Fight for land rights and justice for Aboriginal people

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Socialist Alliance released this statement on January 16.

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Aboriginal Australians have the oldest continuous cultures and languages in the world. The first peoples cared for country for thousands of years and have intimate knowledge of its unique environment.

Instead of helping to protect, learn from and collaborate with this knowledge, the Coalition government continues to endanger and destroy Aboriginal culture.

Australia is one of the richest nations on earth because white Australia has stolen the land and the resources of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) people who were the first people. This must be acknowledged and compensated for if we are to lift Aboriginal communities out of poverty and deliver justice to this country's first peoples.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people die an average 17 years younger than non-ATSI people. Aboriginal communities also suffer from high rates of curable diseases, such as trachoma and rheumatic heart disease.

Suicide rates in Aboriginal communities are among the highest in the world. Western Australia and the Northern Territory has rates of Aboriginal imprisonment that are higher than in South Africa during apartheid.

Abbott launches attacks on Aboriginal people

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has announced $13.4 million in cuts to Aboriginal legal services over the next four years. Aboriginal adults are 14 times more likely to be jailed than other Australians. For Aboriginal minors the rate is 31 times. Only 2% of the overall population, Aboriginal people make up just over a quarter of the total prisoner population in Australia.

Aboriginal deaths in custody average one a month, and the situation is getting worse for Aboriginal people.

A 2013 Australian Bureau of Statistics Corrective Services report showed the number of Aboriginal men in prison has risen by 8%, and women by 12%, in the past 12 months. Cutting legal aid will result in more Aboriginal people locked up and more deaths and suicides inside prisons.

When Abbott announced the cuts to Aboriginal legal services, he announced a $2 million fund to help mining companies, pastoralists, commercial fishers and councils respond to Native Title claims.

Abbott has also withdrawn funding for the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and appointed a new hand-picked National Indigenous Council. This council is headed by former Labor Party president Warren Mundine and has the support of conservatives Noel Pearson and Professor Marcia Langton, who have attacked Aboriginal culture as a cause of disadvantage and support cuts to welfare and services for Aboriginal people.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne has launched an attack on teaching the truth about Aboriginal history. This is an attempt to whitewash the genocide that took place and reduce anger from non-Indigenous Australians about current attacks underway.

Abbott’s proposed attacks against Medicare and the Disability Support Pension will also disproportionately hurt Aboriginal people.

The Coalition will try to shift wealth from workers and the poor to the rich by increasing user-pays measures in health, education, transport and public housing. This will further impoverish the most marginalised — Aboriginal communities, refugees and poor workers.

Abbott’s recent attacks have built on former prime minister John Howard’s assault on Aboriginal land rights with the 2007 NT intervention.

The ALP is no solution

The Coalition are building on attacks that Labor governments under Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd carried out against Aboriginal people. Rudd apologised to the stolen generation in 2008, but denied them compensation. Under Bob Hawke, Labor promised national land rights, but backflipped on that policy.

It was Labor who ran the Northern Territory intervention for four and a half of its five years, and it was Labor who extended it for a further 10 years last year under the Stronger Futures legislation. As prime minister in 2011, Gillard used the annual “Close the Gap” report card to attack Aboriginal people and blame them for the government’s lack of progress.

Resistance is strength

To stop Abbott’s current plan of attack we need a strong campaign that involves Aboriginal people and their supporters from broad sections of the community. The historic 1966 Gurindji struggle that ended slave-like conditions in Wave Hill showed that union support for Aboriginal rights is important.

Union support for the current campaign to stop a nuclear waste dump in Muckaty is an example of what is needed to win. Alliances between environmentalists and Aboriginal communities against coal seam gas in the Pilliga and in the Kimberley shows the strength of building alliances.

Aboriginal culture is sharing culture

Aboriginal culture is based on sharing customs and collectivism. This is in complete opposition to capitalism’s individualist, dog-eat-dog, consumerist model.

We need to forge a political alternative to the pro-capitalist parties who are intent on wiping out Aboriginal culture, destroying the environment and putting the corporations before people.

To restore Indigenous self-determination, to save the planet and to share the wealth, we need to extend democratic public ownership over strategic sectors of the economy. We need to create again a society based on sharing for the common good, that is democratic socialism.

Join Socialist Alliance, join the fightback against Abbott

Socialist Alliance is a grassroots party dedicated to fighting racism and building an alternative to the big parties leading the capitalist system. We proudly support Aboriginal-led campaigns against deaths in custody, cuts to legal services, the NT intervention, and the campaign for land rights.

The Socialist Alliance campaigns at Invasion Day protests and festivals across Australia on January 26. Come help us campaign, find out more about how we can fight and win against the system together.

The Socialist Alliance supports:
• A treaty, land rights, compensation for land taken, Indigenous self-governance, and the right of Indigenous people to self-determination.
• Strengthening the economic and skills base of the Land Council systems and local communities, and supporting Indigenous people in the creation of sustainable, self-managed communities.
• Adequate funding for Aboriginal health care, legal, housing, and other services.
• The right for Aboriginal people to live in homelands, funding and support of services for all remote Aboriginal communities.
• An end to the NT intervention and an end to any extension to the NT intervention, and a reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act.
• The right to bilingual and bicultural education.
• An end to black deaths in custody — hold police to account, justice for Mr Ward, who died in a prison van, and full implementation of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

From GLW issue 993