NACCHO Aboriginal health and racism: Marcia Langton the nature of my Q and A apology to Andrew Bolt

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I believe that his obsessive writing about the colour of the skin of particular Aboriginal people is malicious and cowardly

Among the many race-obsessed expressions in his offensive, and now, unlawful, columns was the accusation that the defendants, all ”fair-skinned” Aboriginal people, claimed to be Aboriginal to receive certain benefits.

As every person who has been raised by an Aboriginal parent knows, we must be ”twice as good as the white man” to finish school and get a job and suffer endless racist slurs while doing so from idiots who say things like, ”You don’t look Aboriginal. Why don’t you identify as white?”

What are our children and grandchildren to say to these fools? Deny their mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents, and other family members because one of Bolt’s ilk is offended by their Aboriginal identity?

Marcia Langton responding to her comments on Q and A

Prof Marcia Langton, B.A. (Hons) ANU, PhD Macq. U., A.M., F.A.S.S.A.

Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies :

The University of Melbourne

I apologised for causing offence to him, because he stated that I should apologise to him because I had ‘hurt his feelings’ and offended him. I did not apologise for my beliefs or my intention of trying to explain my beliefs.

It was not my intention to cause offence to Andrew Bolt. Andrew Bolt as a newspaper column, a television program and a blog site, and ought to be capable of a robust debate, that is a dialogue rather than a monologue.

The debate concerns the fate of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 and whether this section should be removed. I say it should not be removed and he has demanded of the government that it be wholly removed. If the Parliament removes this section, he, and others who hold his views, will be free to continue to attack Aboriginal people on the grounds of the colour of their skin.

I believe that his obsessive writing about the colour of the skin of particular Aboriginal people is malicious and cowardly.

WHAT ARE THE IMPACTS OF RACISM ON ABORIGINAL HEALTH

The question should also be asked as to whether, by publishing photographs and personal details about these people, he is drawing attention to them for the benefit of his followers, who regularly demonstrate in the social media their extremist racist views.

He is putting the  lives and physical well being in danger from the mentally unwell among his fans? Note that so many of the reports about the Aboriginal people he attacks come from this readership and that Bolt acknowledges them by their first names.

This is a very dangerous practice and I reiterate that my concern is for the safety and wellbeing of the Aboriginal people he attacks.

Some are my friends and colleagues, and many I have never met. They not deserve the horrendous treatment that he metes out to them in his column and blog. I am astonished that the media and the Australian public allow this to continue.

He believes that he is not racist, and I believe that he is sincere in this belief. Nevertheless, I am particularly concerned about the harm that his attacks do to these young people, the impact on their self esteem, and the harm to other young Aboriginal people. I am concerned because of the very high rates of suicide among our youth and I believe that this kind of abuse contributes indirectly to this outcome.

See, for instance, attached report: Yin Paradies, Ricci Harris & Ian Anderson 2008, The Impact of Racism on Indigenous Health in Australia and Aotearoa:

Towards a Research Agenda PDF [2.9 MB] Discussion Paper No. 4, CRCAH, Darwin –

See more at: http://www.lowitja.org.au/racism-and-health#sthash.ePEHMyFC.dpuf)

He refuses to allow me to explain this argument to him. I have tried twice, once at a lunch with him, Jon Faine and Lyndon Ormond-Parker in Melbourne (organised by Jon Faine; date, Tuesday 26 June) and also on 2GB on The Steve Price Show.

On the ABC’s Q&A, I was drawing attention to the fact that his practice, often, is to publicly name a young fair-skinned Aboriginal person, such as Dr Misty Jenkins, and draw attention to their ‘light skin’ or appearance, and then draw an inference that the fact that this person identifies as Aboriginal is somehow fraudulent, or that this person has somehow gained an unfair advantage (such as entry to university) by identifying

The inference is that someone who doesn’t fit a ‘racial’ stereotype and who identifies as Aboriginal is necessarily fraudulent. At no time has he provided evidence to support these implied accusations, and the reader is left with the impression that every ‘fair-skinned’ person is fraudulently claiming benefits that the ‘taxpayer’ must pay for.

Bolt argues that there is only one ‘race’ and yet it is only ‘fair-skinned’ Aboriginal people who are subjected to his taunts, and not, for instance, Dutch Australians or Italian Australians, who might benefit from say the fact of the existence of SBS.

Why are there no objections to other Australians identifying with their cultural or national background?

Has Bolt ever objected to someone claiming to be Dutch Australian or Italian Australian or Irish Australian? Not as far as I know, and thus I conclude that his singling out of ‘fair skinned’ Aboriginal people goes to the issue of ‘race’ and could be construed as racist.

