment of a Makarrata commission.
But in response, Turnbull has shunned the statement, saying it is neither “desirable nor capable of winning acceptance at referendum,” while also alleging that all Australians share the mutual benefits of “democracy and freedom.”
He also could be accused of ignoring the fact that only 58% of indigenous Australians are registered to vote. The private assessments by some Indigenous leaders, non-government and government agencies, found that only 25 to 30% – or about half – of Indigenous Australians who are enrolled actually cast a formal vote.
But we have to ask, why would indigenous people vote? Why would they want to choose yet another government official who continues to push them off land, incarcerates staggering numbers of their communities and is not addressing the growing numbers of suicides amongst their population, or their proposal for a self governing body?
In removing their children, the Australian government had hoped to erode Aboriginal people’s future. In breaking this circle of life it was hoped Aboriginal culture would end within a short period and “the Aboriginal problem” could be a thing of the past.
Now, instead of continuing to “steal generations,” the government is continuing to address the “Aboriginal problem” in another way – by simply sweeping the existence and inequalities of the indigenous Australians under the dusty red earth.