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