Another relevant argument is my belief that he conflates two problems, and that there are very serious consequences of this conflation.

His assumption, I believe, is that the insistence by the majority of Aboriginal people on our right to identify as such and to maintain our cultural heritage is merely a ruse to obtain welfare and other benefits from the ‘taxpayer.’

The issue of identification as Aboriginal must be separated from the question of what welfare and other benefits ought to flow to people who identify as Aboriginal. There are thousands Aboriginal people who do not qualify for any of the special Aboriginal benefits (such as Abstudy which is means tested, like most government social security and related payments) and yet proudly identify as Aboriginal. There is no financial benefit in doing so, and often there are disadvantages, such as racism in the workplace and various forms of racial discrimination, all of which Aboriginal people, whatever their skin colour, are prepared to endure in order to maintain their identity.

I have spoken and written about this in my speech to the Melbourne Writers Festival.

In this speech, I argued that the two fundamental issues need to be separated, and that all assistance should be on the basis of need not ‘race.’

(This is a complicated issue, and while I don’t agree with everything in this report, it is helpful in separating these issues; Dr John Gardiner-Garden, Current Issues Brief no. 10 2002-03, Defining Aboriginality in Australia, Social Policy Group, 3 February 2003, Canberra: Parliament of Australia, Parliamentary Library):

http://www.aph

I believe that Bolt believes something similar to me (which as I say I have tried unsuccessfully to explain to him) but instead of separating the issues, he continues to imply that any Aboriginal person who does fit a ‘racial’ stereotype and who claims to be Aboriginal, does so for the imagined financial and other benefits that are he says are accorded to them.

Further, rather than saying that any benefits ought to be on the basis of need, his repeated (and I believe, obsessive) published comments and articles on this matter present a series of imputations that as a whole can be interpreted as a complete rejection of the right of people descended from an Aboriginal person to identify as Aboriginal.

Here’s yet another example of this in his column of August 21, 2009, entitled, ‘The new tribe of white blacks’, in which he names and publishes photographs of two of my colleagues, Mark McMillan and Dani Mellor:

http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/column_the_new_tribe_of_white_blacks/P40/

There are many other such articles, including these, provided by David Barrow who has corresponded with the Australian Press Council on these matters:

(1) the article titled: “No comment” dated 24 October 2011 attributed to Andrew Bolt which I complained placed a gratuitous emphasis on the race and colour of Dr Leila Usher (a person of fairer rather than darker skin).

(2) the article titled: “No comment” dated 14 October 2011 attributed to Andrew Bolt which I complained placed a gratuitous emphasis on the race and colour of Tamika Chesser (a person of fairer rather than darker skin).

Mr Bolt makes the following statement in the article: No comment:

Tamika Chesser, 21, a former contestant of the reality television show Beauty and the Geek, was to have faced Southport Magistrates Court this morning to dispute allegations she struck a police officer after being arrested for public drunkenness back in April….

However, Chesser later made contact with lawyers from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service and the case went ahead in her absence this morning.

She was fined $800 for charges of assaulting police, obstructing police and public drunkenness .No conviction was recorded.

(No comments for legal reasons. Thanks to reader Jono.)

Race and colour of Dan Christian (a person of fairer rather than darker skin).

Mr Bolt makes the following statement in the article:

I cannot comment for legal reasons: DAN Christian believes he can make a difference as a frontline all-rounder and Aboriginal cricketing trailblazer for Australia. Christian, 28, is as enthusiastic about his Wiradjuri heritage as his inclusion in the second Test squad to face New Zealand in Hobart… Christian, from the NSW Riverina, led an national indigenous side on a tour to England in 2009.

“You are either Aboriginal or you are not. That is how we are brought up,” said Christian…

(Thanks to reader Ashley. No comments for legal reasons, thanks to the Racial Discrimination Act.)

(4) the article titled: “No comment” dated 27 October 2011 attributed to Andrew Bolt which I complained placed a gratuitous emphasis on the race and colour of Professor John Maynard (a person of fairer rather than darker skin).

Mr Bolt makes the following statement in the article:

A recent Federal Court ruling makes me unable to discuss issues of racial identification which are suggested by Professor Maynard’s home page: John Maynard is of the Worimi people of Port Stephens, New South Wales.

He completed a Diploma of Aboriginal Studies from the University of Newcastle in 1995 and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of South Australia in 1999. He was awarded a PhD examining the rise of early Aboriginal political activism from the University of Newcastle in 2003. Prior to his appointment as Chair of Aboriginal Studies/Head of Wollotuka School of Aboriginal Studies at the University of Newcastle Professor Maynard was Australian Research Council post-doctoral fellow and is Deputy Chairperson of Council with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) in Canberra.

