The Break by Katherena Vermette
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A powerful, realistic, tough and heartbreaking novel. It is about powerful women and broken women. It is about Indigenous people devastated by the invaders of their land and their culture. It is about male violence and the connections, bonds and empathy between women that is their only hope for survival. A book that will remain with me for a long time.
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The Break by Katherena Vermette
Racism and misogyny are at the heart of our two major parties.
But what else would we expect from a white imperialist, capitalist, patriarchal system.
Policies of both of the major parties over the past ten years have gone to new depths in their attacks on our First Nations peoples – their culture, their way of life and their very lives.
And it is women and children who inevitably have suffered mostly as a result of these policies.
The latest move is the threatened closure of remote Aboriginal communities.
The threatened closure of Aboriginal communities comes as a result of the Federal Liberal coalition government cutting funding to Aboriginal communities and handing responsibility for these communities to State Governments.
The Western Australian government has stated that it plans to close over 150 Aboriginal communities.
PM Tony Abbott’s racism and disdain for our First Nation’s people is evident in his sneering comment in relation to the forced closure of communities.
“It’s not the job of the taxpayers to subsidize lifestyle choices.”
This is at a time when both Federal and State governments are rolling out the Welfare card.
“Women and particularly indigenous women are the most impoverished in the world.”
Eachone has written an excellent article about this: “Cashless Welfare to target Violence Against Women in Australia? Not in my name. Sexist, Racist and Unacceptable”
On a recent Late Night Live panel heard Marcia Langton describe the situation for Indigenous women as a ‘national crisis’
“Indigenous women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of domestic violence than their non-Indigenous counterparts.”
And some of the problems for Indigenous women include:
– Reluctance to report
– Mistrust between police and indigenous women
– Racism within authorities
The instigation of a welfare card practice leads to a greater exploitation and vulnerability for women and children.
“Removing control of money from recipients is a dangerous practice. What the outraged or concerned media and general public call ‘paternalism’ is actually far worse. It is a means to ensure an expanding class of people vulnerable to exploitation. That the majority of the victims are women, indigenous and the young is not just an extreme act of ‘paternalism’, it is an extreme commitment to profit from the abuse of the bodies and lives of those most marginalized, by taking away what limited independence we may have.”Eachone
In 2007, the federal government staged a massive intervention in the Northern Territory on the basis of the report, “Little Children are Sacred” as a result of a government inquiry into child sexual abuse in the Northern Territory.
“The fall-out was a full-scale, (including army), intervention which resulted in the reinforcement of the unwavering, systemic stealing of children from their arms, to who knows where? The Department of Childrens Services have lost the files on some 8,000 children who are thus just “disappeared”.”
The intervention in fact has done little to address child sexual abuse or violence against women.
It is horrendous that our white male politicians use (abuse) the concept of protection women and children from violence and abuse for their own ends – mining of traditional lands is a suspect in this – whilst they go about destroying lives and communities.
“WA Premier Colin Barnett is using “child protection” as an excuse to forcibly remove entire communities from their lands, recycling the same lies about child abuse used to justify the NT Intervention. These forced closures will be systematic child abuse on a massive scale, putting families into destitution, more kids into foster care, more adults into prison.” Stop Stolen Generations
These policies and actions have in fact had a devastating impact on our First Nations people, particularly women and children.
And this is all being done under the well developed and over reported fabrication that our Indigenous peoples and communities are dysfunctional.
The Eachone article highlights the racism and misogyny that these policies incur.
The allegations of violence and abuse show no details of who and why such abuse occurs in Indigenous communities – and shows little information about how this compares to white Australia.
Who is abusing young girls in these communities? Is it the same white men who commit violence and abuse in Australian society generally?
“There was, and is, no acknowledgment of who does this to girls and women (men do this to them). There was no acknowledgment of more than 200 years of ongoing genocide in this country. Certainly, not a word about the prostituted as a class nor the acknowledgement of what the underlying structure of capitalism and male entitlement does to girls and women.”
We know that young girls who are impoverished and vulnerable are more likely to be targets of abusive men – “the worst of those committing predatory behavior and violence.”
Interestingly, two years after the Northern Territory Intervention, The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs’ report Closing the Gap in the Northern Territory reveals that
• convictions of child sexual abuse involving Aboriginal perpetrators have “barely changed”,
This is a worldwide problem for Indigenous girls and women.
