There is no greater legacy one can have than to improve the lot of others

Ways Forward Centre on Racism

Stop examining the oppressed, instead examine the oppressor – this will reduce racism

July 15th, 2015

Oppression is the historical signature piece of the Australia we have known since the late 18th century, since the arrival of the tall ships. However oppression remains contemporaneous. The viciously cruel rod of oppression has delivered narratives of human misery and suffering, the moral abomination of racism. For more than a century there has been an increasing examination of the oppressed but very little examination of the oppressor. The often exploitative preoccupation to study and examine the oppressed while refusing to examine and bring to account the oppressor ensures oppression continues.

Last year, on a national television program one of this continent’s most revered and wisdom laden statespersons, Arrernte Amatjere Elder, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks most eloquently stated what should have been heard long ago by the Australian nation – “I am not the problem.”

The problem is never the oppressed despite what many racists would like us to think, despite what far too many in the media write, despite what some historians want us to think, despite the prejudices and stereotypes the majority of parliamentarians wallow within, despite the industry of researchers and so-called experts, of whom many are shameless profiteers. The problem is always the oppressor. The problem cannot be and should never be the victim.

The victim may need healing, trauma counselling, support and reparations but the actual examining of why and how any problem has occurred must focus on the perpetrator, on the oppressor.

We should not want to hold the oppressors hostage to all their faults, of their oppressive and exploitative behaviours, of their racism, but rather in the name of humanity, in the name of everyone, to free them from their oppressive behaviours, from their ignorance and from their despatching of racism. There is a hostile denial in this nation by the majority of the population of the racism that stoutly continues to stain the national conscience dumbing down consciousness. Racism has many veils and layers and unless we move away from the obsession to only examine the oppressed hence we will continue to go nowhere fast – and the narratives of human misery and suffering will continue to be rolled out, ruining more families and communities, destroying more lives, taking more lives.

Australia has the widest divide between the descendants of its First Peoples and the rest of the population. Yet, Australia is the world’s 12th largest economy, one of the world’s wealthiest nations per capita and boasts the world’s highest median wages. So how is it that half of the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander population while comprising so little of the Australian population lives impoverished, with the majority marginalised in third-world-akin shanties?

How is it possible that non-Aboriginal Australia enjoys social infrastructure that Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander homelands and their communities do not? The extreme poverty has been induced and it is perpetuated by one government after another. The racism is Australian made. This extreme poverty is racialised and this is an indisputable given. Racialisaton is racism.

How is it possible that in this affluent nation there is hidden one of the world’s highest suicide rates? One in twenty of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders die by suicide – this is the reported rate – a moral abomination. This racialised narrative is racism. The narrative of lives lost to suicide is worse than is being reported. I estimate that the real rate is one suicide in ten deaths, double the official rate. This is a humanitarian crisis, catastrophic, and yet it is not the pressing issue of our time despite it being highlighted by myself and others. The fact that it is not the issue of our time demonstrates the actuality to this day of the dominance of the oppressor, effectively uninterrupted.

The oppressor has been protected by casual references that they were the product of the stream of consciousness of their times, of a political climate, of intended well-meaning. These are hostile statements of defiance, of a refusal to be held to account. They are denied the opportunity to atone. Without atonement there are no ways forward and ignorance and racism will continue to keep us all hostage.

The majority of our parliamentarians have at least 100 years of familial history on this continent –and most are still kept hostage to origins-of-thinking a century old. Without an examination of the oppressor, instead of the oppressed, without a national conversation hence many premises and presumptions that should be done and dusted will continue perniciously into the ensuing generation.

The White Australia Policy may be gone as an official document but it still pervades. The Australian Constitution was penned alongside the White Australia Policy. The Australian Constitution sought to lift above all others a White Australia, a supremacist dominion and to keep downtrodden the First Peoples, to smash their Aboriginality. White Australia sought to keep out potential migrants who were not White. The non-White, the Black, the Brown, the Yellow person deemed inferior. The Australian Constitution is tainted and it cannot be fixed. It is a racist document –the most racist Constitution of any nation. It should be binned and a new one penned – not by an oppressor but by humanity.

Our parliaments remain the dominion of the oppressor, of a White Australia. When our parliaments finally reflect the demography of this nation so then we will journey to a more humane society.

Australia led the way with apartheid legislation and practices that South Africa learned and copied. There are laws, policies and practices to this day that racialise people, which negatively target people, which decimate people and ensuing generations. Many of these laws, policies and practices have led to land grabs, the degradation of communities, the legacy of extreme poverty, homelessness, the filling of jails and the horrific suicide rates. All of this, not just some of this, is a moral abomination.

Many good people sought to make a difference by focusing examination on the victim – the oppressed – but this has indeed now become an industry and which has blindsided hope. The examination has to shift to the oppressor but once again not to punish them, not to keep them hostage but to free us all into equality and the right to be as we so see fit.