Professor Bunyip discusses Professor Maynard’s latest book: At Newcastle University, Professor John Maynard has just published a book, The Aboriginal Soccer Tribe, which insists Aborigines played a game called Woggabaliri, which the Silly’s Craig Foster reports is “the earliest knownform of ball sport played by indigenous Australians and, according to the Australian Sports Commission, the game most closely resembled association football.”

Recent other examples of my inability under the law to say what I believe are here and here. I was also unable to comment on another professor’s position or on the significance of a video referred to here.

(No comments for legal reasons.)

http://www.andrewboltparty.com/Portals/0/APC_Barrow_Letter%282013_12_16%29.pdf

As David Barrow points out,

In all instances, Andrew Bolt’s articles appear to make a superficial negative imputation between the fairer rather than darker skin complexion of the people pictured and their identification as an Aboriginal.

Further, the imputations in the Andrew Bolt articles appear to be that the people pictured are wrongly identifying as an Aboriginal when their fairer rather than darker skin complexion should disqualify them from genuinely identifying as an Aboriginal.

http://www.andrewboltparty.com/Portals/0/APC_Barrow_Letter%282013_12_16%29.pdf

Race theories underlying Andrew Bolt’s assumptions

I believe that underlying Andrew Bolt’s assumptions are various beliefs about ‘race’ t. I have published about this problem of the underlying ‘race’ theories that impact on the representation of Aboriginal people over a 20-30 year period.

It is my very strong belief that Andrew Bolt has a responsibility to the public to inform himself about these matters. It is also my belief that his obvious failure, or perhaps, wilful refusal, to acknowledge these matters, especially the issue of identity, of which as Justice Merkel as cited in the above found, that some degree of Aboriginal descent is a necessary, but not of itself a sufficient, condition of eligibility) and stressed the role of social processes in establishing individual identity. According to his judgement, Aboriginal descent did not need to be proved ‘according to any strict legal standard’, it being: a technical rather than a real criterion for identity, which after all in this day and age, is accepted as a social, rather than a genetic, construct.

Much of my answer to this question (which would be very long if fully explained) is set out in this opinion piece published in The Age on October 2, 2011 in response to the findings of Justice Mordecai Bromberg in the ‘Bolt case’ (Eatock v Bolt (2011) FCA 1103, (28 September 2011) (2011 No. 2) FCA 1180, (19 October 2011):

http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/the-gripes-of-wrath-20111001-1l2z5.html

In this article, I write, for instance:

Bolt and his defenders are crying about an imagined right to unrestricted free speech. But speech is already restricted, for instance, by defamation laws that protect people’s reputations and by the Trade Practices Act, which outlaws false claims about products. it seems to me Bolt is saying that only people of the ”races” he approves of are entitled to such protections. In my view, his claim to the right of unlimited free speech only works if the presumption is that ”white people” like him are not members of a race, but normal.

In his way of thinking (and this is a common belief in Australia) only undesirable ”others” are members of a race, and hence, being a member of a race as he believes such to be constituted is inherently a bad thing.

It was ideas about racial purity, racial hygiene, the master race, the inferior races, a perverted idea about the survival of the fittest and other such nonsense that led to the incarceration of Aboriginal people in reserves in the 19th century to prevent ”mixing” of the ”races” and later, the segregation laws that specified where and how ”half-castes” and other ”castes” could live…

For those people who persisted in identifying as Aboriginal, however ”fair skinned” they were, to use the words of Mordecai Bromberg, life was miserable. This remains the case today, a fact of life for most Aboriginal people, and one that Andrew Bolt has perverted into a mythology based in lies and resentment.

Among the many race-obsessed expressions in his offensive, and now, unlawful, columns was the accusation that the defendants, all ”fair-skinned” Aboriginal people, claimed to be Aboriginal to receive certain benefits. As every person who has been raised by an Aboriginal parent knows, we must be ”twice as good as the white man” to finish school and get a job and suffer endless racist slurs while doing so from idiots who say things like, ”You don’t look Aboriginal. Why don’t you identify as white?”

What are our children and grandchildren to say to these fools? Deny their mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents, and other family members because one of Bolt’s ilk is offended by their Aboriginal identity?

This must be what Bolt wants. Just like the old Protection Board of the 19th century, he must believe that he can intimidate and terrify Aboriginal people into sneaking away and pretending to be ”white”, to deny their Aboriginal parentage and upbringing and the values and world view learnt in an Aboriginal family.

There were many Aboriginal people who were so intimidated and did sneak away and pretend to be ”white”. It was called ”passing”, a play on words, connoting both ”passing away”, as in dying, and ”passing himself off as white”.

Not quite despised but regarded as gutless, they were the ones who sneaked back to take advantage of the miserable ”benefits” that came with policy reform in the 1970s. Then, we called them ”very late identifiers”.

