As you would have observed from many previous essays, I have had a long time interest in indigenous affairs and in particular the need for Australians to address indigenous disadvantage.
Unfortunately we have made few inroads into addressing indigenous disadvantage. The reasons behind this are complex. But basically, although there are many indigenous families now doing well in mainstream Australia, we have allowed many other indigenous people to escape their responsibilities as citizens, family members and parents by providing a shield of victimhood for them to hide behind. This has been bolstered by the ideologues that prevent criticism of indigenous behaviour by wielding the sword of political correctness. Consequently it has become very difficult for those of us who have a concern for our indigenous fellows, and who are not indigenous ourselves, to make constructive comments on indigenous affairs without earning the epithet “racist”.
But then, fortunately, we have some courageous indigenous commentators who are prepared to take up the fight for progressing indigenous wellbeing unencumbered by the straightjacket of political correctness and asserting the authority that their own indigenous heritage provides them. When these people speak they do with greater authority than non-indigenous folk, however learned, are ever likely to muster.
As an example I would instance Bess and Jacinta Price, Anthony Dillon and Noel Pearson.
This week we had another such indigenous voice being raised to highlight the fact that indigenous people needed to stand up and be counted when indigenous dysfunction is to be addressed. That voice emanated from Warren Mundine. Mundine is an indigenous leader, former national president of the Australian Labor Party and a member of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council.
In an opinion piece published in The Australian (3/10/2016) Mundine urged indigenous people to call out domestic violence and to stop shielding the perpetrators.
He pointed out that the Four Corners expose of violence endured by inmates of the Don Dale Detention Centre, largely indigenous youth, dominated the media for more than a week and resulted in the creation of a Royal Commission to investigate these outrages. In or about the same time, two indigenous women were killed in broad daylight in or nearby Bill Bell Park in Darwin by their male partners. As Mundine points out, these atrocities were largely ignored by the mainstream media.
Mundine reiterated what Bess and Jacinta Price have told us, that the men who initiate these shameful attacks are protected by indigenous communities in a strange act of “cultural solidarity”. Because of the community support these men are given, and the retribution that might be expected from those might seek to break the norm, women seldom complain about their ill-treatment and when police investigate obvious cases of domestic violence they understandably decline to give evidence against the accused, fearing not only his retribution but that of the community which tacitly supports the commitment of such outrage.
As Bess Price has said, we seem obsessed with preserving so-called indigenous culture, and those that do so probably have romantic ideas of the “noble savage”. But why should we try to preserve an institution that takes such a high toll on women and children? How can we allow the perpetuation of such a state of affairs that shields indigenous men from assuming their responsibilities as parents and partners?
I won’t repeat the statistics that we have seen many times before that outline indigenous dysfunction in terms of domestic violence, homicides, repeat offenders, incarceration and so on. It is all too depressing.
But let me re-emphasise what I have written before in these pages, whilst the pedlars of indigenous victimhood would have us believe that the inordinate number of indigenous people incarcerated in our prisons is due to a flawed justice system, let me state categorically it is a symptom of a failed culture.
As I said at the beginning, we should have the basic expectation that all Australian citizens irrespective of race, should fulfil their obligations as community members, parents and spouses. We should have an expectation that women are treated respectfully, that domestic violence isn’t hidden and tacitly condoned and that the victims are protected and the perpetrators prosecuted. And guess what? If we did that, we might for some time have even more indigenous men incarcerated. But let us not pretend this is a failure of the justice system, it is a failure of indigenous culture.
How else is this failure manifesting itself? It shows up in indigenous children lacking proper care in many of these communities. They don’t attend school. They roam the streets at night. They get involved in theft and graffiti. (Often the theft is about getting something to eat because they have not been adequately provided for at home.) They don’t get a proper night’s sleep. There is no fitting environment in which to study at home. Even if they go to school, they go often without a breakfast and often in inappropriate attire.
It is tremendously difficult for these children to get a proper education in such an environment. One talented young girl who was doing well in an indigenous school I was associated with, was asked were her family proud of her academic success. She responded by telling us that after a good result they would often congratulate her and then offer to take her to the pub to celebrate. (She wasn’t of legal drinking age.)
