NACCHO political alert: Sol BelIear- I have a dream too, of basic human rights for Aboriginal people

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“The 1970s also saw the creation of Aboriginal Medical Services,  community-controlled groups that resulted in Aboriginal people solving  Aboriginal problems.

The health services were also inspired by the US civil rights movement. The  health of Aborigines today is among the worst on Earth, but there’s broad  consensus  it would be far worse were it not run by Aboriginal people.

But if Aboriginal control of Aboriginal lives can work in health and in NSW  land rights, why hasn’t it been allowed to work in all other aspects of our  lives?

Sol

From Sol Bellear is the chairman of the Aboriginal Medical  Service Redfern

I also have a dream. A lot of people my age remember where they were when man  landed on the moon. As a lifelong Aboriginal activist, I prefer to remember  where I was when Martin Luther King delivered his iconic ”I  have a dream”  speech.

That was our moon landing, a feat, until then, considered impossible – the  rallying of people of colour around the globe to stand up against inequality and  injustice.

This week was the 50th anniversary of King’s speech. When he delivered it, I  was a young man in school at Mullumbimby on the NSW far north coast. Our  teachers discussed the speech the next day in class but, in a place like  Mullumbimby, it was hard to grasp the importance of the occasion.

It wasn’t until I came to Sydney in the late ’60s to attend a memorial  service marking King’s assassination that the enormity of what King had said,  and what it represented, finally dawned on me. King, Malcolm X and other great  black leaders had challenged and dismantled much of the apartheid state in the  US, and the March on Washington was part of a growing push to see civil rights  legislation enacted there.

Much of the focus was on jobs and the right of African Americans to get  access to the real economy.

Of course, discrimination remains very much alive and well in the US today,  but the gains of African Americans can’t be denied. But sadly, as we mark the  50th anniversary, the truth of that era and the Aboriginal struggle also dawns  on me.

Yes, King’s speech inspired my people. And yes, King’s speech shone an  international light on the appalling treatment of Aboriginal Australians. But  while King was arguing for basic civil rights, in Australia we were still  fighting for basic human rights, a fight that continues today.

”I have a dream”  was delivered in 1963,  when Aborigines were still  classed as ”flora and fauna”. It would take another half a decade before our  nation voted  to count Aborigines  in the census, and afford us citizen  status.

But the great promise that the referendum held forth – justice and equality  before the law – has never fully materialised.

I’m not suggesting there haven’t been some gains in Australia. The activism  of the 1970s and ’80s, strengthened by the determination of men such as King and  women such as Rosa Parks, brought us modest land rights.

In NSW, there exists a land rights system that costs the taxpayer nothing,  and which is leading economic development in many metropolitan and regional  Aboriginal communities. The NSW system is not perfect –  indeed it has returned  to Aboriginal people less than one-tenth of 1 per cent of the total NSW land  mass – but, according to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of  Indigenous Peoples  James Anaya, it is the best land rights legislation on  Earth.

The 1970s also saw the creation of Aboriginal Medical Services,  community-controlled groups that resulted in Aboriginal people solving  Aboriginal problems.

The health services were also inspired by the US civil rights movement. The  health of Aborigines today is among the worst on Earth, but there’s broad  consensus  it would be far worse were it not run by Aboriginal people.

But if Aboriginal control of Aboriginal lives can work in health and in NSW  land rights, why hasn’t it been allowed to work in all other aspects of our  lives?

Why, 50 years after  King’s speech, does the most basic human right –   self-determination – still elude my people? Why, today, do we seem further away  from this dream than ever before?

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott recently promised to appoint a national  indigenous council if he is elected to office. Hand-picking our leaders to get  the advice you want to hear didn’t work in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and  2000s. It won’t work now. It’s as far from self-determination as you can  get.

And why is the other most basic of human rights  – justice – still denied  Aboriginal people?

Mr Abbott is promising compensation for Australian victims of global  terrorism, including legislation to compensate for victims of the 2002 Bali  bombing.

”When people suffer because of the fact they are Australian, a decent nation  should offer some acknowledgment, some recognition,” Mr Abbott said.

I agree, and I applaud the promise. But I also look forward to Mr Abbott  extending that same fine principle to my people, who suffered because they were  Aboriginal Australians.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd launched himself onto the international human  rights stage with the national apology to victims of the stolen generations. Mr  Abbott, if elected, can actually make it meaningful by delivering reparations –  a basic human right – denied those people.

If, 50 years after King’s speech, either of the two main parties really want  to engage with Australia’s first people on a basis of equality and respect,  they’ll find us ready, willing and able. Aboriginal people have always had the  solutions to Aboriginal problems.

Martin Luther King dreamed of a day when his people would be judged not on  the colour of their skin, but on the content of their character.

Fifty years on, I dream of a day when Australians will face up honestly to  the failures of their past, regardless of the kindness of their intent. I dream  of a day when non-Aboriginal Australians demand not a dream about a future for  my people, but a simple plan to restore our basic human rights.

Most of all, I dream of the day when Aboriginal Australians will be judged  not on the colour of our skin, but on the strength of our  self-determination.

Sol Bellear is the chairman of the Aboriginal Medical  Service

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/i-have-a-dream-too-of-basic-human-rights-20130830-2sw3r.html#ixzz2dUBMfk9Z

One comment on “NACCHO political alert: Sol BelIear- I have a dream too, of basic human rights for Aboriginal people

  1. Sol Bellear provides a valuable insight into the Australian aboriginal rights movement since the 1950s. A lot of great aboriginal leaders had achieved some great strides in aboriginal self determination over the years. However, since John Howard got rid of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, taking away a platform for aboriginal voices, the media and Australian governments have ignored aboriginal people’s rights. There is a silent, subtle and informal genocide and assimilation policies being implemented by all Australia governments. Where’s the evidence? The worsening third world and inter-generational poverty that aboriginal people continue to endure, as confirmed by the federal government’s own bureau of statistics. The current federal government’s ‘closing the gap’ policy has been proved to be ineffective by the government’s own review of it’s policy. So what have the two major parties done? They both have agreed to implement the same policy after the election. In response, two aboriginal communities have declared their own sovereignty which they never surrendered to the British and will continue to fight for their nationhood. We will see more of this as Australian governments continue their silent, subtle and informal genocide and assimilation policies. Australian governments are operating an apartheid regime with it’s intent to kill off aboriginal people. The only difference is we’re a minority and Australia is too far away for the rest of the world to care.

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