Of course, they only identified on paper when they filled in a form. They did not identify as Aboriginal in the community. And the reason why is obvious except to Bolt and his kind. What Bolt refuses to acknowledge, or is deliberately misleading about, is the fact that identifying as Aboriginal is almost certainly likely to lead to being run out of school by racists, unemployment and jail. Look at the statistics. That’s what the Close the Gap campaign is aimed at: reducing the Third World rates across almost every socio-economic indicator.

What is particularly insulting about Bolt’s diatribes against the particular individuals who litigated in this case is that each one of them has identified as Aboriginal, aimed high, and beaten the odds. They have achieved great things in their fields; each one has worked inordinately hard and striven for excellence. And each one has been recognised in his or her field for that excellence.

That is also Bolt’s gripe. His columns twisted their achievement into something sinister and underhanded. I can almost hear him muttering, ”How dare these racial hybrids disprove the theory!”

We don’t have to agree with every one of them; we don’t have to like each one of them, but none of them deserve the ugly scorn of Bolt’s columns in the Herald Sun.

Fortunately for young Aboriginal people, and especially our ”fair-skinned” brothers and sisters, Justice Mordecai Bromberg has found so at law.

On October 3, Andrew Brock’s article was published in The Age, stating my point very succinctly:

After more than 100 years of disadvantaging Aboriginal people with ”mixed blood”, conservative commentators like Andrew Bolt now claim there is too much support for mixed-blood Aboriginal people, and only ”real draw-in-the-dirt Aboriginal” people should be eligible for support. It is an old debate, and should be expressed with compassion for the past rather than vitriol.

Every system attracts rorts, and Aboriginal people dislike those who rort the system by falsely claiming to be Aboriginal. But Bolt’s arguments echo early colonial attitudes that presumed the end of the Aboriginal race in Victoria and complete assimilation to be the only solution for half-castes. After the judgment, Bolt wrote about the right to ”pressure people to give up some racial identity”.

Historian Chris Healy, author of Forgetting Aborigines, argues that if people want to forget Victoria was colonised and indigenous people were dispossessed, then a good way to do that is to deny Aboriginality and argue that we are all the same. Another way is to perpetuate a history that allows white people to define who is Aboriginal.

The history of Aboriginal Victorians since colonisation is a tragic, dynamic and inspiring story and one that Victorians might study before deciding who is and isn’t Aboriginal, based on the colour of their skin.

http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/society-and-culture/bolt-echoes-a-shameful-past-thats-more-than-skin-deep-20111002-1l3q0.html

Read more

There is a body of case law on determining Aboriginality, about which Gardiner-Garden writes the following:

The 1980s and the Rise of the Three-part Definition

In the 1980s a new definition was proposed in the Constitutional Section of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs’ Report on a Review of the Administration of the Working Definition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Canberra, 1981). The section offered the following definition:

An Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and is accepted as such by the community in which he (she) lives.

A definition similar to this had already started to be used by the some parts of the Commonwealth in 1978 and the Report of the Aboriginal Affairs Study Group of Tasmania, (1978, p. 16) found that this definition: provides three criteria which are necessary and sufficient for the identification of an individual as Aboriginal and is sufficient for such identification in Tasmania.

The 1981 Report gave the new definition added impetus and soon this three-part definition (descent, self-identification and community recognition) was adopted by all Federal Government departments as their ‘working definition’ for determining eligibility to some services and benefits. The definition also found its way into State legislation (e.g. in the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 where ‘Aboriginal means a person who: (a) is a member of the Aboriginal race of Australia, (b) identifies as an Aboriginal, and (c) is accepted by the Aboriginal community as an Aboriginal’) and was accepted by the High Court as giving meaning to the expression ‘Aboriginal race’ within s. 51 (xxvi) of the Constitution.

It was also used by the Federal Court when, in a first instance decision, it found that the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody had no jurisdiction to inquire into the death of Darren Wouters as the community did not identify him as Aboriginal nor did he identify himself as Aboriginal. Similarly, several justices in The Commonwealth of Australia v Tasmania, (1983) 158 CLR 1, observed that there are several components to ‘racial’ identity and that descent was only one such component. Justice Brennan concluded that while proof of descent or lack of descent could confirm or contradict an assertion or claim of membership of a race, descent alone does not ordinarily exhaust the characteristics of a racial group’, while Justice Deane argued that by ‘Australian Aboriginal’ would be meant ‘a person of Aboriginal descent, albeit mixed, who identifies himself as such and who is recognised by the Aboriginal community as an Aboriginal’.