Indigenous people, progressives, feminists and the media don’t want to talk about indigenous abuse. Partly they don’t want to talk about indigenous abuse. Partly they don’t want to say negative things about indigenous people. Partly they are labouring under the myth that calling out indigenous wrong doers tarnishes all indigenous men. What about indigenous women and children? Are people outraged only when white women are abused? Do only white children deserve protection from paedophiles?
Dr Jeremy Sammut, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, in his insightful book The Madness of Australian Child Protection writes:
The welfare of Indigenous Australians, particularly of women and children, has been and continues to be sacrificed in the service of a political ideology that, to the nation’s shame, has ill-served the most disadvantaged members of Australian society.
Sammut points out that the problem of indigenous disadvantage is perpetuated by the Left’s embrace of Aboriginal self-determination in reaction to the indignities imposed on our indigenous population by the “stolen generation”. This is exacerbated by the notion that the maintenance of Aboriginal culture and Aboriginal family units has paramount importance in rectifying indigenous disadvantage. Consequently, children are seldom removed from dysfunctional families and when they are, they are often returned even though the family environment hasn’t changed.
With respect to domestic violence, Bess and Jacinta Price have told us how many indigenous women suffer rape, violence and other indignities at the hands of their menfolk. The women are reluctant to report on such issues because they are then pilloried for betraying family and tribal solidarity. When perpetrators are reported, ranks are closed and police find it impossible to piece together sufficient evidence for prosecution.
So, as my title implies Warren Mundine was right to call out domestic violence in indigenous communities. But I believe Mundine doesn’t go nearly far enough.
Here are a few principles that I might posit as being important in addressing the issue of indigenous disadvantage. They are no doubt controversial and will of course be discounted because I am not indigenous and therefore have no right to comment on indigenous affairs.
- All Australians, whatever their ethnic origins, have responsibilities to be met with regard to abiding by our laws, contributing to our communities, being responsible parents, seeking gainful employment and so on. Indigenous people have no right to be immune from these expectations.
- Children who are abused and maltreated have rights. When a family environment can’t nurture and support them adequately they should be removed from their families. The notion that only biological families or kinship relations should be the only entities to care for them because of cultural issues is not only unsound but abhorrent. Child safety and access to a nurturing environment must surely take precedence over romantic ideals about cultural preservation.
- Women in indigenous societies have the same rights as women in society generally. Again these rights are more important than the (often confected) indigenous cultural norms that seek to keep them in subjugation. The men that propagate such violence must be brought to account.
- Many remote indigenous communities are perpetuating an indigenous cycle of disadvantage. In these communities women and girls are sexually and physically abused, children are neglected, alcohol and drugs are abused and there are no meaningful employment options. Because there has been a history of a generation or two of such dysfunction, parenting skills have been lost are there are few role models to assist in bringing them back. Real consideration should be given to shutting down the worst of these hell-holes. Never mind the monetary cost in welfare payments and support services such places attract, a far greater cost is the psychological and physical trauma being experienced every day in these dysfunctional communities.
- Finally, let us confront the romantic myth that Aboriginal culture is so wonderful and necessary for the proper development of indigenous youth. Ensconcing young indigenous people in these dysfunctional communities is merely guaranteeing the perpetuation of the problem. There are now many well-educated, successful indigenous folk in our society who meet all the criteria I have laid out above. Somehow they need to be the role models for young indigenous people. It is no wonder that Noel Pearson has championed the notion of getting young indigenous people out of their remote communities and into boarding schools where they can understand what is required to integrate into mainstream society. Similarly the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation has been offering scholarships to indigenous students to place them in our most prestigious schools to great effect.
As Jeremy Sammut points out, the conventional wisdom of the Left, and the captured government bureaucracies, is to promote the benefits of traditional Aboriginal culture, and the maintenance of kinship and family ties. Their reaction to the dysfunction that is caused is to plaintively demand more support services. They never seem to want to intervene directly to ensure indigenous people take responsibility for their own welfare but encourage the pervasive “victim” mentality which serves the “Aboriginal Industry” so well!