Aboriginal disadvantage worsens

Issue 
PM Tony Abbott continues to repeat the myth that Australia was an empty land before British colonialism.

We can count on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to add insult to injury.

In front of the world at the G20 Summit in Brisbane, he arrogantly regurgitated the racist colonial fiction — repudiated in law by the High Court in the famous Mabo case in 1992 — that Australia was an empty land before the European colonial invasion.

It was “nothing but bush” before the white man's arrival, he said when he hosted a breakfast in Sydney for visiting British prime minister David Cameron.

In August, Abbott declared the arrival of the British First Fleet to be the “defining moment” for Australia.

“It was the moment this continent became part of the modern world,” he said.

The mainstream media widely described Abbott's latest insult to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as a “gaffe”. Really?

After the outcry against his “defining moment” comment, many prominent Aboriginal people, even from his advisory committee, made it clear that it was an insulting thing to say.

His choice to repeat the insult when the eyes of the world's media were briefly on Australia for the G20 Summit can only have been a calculated decision.

What political reasons would Abbott have to repeat this insult?

Perhaps it was to explain away the figures that were supplied in painful and shameful detail in the Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage Key Indicators 2014 report released on November 19.

The report outlined the poor progress in closing the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Australia.

Aboriginal communities suffer from Third World conditions in one of the richest countries in the world.

Since 2008, Australian state and federal governments have made a formal commitment to halve the gaps on several key indicators by 2018.

These gaps were shockingly big and the target of halving them in 10 years was woefully inadequate.

Six years on, the gap in life expectancy has narrowed only slightly, from 11.4 years to 10.6 years for men and from 9.6 years to 9.5 years for women. Health has barely improved and there has been an increase of 48% in hospitalisation of Aboriginal people for self-harm and a 27% increase in the number of Aboriginal adults reporting high levels of psychological stress.

Employment levels have fallen. The employment to population rate of Aboriginal people of working age increased from 38% in 1994 to 54% in 2008, before decreasing to 48% in
2012-13.

Last year, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults were imprisoned at 13 times the rate for non-Indigenous adults, a 57% increase since 2005, while the non-Aboriginal rate remained fairly constant, resulting in a widening of the gap. A direct consequence of this is a rise in the numbers of Aboriginal deaths in custody.

Abbott's insults can be understood as part of a disgusting attempt to justify this deepening racial oppression. It perpetuates the racist idea that Aboriginal people are inconsequential, sub-human and their conditions a result of their supposed inferiority.

Green Left Weekly has explained in some detail how the worsening conditions in Aboriginal communities can be traced back to racist cuts to essential services and the funding of Aboriginal-run community organisations by the Coalition government and its ALP predecessors.

That and the fact that Australian governments have refused to deliver real land rights and impose a strong regime of job quotas on private and public employers to address more than two centuries of racial oppression. That's the truth about the shamefully growing gap.

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