The three-part definition was soon facing bigger problems that that posed by competition from either the blood-quotum definitions or the tautological race definition. In the 1990s the three-part definition continued to be used administratively and continued to be used by the courts to give meaning to the legislative expression ‘person of the Aboriginal race’ e.g. Justice Brennan’s 1992 Mabo (No. 2) judgement:

Membership of the indigenous people depends on biological descent from the indigenous people and on mutual recognition of a particular person’s membership by that person and by the elders or other persons enjoying traditional authority among those people.

It was soon apparent, however, that the three-part definition was itself open to different interpretation. When it came to the test, which of the three criteria was the most important? Which criteria, if satisfied, could carry an identification in the event that meeting the others proved problematic?

The 1990s and Problems for the Three-part Definition.

The three-part definition was soon facing bigger problems that that posed by competition from either the blood-quotum definitions or the tautological race definition. In the 1990s the three-part definition continued to be used administratively and continued to be used by the courts to give meaning to the legislative expression ‘person of the Aboriginal race’ e.g. Justice Brennan’s 1992 Mabo (No. 2) judgement:

Membership of the indigenous people depends on biological descent from the indigenous people and on mutual recognition of a particular person’s membership by that person and by the elders or other persons enjoying traditional authority among those people…

In the course of the 1990s there were cases when people identifying strongly as Aboriginal would claim that the sources were simply not available to prove their Aboriginal descent but that this should not mean their Aboriginality could not be recognised. On the other hand there were people who argued that Aboriginality should only be recognised with evidence of descent.

The debate became particularly divisive in Tasmania. In that state many people without ‘known’ Aboriginal family names, found themselves relying on self or community identification at a time when the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC), the main operator of Aboriginal services in Tasmania, was putting more emphasis on evidence of descent and reassessing eligibility for services based on more stringent requirements than those that had been imposed for the issue of earlier certificates of Aboriginality. The TAC started to refuse to allow certain children to continue to attend the Aboriginal Community School in Hobart or access after-school services and extra tuition and started to deny other indigenous-identifying individuals access to legal services.

This prompted the Tasmanian office of ATSIC to commission Koori Consultants to prepare a report into how the three criteria in the widely-used Commonwealth definition could be applied in Tasmania. The findings of the Final Report of the Community Consultation on Aboriginality in Tasmania, February 1996, tended to support the TAC approach.

The report found that an individual seeking to identify as an Aboriginal ought to be able to satisfy all three criteria – and that when it came to proving Aboriginal descent, authentic documentary evidence should be provided to show a direct line of ancestry through a known family name, to traditional Aboriginal society at the time of colonisation. The report suggested setting up an independent unit to research and verify genealogical material submitted in the support of claims.

Other inputs in the 1990s into the debate over whether the emphasis should be self/community-identification or descent, included judgement in three Federal Court cases.

The first case was the appeal against the Trial Judge’s decision in the 1989 Wouters Case. The initial finding had been that the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody had no jurisdiction to inquire into the death of Darren Wouters as the community did not identify him as Aboriginal and he did not himself identify as such. In Attorney-General (Cwlth) v State of Queensland, July 1990, the Full Federal Court reversed this decision and found that the Royal Commission’s letters patent were framed in such a way as to make Aboriginal descent a sufficient criterion.

Indeed, it was effectively found that the category of ‘Aboriginal’ could expand or contract according to the context and purpose and the Royal Commission was intended tohave such a broad ranging inquiry that its subjects could even include people whose identity was in some part in question. Justice French supported the three-part Commonwealth definition as used by Justice Deane in the Tasmanian Dam case but found that ‘the context of those observations [by Justice Deane in that case] and the purposes they serve do not translate to this case’.

The second case was Gibbs v Capewell, (1995) 54 FCR 503. An order was sought under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Act 1989 (ATSIC Act) in relation to the validity of an election held under that act. The first respondent, Mr Capewell, had his election to the Roma Regional Council of ATSIC challenged on the grounds that he was not an ‘Aboriginal person’ as required under the act and that votes were cast by people not entitled to do so because they also were not Aboriginal persons as required under the act. In his findings Justice Drummond agreed with the findings of Justice French in the above discussed Wouters case – that the three-part definition is of use but that the emphasis to be placed on the different criteria in this definition will vary according to context.

He argued that some degree of Aboriginal descent was essential, but that the extent to which the other criteria need to be deployed might depend on the degree of descent. In the absence of other factors a small degree of Aboriginal descent was not sufficient whereas a substantial degree of Aboriginal descent may by itself be sufficient to establish Aboriginality for legal purpose. In general Justice Drummond believed:

The less the degree of Aboriginal descent, the more important cultural circumstances become in determining whether a person is ‘Aboriginal’.