Little else will work. Native title was tried as a compensatory mechanism and has culminated in the horrific debacle that fractures communities, spoils riches on the few and marginalises the majority. Native title is an example of what not to do – a free-for-all where the majority of benefactors are non-Aboriginal and who slew benefit away from the intended recipients. Native title is a trough of frenzied feeding by an endless queue of carpetbaggers, lawyers, anthropologists, every charlatan under the sun. It has been a significant betrayal of once huge expectations. In my many travels, I have found the filthiest of exploiters that I have ever known in the native title industry. I have often wondered have they no shame in effectively stealing from the poor, in reaping their spoils from the rights of the poor. In one form or another, in one guise or another, the oppression continues.

All lives matter but in an unequal society this will never be the case, will never be the legacy. Unequal societies flourish where those who perpetrate wrongs escape the light of day. We have to shift the focus of any examination of problems onto the oppressor, onto the perpetrator, onto the wrongdoer – and not continue to study alone the oppressed.

The oppressed are blameless.

Let the oppressor understand what they are doing or in the least bring them to the light of day so it all stops.


Don’t you ever tell me about racism

October 24th, 2014

The veils and layers of racism are many. The White Australia Policy still lives, veiled and layered. The racism I was born into manages a hefty say to this very day even if its ugliest forms are not as pronounced as they once were. Much of the overt racism that was the norm of my childhood is no longer acceptable but it is still deep within many. Racism does not just disappear because of laws. If it is still there in the minds of many then it does its damage.  Exposing racism is difficult when people just do it rather than speak it.

I often wish that racists would be let speak, so we know where we stand. So we can do something about it. .

I do not need anyone who has never experienced racism to tell me about racism, nor do I appreciate anyone speaking to what racism is if they have never felt it, known it, been hurt by it, held back by it, lost years to it. They should not speak to what racism is, other than to stand against it. All of us can stand against racism, solid-in-our-thinking, and walk the ways forward, live the ways forward, but not every one of us can speak to what often there are no words for. Someone who has never lived racism does not know what words to look for to describe racism. There are some experiences that only those who have endured them and who have reflected upon them can speak to. Imagine the deepest well, the haunting precipice to the darkness, to the abyss, and imagine then you cannot imagine further. That which you cannot imagine is not known to you. Even the best academics cannot find words.

Certain emotional experiences, certain situational traumas drown the psyche, crippling psychosocially the self.

Please do not speak to me about racism as if you are an expert on racism if you have never endured racism, because when you do, you reduce it to something that was never brutal, never oppressive. When you have not lived racism and you speak to racism as if you know it then you reduce it to something that was surmountable. Racism is insurmountable. You cannot beat racism, you can only survive it. Many of us become resilient but we do not become free of it.

Racism takes a huge toll, unleashes widespread suffering, making people inhuman. Racism is not just divisive, it is beyond separatisms – racism is genocide. Those who survive it are traumatised, beleaguered, even those who have risen to high office. Those who experience the worst forms of racism look over their shoulder. They look deep into the eyes of those who they meet for the first time. They listen to every word. They are on the alert. They fear this or that inference. Those who have survived racism, their majorly objective is that their children endure less of it than what they did.

Racism is haunting.

Let us tell you about it.

Australia’s Federal Parliaments still reflect a White Australia

November 14th, 2013

Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 sought to journey Australia in a new direction –  having condemned The White Australia Policy. Australia, dominated by a majorly conservative class and apothegms, was in effect trying to catch up with social movements around the world – such as with the United States of America’s Civil Rights Bill 1965, and the more liberal precepts of most of Europe. For Australia to be at least seen as striving for equality it had to formally replace The White Australia Policy, that policy which discriminated against all peoples with the exception of those of Anglo-Celtic-Saxon origins.

Despite a number of efforts, of various weight, to move Australia into a new direction – a multicultural Australia – there is still a long way to go in terms of understanding and reaching equality. Australia is still a nation dominated by the Anglosphere, and by premises and assumptions which have their origin-of-thinking in generations past, but these assumptions, despite the removal of The White Australia Policy, are still passed down, in one form or another, generation after generation.

The veils and layers of racism are myriad, and within these layers Australians are caught up within, whether complicit in one form or another, or whether reactive but yet hostage. Australia is indeed a very conservative nation, one of the world’s most conservative nations – in that social change agency is stifled. Australia does not have a history of great internal struggles in terms of unfolding human rights, social justice and equality. Australia’s affluence, owned predominately by its Anglo-Celtic-Saxon dominants, have not driven social change to the extent that it affirms and includes all Australians – this is self-evident. There will be equality in Australia when it is reflected in all our public domains and institutions. Political parties need to lead the way, but they lag among the worst offenders.

Our Australian parliaments do not reflect the demography of Australia and are still held hostage by the Anglosphere.

The origins of change in Australia are usually driven by external influences, from outside our borders – by social changes in the rest of the world. And because of the resistance by the conservative dominants to some of these social changes elsewhere in the world many meaningful changes endure a lag-factor. The lag-factor is self-evident. It can take a decade or two for Australia to catch up to some of these cultural waves.

Australia’s conservatism and racism can be found not only in an examination of The White Australia Policy, in the first half a dozen decades of our Federal parliaments, and in much of the media of the day, but it can also be seen in any examination of our Prime Ministers, Premiers, and legislation during the last several decades. Johannes Bjelke-Petersen who was Queensland’s Premier from 1968 to 1987 typified the dominant Anglosphere, working only its exclusive interests. He typified Australian racism even in the face of modernity.

