In 2008 Kevin Rudd, then Prime Minister, said “Sorry” to the Stolen Generation. This was a symbolic move to apologise for all of the harm that was been inflicted on to the Indigenous population since the British invaded in 1788. It was meant to represent a new beginning towards harmony and reconciliation. In 2015, 8 years on from Rudd’s “Sorry” have we as a nation moved forward to embody a new age of unity and harmony or are we regressing and living in a land of hypocrisy instead?
Unfortunately, we are most definitely the latter. Tony Abbott, Australia’s Prime Minister, has made it abundantly clear that his position is a regressive one when it comes to the Indigenous population. His comments “that in 1788 it was nothing but bush” that the “marines, convicts and sailors…must have thought they had come to the Moon, everything would have seemed so extraordinarily basic and raw and now…a country that is free, fair and prosperous’ harkened back to the now overturned position of ‘terra nullius’ declared by British forces when arriving to Australia (stating there were no inhabitants therefore the land was free to claim).
Tony Abbott also seems to be stalling on the constitutional recognition of Indigenous population, and staving off the vote until 2017. Perhaps such stalling is related to the Recognise campaign’s recent poll which showed that if voted on today the constitutional reform would most definitely pass.
These opinions are not Tony Abbott’s alone, but instead represent a wider ignorant understanding from the non-Indigenous population on what the land, the people and the 1788 invasion means to the Indigenous population.
While Reconciliation Week (May 27- June 3) is about reconciling with Indigenous peoples, the Western Australian government is hypocritically cutting off needed services, such as water, to Indigenous roughly 150 communities in remote areas. The WA Premier may state that he is not breaching any UN conventions. However, by creating an environment which is cut off from essential services, he is effectively forcing them off their rightful land.
In its Rights for Indigenous Peoples the UN states that the Indigenous population of any land have the right to live their life as they see fit, according to their own laws, spirituality and education. This includes the ability to live as they please on their land. After invading over 220 years ago, and nearly committing genocide on an entire nation of people, it would seem that to create true Reconciliation basic services and allowing Indigenous peoples to define themselves and their Sacred Sites as they see fit is the least that could be done?
Join the Recognise campaign today.