A person with a small degree of descent who genuinely identifies as an Aboriginal and who has Aboriginal communal recognition as such would I think be described in current ordinary usage as an ‘Aboriginal person’ and would be so regarded for the purposes of the Act. But where a person has only a small degree of Aboriginal descent, either genuine self-identification as Aboriginal alone or Aboriginal communal recognition as such by itself may suffice, according to the circumstances.

The third case was Shaw v Wolf (1998). Justice Merkel agreed with the conclusions of Justice Drummond in Gibbs v Capewell (e.g. that some degree of Aboriginal descent is a necessary, but not of itself a sufficient, condition of eligibility) and stressed the role of social processes in establishing individual identity. According to the judgement, Aboriginal descent did not need to be proved ‘according to any strict legal standard’, it being: a technical rather than a real criterion for identity, which after all in this day and age, is accepted as a social, rather than a genetic, construct.

Indeed: The development of identity as an Aboriginal person cannot be attributed to any one determinative factor. It is the interplay of social responses and interactions, on different levels and from different sources, both positive and negative, which create self-perception and identity.

Marcia Langton

Prof Marcia Langton, B.A. (Hons) ANU, PhD Macq. U., A.M., F.A.S.S.A.

Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies

Centre for Health Equity

The Melbourne School of Population and Global Health,

The University of Melbourne

You can hear more about Aboriginal health and Close the Gap at the NACCHO SUMMIT

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The importance of our NACCHO member Aboriginal community controlled health services (ACCHS) is not fully recognised by governments.

The economic benefits of ACCHS has not been recognised at all.

We provide employment, income and a range of broader community benefits that mainstream health services and mainstream labour markets do not. ACCHS need more financial support from government, to provide not only quality health and wellbeing services to communities, but jobs, income and broader community economic benefits.

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SUMMIT WEBSITE FOR MORE INFO

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NACCHO political news: Right wing Andrew Bolt claims in a “Diatribe ” I am an Indigenous Australian and “Australia is now under threat”

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Provocative Melbourne columnist Andrew Bolt has done it again, starting his recent Herald-Sun column  with the claim “I am an indigenous Australian” and warning that Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s plan to recognise Aboriginal Australians in the Constitution is “the path to apartheid”.

SEE full transcript below

We have resisted over two years to give Mr Bolt any “oxygen” but we felt that our members and stakeholders needed to read this latest diatribe

Mr Bolt, who was born in Adelaide to Dutch immigrant parents, goes on to declare “Australia is now under severe threat” due to the Prime Minister and in a series of increasingly alarmist pronouncements, often in quotation marks, says it’s socially dangerous, is racism and racial division and the move will permanently divide the nation.

Michael Mansell is an Aboriginal lawyer from Tasmania and a founding member and secretary of the Aboriginal Provisional Government

Here is Michael’s  response

The Guardian

Right wing commentator Andrew Bolt is at it again, this time arguing the sky will fall in if there is any constitutional recognition of the fact of Aboriginal people being here before whites arrived.

Everyone knows Indigenous people were here, so what’s the great fuss? Bolt’s view is an attempt to revive the Terra nullius doctrine which, for 200 years, fictionalised that the British came to an empty land and settled peacefully.

That myth was discredited  by the high court of Australia with its Mabo ruling 22 years ago, but people like Bolt are still yet to catch on.

Bolt also plays mischief-maker, claiming to be an Indigenous Australian. Like Pauline Hanson did in her maiden speech to the parliament in 1996, Bolt makes his claim based on a technical view that everyone born in Australia is legally, but not socially, an Indigenous Australian. His mischief is to ignore common sense and community normality which distinguishes between Indigenous Australians on the one hand, and white Australians like Bolt on the other.  Bolt wants to lead his followers through the chaos he ferments.

As part of the scare-mongering tone of his article, Bolt gets it wrong about the aim of the Aboriginal provisional government (APG), claiming it is a separatist movement. The APG wants an Aboriginal assembly of elected Aboriginal people with legislative power, returned land and a budget – in the same way different states do. And this aim is  within the federation of Australia. How is that separatism?

Bolt also claims the courts lean “too far” towards Aboriginal people. This is a case of never letting the facts get in the way of a good story. Aboriginals make up 26% of the prisoner population, yet only constitute 2.5% of the Australian population.  In 20 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody, Aboriginal imprisonment rates have climbed from one in seven to one in four. Too far? Come on.

There is a big difference between theoretical equality – a belief that 20m Australians all live the same and have the same opportunities – and real equality. Rich and poor cannot be treated alike for stealing bread. Sentencing courts across Australia acknowledge that people are not all the same. A woman suffering domestic violence who strikes out because she’s had enough should not get the same penalty as an alcohol fuelled king-hit merchant. Nor should the background of people suffering daily discrimination, leading to family dysfunction, be ignored as Bolt would have it. Yet Bolt implies that the courts should consider everyone’s background except that of Aboriginal people, and claims that is equality.

