From Mabo to Pearson

  • This is all the protection which the Howard Government thinks that Aboriginal property rights deserve.

Galarrwuy Yunupingu said:

My father “would think that no people could be more disadvantaged than the Yolgnu when they had to watch, powerlessly, as bulldozers tore down sacred trees and built huge mines on our former hunting grounds. And having lived through those times – when I could not vote and was only educated through the charity of the missionaries – I challenge any one to say we were better off before our rights were recognised. P.13” The Australian 3/6/2002

The Age 26/9/2002 noted: It was Indigenous Affairs Minister Philip Ruddock who posed the question yesterday: What should teachers do when hungry kids turn up at school? But the minister offered no answers, instead leaving the floor to Mr Pearson, who is well-known for his aggressive denunciations of the welfare mentality among Aboriginal communities.

“If it’s an isolated problem then the community leaders have got to bring the parents to account,” he said. “If it’s so bad and widespread and it doesn’t look likely that you could get these individual parents to fulfil their responsibility, then a breakfast program might be an appropriate solution.” But you don’t want provisioning by government through a breakfast program that lets the parents off scot-free. “If you, as a slack parent, are receiving money on behalf of kids and you’re spending it on grog or something, well the elders need to be given the power to say, ‘Well, we’re taking $50 out of that income and we’re putting it into the breakfast program because your kids are using that program during the week’.”

John Howard said, “I regard a treaty as a recipe for separatism” (cited in Marcia Langton Inaugural Professional Lecture Uni of Melb 2002)

John Howard has argued that practical reconciliation not self-determination is what Indigenous people need.

Why does white Australia need to maintain:
“The public debates about the place of Aboriginal people in the nation have focussed on the problem of how to incorporate Aboriginal people into the ambit of the nation state. By various means: assimilation, intergration, self-management, self-determination, reconciliation and throughout the years, the call for a treaty could also be heard. (p.1)”(Marcia Langton Inaugural Professional Lecture Uni of Melb 2002)

Without a rights framework that works, there is no ability to create and protect the rights to economic self-sufficiency and Indigenous peoples, families and communities will only be dependant on welfare. Even worse, they will remain dependant upon the benevolence of the government. This should not be read as a rejection of the right to access welfare. Rather, it is a criticism of policy made in a reactionary way without a view to larger, long-term, goals and aspirations. As can be seen by the contents of the Native Title Amendment Act 1998 (Cth), the days of governments actively truncating and extinguishing Indigenous rights are far from over.

In an address on The Relevance of the Rights Agenda in the Age of Practical Reconciliation: Larissa Behrendt, Professor of Law and Indigenous Studies and the Director of the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology, Sydney. Delivered at the University of Sydney, 17 December, 2001, said:

Australians need to make some Choices as to how Indigenous people are going to be treated:
Genocide  cultural genocide (assimilation) paternalism (integration, self-management)
Liberation (self-determination, treaty, independence, Indigenous Sovereignty)

The last word should go to the Mad Monk TONY ABBOTT, MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS Speech: 25/9/2002. Grass Roots Capitalism Corporate Leaders For Indigenous Employment Conference, Canberra

It’s in these (remote) settlements that life expectancy, housing quality and literacy levels, along with school attendance and the maintenance of public order, often approach third world standards…..It’s tempting to conclude that this is entirely the consequence of dispossession and racism. We have to acknowledge the history but we can’t undo it….

I would say in reply:

that existing white privilege has been built upon past Indigenous dispossession and unless you alter that you are simply reinforcing past injustice. If you are the beneficiary of past injustice, it is incumbent upon you to make reparation to those who have been wronged otherwise you are an accessary after the fact. This makes you complicit in the original act of dispossession.

• More Abbott:

Australian society is far from prejudice-free (and still has a strong tendency to typecast people) but the problems of Aboriginal communities owe at least as much to welfarism as racism….  The immediate economic benefits of employment are comparatively minor compared to the improvement in physical and mental health and reduction in crime which accompanies the shift from welfare to work. Given the history of dispossession, a sense of Aboriginal entitlement is understandable and justifiable. The problem for all rentier classes, however, whether it1s low rent on welfare or high rent on royalties, is that aimlessness which tends to breed alienation, despair and self-harm.

I do hope he’s warned the Packers

Garrarrwuy Yunupingu in an address to the National Press Club in Canberra in February 1997 summed up the desperation which many Indigenous people feel when he said:

Same thing you mining companies. You dig my country and you make your money and you go laughing all the way to the Swiss bank, but you leave me a hole and the pollution. No thanks, but you take all the goodness out of my land and you leave me nothing. But I’m not disappointed. I might be a bit angry with you, the way you treated me and being unfair. But I’m still sitting there nursing the hole and the pollution you left me behind.I will not go away from that hole and that pollution because it is my right to die in that land. (p.21). Land Rights News Vol.2, No. 41

You might like to read more in Chapter 6 of my e-Book which can be found on the Basic Income Guarantee Australia website:

• More Abbott

Two years ago, Noel Pearson opened a new debate on the importance of economic participation if Aboriginal people are to regain their self- respect and autonomy. This is vital to the reconciliation process, less, perhaps, because Aboriginal people will continue to resent lower incomes, on average, than other Australians but because the general public will find it hard to see past an “Aboriginal problem” as long as too few Aboriginal people have “real” jobs… A sure sign that reconciliation has been achieved will be the presence of Aboriginal people as leaders of non-Aboriginal organisations…
This aspect of reconciliation is more important than gestures such as treaties, apologies and constitutional acknowledgements…. Australians naturally warm to people who are doing it tough but having a go. That is why Pearson’s message has struck such a chord. Pearson has stressed Aboriginal distinctiveness but not Aboriginal separateness.
One of the biggest obstacles to economic advancement is the fact that Aboriginal communities are still largely socialist enclaves in a free society.

Dankeschon mein Fuhrer

I knew Karl Marx’s was the problem… all along …honest …I never thought it was anything to do with racism or dispossession or white theft of their savings or genocide or colonialisation or the non-payment of wages or the taking of children or rape of the women… honest.


Lecture 2002