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(Are we) in this together?

29 May 2020

This year’s National Reconciliation Week theme is In This Together. However, are we really in this together? Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have called for a voice, we have called for a treaty, and we have called for a truth-telling commission.

We are in National Reconciliation week which commenced on 27 May 2020. It runs for one week per year at the same time. The day before this week is National Sorry Day. One day to reflect on the pain and suffering Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people and their communities mourn the loss of the Stolen Generations. Yet, we continue to see Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children removed from their families and communities at alarming rates.

In an article by Megan Krakouer and Gerry Georgatos, regarding the removal rates of all children with specific reference to Aboriginal children and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD). They state, in relation to Aboriginal child removal data around the time The Bringing Them Home Report was finalised, “There were just over 2,000 removed in 1997. Currently, there are over 23,000 First Nations Children removed from their homes”.

In a report, by Ellie Archibald-Binge from the Sydney Morning Herald, investigating the funding cuts to child protection in NSW, it is clear that the cost of protecting children outweighs the impact of child removal, altogether. Archibald-Binge states “the cycle of trauma continues for Aboriginal children, who make up almost 40 per cent of all children in out-of-home care in NSW”.

This is particularly concerning in relation to the funding cuts ahead of National Sorry Day.

So, what is it that Australia is actually sorry for? Is it the high numbers of Aboriginal children out of home care costs associated with the continued policies? Is it the continued overrepresentation of Aboriginal children forcibly removed from their family?

The continued forced assimilation of Aboriginal people since colonisation began in this country has continued to impact on Aboriginal communities in ways that the government partially acknowledge and/or address. We all know and have been taught from a young age that sorry means you do not do it again; you learn from the mistake and do not do it again.

Otherwise, you are labelled a psychopath.

According to GreenspanPsychopaths are agents who lack the normal capacity to feel moral emotions (e.g. guilt based on empathy with the victims of their actions)”. The government is able to avoid this title as they hide behind laws and policies. Their manipulation to society, in the continuation of repeated claims of stereotypical social constructs of Aboriginal people being inherently criminal – and yes, thank you anthropologists for comparing Aboriginal culture to British ‘standards’ of living, are one of the drivers behind their false claims.

National Reconciliation Week is one week, seven days, for Australia to come together and reconcile the past in order for an improved future.

A past full of hidden truths and untold massacres; stolen generations through child removal; the stolen lands for which non-Aboriginal people benefit from; constant surveillance and high incarceration of Aboriginal people; dispossession from country and forbidden practice of culture; language loss; the slavery – I could go on and for most Aboriginal people, we question whether these are ‘just’ past injustices. There have been so many walks across the country, in protest for the treatment of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people.

The racism that wreaks like a rotting sheep on the lands where the blood of Aboriginal people stain the once, pure and rich country. This week is a week to reconcile. What is it that Aboriginal people have to reconcile? The realisation of the past injustices for Aboriginal people in relation to reconciliation is a flawed term. Something that is pushed back onto Aboriginal people as fixing a problem they were not the cause of, but simply the end product. White Australia has everything to reconcile. The fraught relationships, the continued control, the denial of truth, the over policing of Aboriginal people, the under policing of Aboriginal people as victims of crime.

There is a long way to go in reconciling the life expectancy of Aboriginal people compared to non-Aboriginal people, which is 7.8 years lower for Aboriginal females and 8.6 years lower for Aboriginal men.

This year’s National Reconciliation Week theme is In This Together. However, are we really in this together? Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have called for a voice, we have called for a treaty, and we have called for a truth-telling commission. These are demands, not requests, yet we are still ignored.

Reconciliation is not a one-sided movement; it is up to the responsibility of settler colonialism for their forced authority, constant domination and control over the lives of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people. Until incarceration rates and recidivism rates decrease, the health and well-being increases, access to services, education and housing is equal for all Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, we are not in this together.

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