Bolt claims “Australia is now under threat” from just talking about constitutional reforms – but then again, he is very prone to exaggeration. What is really at stake is whether constitutional recognition will benefit Aboriginal people or merely warm the hearts of middle-class Australians – that’s the nub of the debate.

This national discussion can be robust if the views of all – including the alleged beneficiaries of constitutional recognition – are to be heard. I support Bolt’s right to participate in the debate, but he should avoid inflaming prejudice against Aboriginal people which leads to personalising and dismissal of Indigenous opinion.

Black Hip

Sadly, Bolt is secure in the knowledge he can regularly attack fair skinned Aboriginal people as not being eligible to speak for their people (the federal court found Bolt breached racial vilification laws), and thereby deny them the same freedom to participate in public debate that he enjoys.

ANDREW BOLT Article from all NEWS LTD papers

I AM an indigenous Australian, like millions of other people here, black or white. Take note, Tony Abbott. Think again, you new dividers, before we are on the path to apartheid with your change to our Constitution.

I was born here, I live here and I call no other country home. I am therefore indigenous to this land and have as much right as anyone to it.

What’s more, when I go before the courts I want to be judged as an individual. I do not want different rights according to my class, faith, ancestry, country of birth … or “race”.

I’m sure most Australians feel the same. We are Australians together, equal under the law and equal in our right as citizens to be here. That’s how we’ve been for generations. It’s why we’ve welcomed lawful immigrants and damned racists.

But this Australia is now under severe threat. Most incredibly, that threat is now led by Prime Minister Abbott, a Liberal. Abbott says he wants a “national crusade” to change the Constitution to recognise Aborigines as the “first Australians”.

“If we had known in 1901 what we know now, if our hearts had been as big then as now, we would have acknowledged indigenous people in the Constitution back then,’’ he said this week.

This is nonsense. The writers of our Constitution no more lacked heart than do people today.

The difference is they were inspired by the creed that all citizens — those, at least, we admitted — are as one before the law.

True, they did not always live up to that ideal (although, contrary to popular myth, they granted Aborigines the vote in all states where they had the franchise).

But even if we don’t always follow our moral compass, the answer never is to break it. Changing the Constitution to divide Australians between the “first” and the rest — on the basis of the “race” of our ancestors — is not just immoral and an insult to our individuality.

Worse, it is socially dangerous. This will not “reconcile” us but permanently divide. It would do no good to a single Aboriginal in bush camps, but would concede a critical point: that Australians in our most fundamental legal document are now to be divided by “race”.

Abbott insists he will not endorse any change that will have that practical effect in the courts. He means to treat the Constitution in this matter as if it were just a history book, not the foundation of our law.

But once he concedes the principle he concedes everything.

He will not get the “reconciliation” he imagines, some shiny day when we all hug each other in happy tears.

He will instead license demands from people, particularly race industry professionals, who will in some cases be satisfied with nothing less than apartheid.

Consider the history of this disastrous “reconciliation” movement. First, we were told we simply needed to say sorry to be reconciled.

As Aboriginal activist Professor Mick Dodson claimed: “The apology has the potential to transform Australia and, once and for all, to put black and white relationships in this country on a proper footing.”

Prime minister Kevin Rudd duly said sorry in 2008, but then another step was needed, after all — a law to recognise Aborigines as the First Australians.

As Ballarat elder “Uncle” Murray Harrison put it: “As far as I’m concerned this is what it’s all about, just being recognised would put the icing on the cake, mate.”

So last year Parliament passed an “act of recognition”, but that wasn’t enough, either. Now the Constitution itself must change, and already we’re told even that won’t do.

Abbott’s chief adviser on Aboriginal issues, Warren Mundine, this week said we must then negotiate treaties with each of Australia’s hundreds of tribal “nations” to “acknowledge Australia’s right to exist”.

Pardon? Argue with hundreds of Aboriginal “leaders” over whether our nation actually is entitled to exist? Have the incendiary debate Israel has with its Muslim enemies?

What next? Well, Aboriginal leader Sol Bellear, chairman of the Aboriginal Medical Service, Redfern, spelled it out on the ABC: a future in which “no Australian court has the right to sit in judgment of my people.”

Indeed, we already have an “Aboriginal Provisional Government”, led by Michael Mansell, with such a separatist agenda. So when exactly will we be “reconciled”? When our country is torn apart on ethnic lines, with more recently arrived groups demanding their own customary laws, too?