And despite PM Rudd’s National apology to the Stolen Generation in 2008, children continue to be removed from Aboriginal families.
“Since 1997 however, the number of Aboriginal children being forcibly removed has increased more than five times, with more than 15,000 Aboriginal kids in foster care today. In WA more than half of all children in ‘care’ are Aboriginal, despite being less than 5% of the population.” Grandmothers against Removals
After 5 years of the intervention,Creative Spirits notes these astonishing statistics.
The rate of suicide among Aboriginal girls has “greatly increased” since the intervention was launched. Girls accounted for 40% of all Aboriginal suicides of children under 17 years, a rate which is “the most in the Western world”. Prior to the intervention the suicide rate was “significantly lower” and in 1980 it was zero.
There was a 69% increase of children getting taken into out of home care compared to 2007 figures.
There has been a 40% increase in Aboriginal incarceration.
Thousands of Australians marched in Australia last week against the forced closures of remote Aboriginal communities.
It received little media attention – except in the Murdoch press where they were described as “a selfish rabble” – see report from Junkee
Since the British government invaded this land we have declared war on our First Nations People – and we are continuing to destroy their traditions, their cultures and their lives.
This is not going to stop soon.
We will need a revolution to stop this.
And all Australians need to show our support for our First Nations people.
SOSBlackAustralia/Grandmothers Against Removals: https://www.facebook.com/supportsosblakaustralia
Stop Stolen Generations: http://stopstolengenerations.com.au/
I have quoted certain aspects of this article:
“I have seen firsthand how child sexual abuse is rife in every part of the Australian community – but only sometimes is that abuse reported in full colour.”
“The Royal Commission on institutionalised child sex abuse is shining a light on dark corners of systematic abuse of Australian kids over many generations. In the vast majority of the terrible cases we’ve heard about, the perpetrators and those who protected them have been seemingly upstanding, often senior, male community leaders.
Old white men, in other words.”
As human rights lawyer Anne Gallagher comments:
“Cheap labour, cheap sex and cheap goods are woven into the fabric of our economy, our community and our individual lives within Australia.”
“Stories like these are important. Yet too often, the fact that the abusers in these stories are not just western men, but white western men, goes unremarked.”
“International research has shown that people who suffer the worst abuse are often in positions of helplessness or poverty.”
“The reality is that the majority of my own Aboriginal people who have had to deal with abuse are struggling with these same issues of uncertainty, poverty and alienation that we know compound sexual violence and abuse.”
“I can’t help but wonder: what would happen if white Australian children, women and men spoke up about the hidden abuse in their families, the way that Aboriginal people increasingly are doing?
I honestly believe if this was to happen, the true statistics of those suffering would send shockwaves through this country.”
Read the full article here
Well what a night of television.
It started with the news (ABC SA). Their 3 leading news items were as follows:
1. The finding of the Coroner’s report into the death of Chloe Valentine – a four year old girl whose mother and her partner were found guilty of criminal neglect and manslaughter. The report was scathing of SA’s child protection system and has called for a massive overhaul.
2. The drowning of 3 Sudanese children (another child is in a serious condition) in Melbourne in a car driven by the mother which ended up in a lake. The mother is now helping the police with their inquiries.
3. 250 Australian men convicted of child sex offenses traveled to the Philippines last year.
“It comes as Filipino police continue to build a case against an Australian man, Peter Gerard Scully, who is accused of some of the worst child sex offenses in the nation’s history.”
He is also being charged with the death of at least one child. It is understood that he was producing child pornography for sale.
Then I watched Redfern Now. It was about 2 Indigenous women raped by a white middle class man. They chose different paths – one not wanting to report it to the police, fearing the shame and humiliation; the other reporting him and taking him to Court and grilled because of being a single mother, Centrelink fraud and working for cash. In a positive turn of events the man is found guilty – not a common occurrence in rape cases.
Why do all of these make me angry; make me want to cry with rage and sorrow?
We know the Child Protection system sucks. It lacks resources, funding and properly trained and experienced staff. It largely targets women – whether they are victims of male violence; living in poverty with poor resources to raise their children. And we also know that the child protection system takes a punitive approach to women, regardless of their circumstances – because well women are always to blame.
At the same time that the SA government says it will respond to this report, funding is being cut from so many services that could help mothers, particularly single mothers.