Australia has still not recognised that there is only one race – the human race, and this is evident because Australia does not reflect the whole of its humanity in our parliaments.

In general, less than 10 per cent of Australian parliamentarians are of other perceived or reported cultural ethnic origins – this equation does not match the demography of the Australian population. There is a long way to go before there is equality in Government, and therefore till this happens there can be no equality before the law or in the public domains.

Australia’s conservatism, the affluence of its dominating Anglosphere, culminates in a lack of urgency on the part of those who have dominated during the last two centuries – therefore denying for the time being the harmony of equality.

Australia can only legitimise equality when its parliaments reflect the demography of Australia – confirming the Australian identity.

More than 90 per cent of Australia’s parliamentarians are of an Anglo-Celtic-Saxon origin, and of this 90 per cent, more than 90 per cent again have more than 100 years of familial history in Australia – therefore continuing the consummation of premises founded in origins-of-thinking generations old – passed down unequivocally by permeation and permutation, inter-generationally.

The first Prime Minister of Australia, Edmund Barton was one of the authors of The White Australia Policy. Therefore the highest office in the nation was causal to the implementation of extreme racism. The members of the Australia’s first parliament, following Federation, assembled in Melbourne on 9 May 1901 – 111 members. They comprised 36 senators and 75 members of the House of Representatives. All were men. Women became eligible to stand for Federal Parliament in 1903.

Although women were eligible to stand for election in South Australia, no woman did stand for federal Parliament until the election of 1903. Founding authors of The White Australia Policy continued in Australian politics till nearly the Second World War, with every Prime Minister up to 1923 having been a member of Barton’s first Parliament. The first Australian Government was delivered on an injunction that only British subjects could be elected to our parliaments.

Australia has come some way, though not all the way, with women in parliament – female parliamentary representation now sits at thereabouts 30 per cent, despite women making up 51 per cent of the Australian population. In 1962, there were only five women in parliament, but during the last decade there have been close to 70 women in parliament. The Australian Labor Party led the way with the affirmative actions to preselect women in winnable seats. Nevertheless, it has been a century-slow crawl to parity between men and women, and yet we are not there, though we are a significant part of the way there. However, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and multicultural Australia, one hundred years later we are still being denied any meaningful representation, and therefore the racism stares back. Will it take to 2100 before there is parity?

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have had negligible representation in our Federal Parliaments – with only Neville Bonner, Aden Ridgeway, Ken Wyatt and Nova Peris achieving a parliamentary seat. Yet, at this time 671,000 Australians identify with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage.

More than a quarter of Australia’s population was born overseas. More than an eighth of Australians were born in Asia. More than half of Australia has a parent who was born overseas. Australia does not reflect any of this in its Federal Parliaments. Therefore our Parliaments do not reflect Australia but instead of a particular section of Australia – and this layer remains the Anglosphere. Till Australia’s political parties and our Governments remedy this predicament our Parliaments in effect discriminate.

Despite the Australian Labor Party’s perceived bent with multiculturalism, it has relatively few parliamentarians whose cultural origins are other than Anglo-Celtic-Saxon. Similarly so with the Australian Liberal and National parties. The Australian Greens are also dominated by the Anglosphere, with the exception of Dr Richard Di Natale, all their representatives are Anglo-Celtic-Saxon.

Addressing racism is a cognitive experience, and as I describe, there are many veils and layers to racism, and therefore where racism is not addressed by actions that amount to equality, where affirmative actions are not enabled, therefore this too is racism, racism by neglect be it, nevertheless racism.

One aspirant political party that got it as close to right was The WikiLeaks Party. Of their seven Australian Senate candidates in the 2013 Federal election, three were born overseas, two were of Indian heritage, one of Greek heritage, and three were women.

Our parliaments are the heart and soul of the nation, they impose a consciousness that is collectivised by the humanity. Parliaments legislate values, morals, way of life, how we are to engage with one another. Unrepresented groups have no say in all this, this simmers tensions, can humiliate identity by making it a liability, cultural and historical, and therefore we engage in what should have been unnecessary, in the politics of identity, when equality should have brought us together in harmony.

Diversity in our Parliaments, reflective of our demography, is the difference between inequality and equality in our nation. Each political party should have an obligation to ensure the social justice of equal and fair representation, and therefore ensure that their policies and platforms are built from within an engagement representative of all Australians.

In Australia, the creation and expansion of the Senate was an affirmative action to ensure equality for the States, and eventually for the Territories. Therefore, affirmative actions can be for instance taken to ensure half our parliamentarians are women, half are men – The Senate should make 38 seats available to women, 38 seats to men. Political parties can take on the personal responsibility that people of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, Asian, African and other origins should be unequivocally represented in our parliaments. This will enfranchise Australia with equality and harmony and generate the respect of myriad values that will coalesce humanity, and unfold the human rights language and social justice vocabulary we are yet to read and hear and therefore understand.

Parity can be achieved.

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