And yet one of the key recommendations of the Coroner’s report:
“The State Government begin negotiations with the Commonwealth to make a child protection income management regime permanent.”
A measure that will leave women with fewer resources, tells them they are inferior and incapable of looking after themselves, aimed at working class mothers – and assumes that child abuse is a class issue – that it is only the poor who neglect and abuse their children.
And it is important to say – there is a difference between neglect (which often is a result of poverty) and child abuse – so often about male violence against women and children – in all classes.
And when we turn to the tragedy of the Sudanese children – what resources do we provide to those from war-torn countries who come to Australia seeking shelter and a better way of life? How much trauma counselling is available; how much support are they given in adapting to a strange and alien environment? And importantly how do the media portray our immigrants and refugees from non-Western countries? How much racism are they subjected to?
It is astounding that the Federal Government can make it illegal for Australians to travel to Syria – out of our fear of “home-grown terrorists” – and we have no laws that prevent convicted child sexual abusers from traveling to South East Asia where extreme poverty puts children at risk of rape and murder – by Australian men.
In all of these cases it is really quite simply the paternalistic, imperialist, patriarchal culture which creates these situations – and provides no avenues to challenge this ideology.
I doubt that any proposed changes to the Child Protection system will really make children safer. It is far more likely to become more punitive to women in vulnerable situations.
Our current ethos is racist.
If this Sudanese mother is found responsible for the deaths of her children it surely must speak to our failure.
And why is it not a national emergency that Australian child sexual offenders are granted the freedom to travel oversees to sexually abuse children?
And women continue to be raped – and when they are Indigenous women – they have very little hope of the judicial system providing justice.
But we are so grateful to Deborah Mailman (and the writers) for her portrayal of a strong Indigenous woman who takes the system on and wins!
I was 20 years old when Gough Whitlam became Prime Minister of Australia.
It may therefore be seen that this post reflects my memories of youth – of naive hope, optimism and the enthusiasm of youth.
It was also the 1970’s when change was in the air.
But I do think Gough Whitlam’s time as Prime Minister was monumental in Australian politics. And this definitely has borne out in the past few weeks as Australia has reflected on his life and his contribution to Australia.
I was very keen to watch his memorial service on television this morning.
And I must firstly reflect on the reaction of the crowd outside the town hall as the dignitaries arrived.
It was obviously a Labor crowd, as they cheered resoundingly for the past Labor Prime Ministers on their arrivals such as Hawke and Keating.
And the boos for Howard – and also our current Prime Minister Abbott.
But I was most pleased with their response to Julia Gillard. The crowd loudly showed their pleasure with her – and most impressive was the standing ovation she received when she walked into the hall.
The contrast between the response she received and the one Kevin Rudd was received was palpable.
As Katherine Murphy from the Guardian commented:
“The mourners roared for Julia Gillard, and mumbled ambivalently for Kevin Rudd.”
The blue ties might have won the round but Julia will be the historical winner.
The memorial to Gough Whitlam was definitely powerful and emotive. The speakers were awesome. They reminded us of all that Whitlam achieved in his relatively brief period of office.
Cate Blanchett reminded us eloquently of some of what he worked on
– Free tertiary education
– Equal pay for women
– Supporting mothers benefit
And the establishment of the Women’s Advisor to the Prime Minister and Office for Women.
Mr. Whitlam discusses International Women’s Year with two members of the National Advisory Committee, Ms. Elizabeth Reid and the Secretary of the Australian Government’s Department of the Media, Mr James Oswin (National Library of Australia nla.pic-vn3510683, photo: Malcolm Lindsay)
Noel Pearson’s speech was also passionate and commanding.
“Without this old man, the land rights of our people would never have seen the light of day,” Mr Pearson said. “He truly was Australia’s greatest white elder…”
“I can scarcely point to any white Australian political leader of his vintage and of generations following of whom it could be said without a shadow of doubt, he harboured not a bone of racial, ethnic or gender prejudice in his body.”
It was heartening to see the emphasis on Indigenous Australians in this memorial. For of course one of the most iconic images we have of Whitlam is him pouring the earth into Vincent Lingiari’s hands.
Paul Kelly and indigenous Australian singer-songwriter Kev Carmody performed “From Little Things Big Things Grow” written by them in 1991 telling the story of the Gurindji people’s struggle for equality and land rights.
I understand that real power is not invested in our parliament but that it only operates within the parameters set by the patriarchal, capitalist machine. No real change can occur without dismantling patriarchal capitalism.
But the optimism and enthusiasm, the inclusiveness and the tolerance which the Whitlam government brought to Australia is a time worth honouring.
“He touches, still, the millions who share his vision for a more equal Australia, a more independent, inclusive, generous and tolerant Australia, a nation confident of its future in our region and the world,”
Graham Freudenberg, Whitlam’s speech writer.
It is a stark contrast to the current neo-conservative politics when fear is used to win votes; when winning the next election is the force behind governments, rather than bringing about change;when three word slogans are deemed to be enough, we are right to remember how sometimes some good can happen. And that sometimes courageous politicians can make positive differences in our everyday lives.
“This was the politics of real people: the people who remain engaged, the people who believe, and persist, and endure all the failings and the disrespect and the daily manipulation to insist that politics is and must be a noble cause, periodically inhabited by people of courage.”
Shame, Rage – and a great sadness.
This is what I felt after watching John Pilger’s ‘Utopia’ on Saturday night on SBS.
Shame, for myself and all Australians, that our First Nation’s people live in such poverty and degradation.
Shame for my apathy and ignorance, for Australia’s apathy and ignorance.
Rage at the inhumane, racist treatment that our First Nation’s people are subjected to.
And a great sadness not only for our First Nation’s people but for all Australians.
For the dehumanisation, degradation and humiliation that we subject indigenous people to, dehumanises, degrades and humiliates us all.
It would be beyond me to do justice to the power of this film, but I do want to document some impressions I gained from the film.
The film shows a number of ironic juxtapositions.
One of them is at Rottnest Island W.A.
I was ignorant of the fact that Rottnest Island was used as a penal settlement in the 1800’s and that thousands of Aboriginal men were imprisoned there.
Pilger shows around the luxury hotel which was once the prison compound – with little indication of its dark past.
We fail to acknowledge in our history books, our museums the horrific history of white invasion of Australia and the treatment that our First Nation’s people have been subjected to since the invasion.
If there is no acknowledgement of this history, of these harms, how can we ever expect healing and reconciliation?
Poverty and Housing
On the news we often see the horrific conditions under which remote Aboriginal communities live. And so often the inference is that it is their fault.
Pilger highlights how negligent consecutive governments have been in providing adequate living conditions for these communities.
Another ironic juxtaposition – the luxury hotel at Uluru – and out of tourists’ sights – the asbestos-filled, derelict houses that the Aboriginal people are forced to live in.
The Northern Territory Intervention
Allegedly in response to ‘Little Children are Sacred’ report the Howard government instituted the NT Intervention.
Rather than following the report’s recommendations – they sent in the army.
An ‘invasion” as experienced by the communities.
Pilger also underscores the role that ABC’s Lateline on 21 June 2006 titled “Sexual slavery reported in Indigenous community”. He interviews Chris Graham, founding and former editor of the National Indigenous Times who shows how this report was based largely on fiction.
So it was all based on lies and more lies.
One of the interesting facts highlighted by ‘Utopia’ was that the Northern Territory has the lowest rates of child abuse in Australia.
For more information see Myths and Facts about Intervention
Pilger shows clearly that the NT Intervention was really about controlling the people and their lands and highlights the powerful interests of the mining industry.
And the impact was described as “Collective despair” and sense of betrayal – yet again.
And State child protection agencies continue to discriminate in specifically targeting Aboriginal children and their families.
There is a new stolen generation happening today – in our time.
Indigenous Incarceration and Deaths in Custody
Most heart wrenching were the pictures of police brutality of aboriginal people and incidents of deaths in custody.
No charges laid; no convictions for such atrocities.
As stated in the film: “There can be no reconciliation without justice.”
Connections were made between Australia’s treatment of our First People with the apartheid regime in South Africa – but there is no international condemnation.
And there was the statement: “We are refugees in our own country.”
Thank you John Pilger for your courage and passion in speaking out.
And thank you to all those First Nations people who told their stories.
We must ensure that these voices are not wasted.
But in this current political climate this is unlikely given that the Coalition government is about to cut $534 million from the budget from Aboriginal programs.
Shame! Shame! Shame!
Read more about the continued removal of Aboriginal children from their mothers