Stop now. Say no to racism. Say no to racial division. Say no to changing our Constitution

intelligent-argument

Andrew Bolt and Cane Toads, Both As Indigenous As Each Other!

And further response from THE Australian independent Media network

A few days ago, Andrew Bolt shared a rather strange idea:

“I AM an indigenous Australian, like millions of other people here, black or white. Take note, Tony Abbott. Think again, you new dividers, before we are on the path to apartheid with your change to our Constitution.

I was born here, I live here and I call no other country home. I am therefore indigenous to this land and have as much right as anyone to it.”

Of course, that caused a bit of a controversy. And, I am aware that Bolt thrives on controversy and does so deliberately – because let’s face it when it comes to his place in the media, it’s really all he has. Yes, I’m sure that some of you will say that if you just ignore him, then he’ll go away. While I can see some merit in that argument, I also think that lies and misinformation need to be challenged. Otherwise, we end up with things like Jon Faine telling a talkback caller that the Liberals took the sale of Australia Post to the election as one of their policies. Does anyone remember that? The sale of Medibank Private was tucked away in their fine print, but I can find nothing nor can I remember anything about it.

And so to the word “indigenous”. People are arguing. Some are saying that “technically” he’s right. However, I can find no definition to support even a technical argument to enable someone to argue that he or she is indigenous, simply by virtue of being born in a place.

The Oxford Dictionary defines it:

originating or occurring naturally in a particular place; native:

the indigenous peoples of Siberia 

coriander is indigenous to southern Europe

If someone can find a definition that includes zoo animals which are born here, then I’ll be willing to concede that Bolt is as indigenous as a cane toad. (Or almost, cane toads have been here for several generations now).

But Bolt is not content with manglng the word indigenous in order to inflame and insult. He goes on to quote Tony Abbott, before twisting history:

“If we had known in 1901 what we know now, if our hearts had been as big then as now, we would have acknowledged indigenous people in the Constitution back then,’’ he said this week.

This is nonsense. The writers of our Constitution no more lacked heart than do people today. The difference is they were inspired by the creed that all citizens — those, at least, we admitted — are as one before the law.

True, they did not always live up to that ideal (although, contrary to popular myth, they granted Aborigines the vote in all states where they had the franchise).

But even if we don’t always follow our moral compass, the answer never is to break it. Changing the Constitution to divide Australians between the “first” and the rest — on the basis of the “race” of our ancestors — is not just immoral and an insult to our individuality.

There is much in this that’s highly questionable, but his assertion that “although, contrary to popular myth, they granted Aborigines the vote in all states where they had the franchise)” can’t be allowed to go unchallenged.

Section 41 of the Constitution ensured that people who already had the right to vote weren’t disenfranchised by the new Federal Parliament.

 ’No adult person who has or acquires a right to vote at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of a State, shall, while the right continues, be prevented by any law of the Commonwealth from voting at elections for either House of Parliament of the Commonwealth.’

Its main impetus was to protect the rights of women in South Australia who had already gained the vote. As a by-product it gave rights to a number of others, including “non-white” migrants who had arrived before the “White Australia” policy and Indigenous Australians if they already had voting rights.

While two states specifically excluded Aborigines from voting – Queensland and Western Australia, others did little to make them aware of their rights or to encourage them to enrol.

The initial interpretation of Section 41, by the first Solicitor General was that franchise rights only included those who were on the role at the time of Federation, meaning that no new Aboriginal voters could be enrolled. While this was challenged successfully in 1924 by an Indian man who’d been rejected as a Commonwealth voter in spite of being enrolled at State Level, the history of the  voting rights of Aboriginal people is not as simple as Andrew Bolt implies with his throwaway line about “popular myth”. It wasn’t until the 1967 Referendum that the voting rights were ensured; to suggest otherwise, is to be mischievous.

But Bolt has always been one for contradictions. He suggests that he just wants us to be all one, but points out that both the judge and the prosecutor at his trial were Jewish. Not that he has a problem with that – it’s just that he thought that such people would understand the dangers of an oppressive government trying to shut down free speech. However, a media organisation should never use its free speech to “aid the enemy” by publishing allegations about who’s being spied on – even if it’s us – or  which suggest that our navy has treated people roughly when turning their boats around. In the case of the ABC, the whole organisation should be shut down or sold off for daring to publish that which the public has no right to know. A celebrity’s hacked phone records, however, are no reason to launch an inquiry which may inhibit the media from doing its job.

However, the thing I find worrying is not the fact that Bolt has made a fool of himself with his inaccurate and inflammatory use of language. It’s that – for just a millisecond – he’s made Tony Abbott look good. Oh, I know that some of you will question Abbott’s motives about the constitutional addition, but that’s not the point. When Bolt starts criticising Abbott as being too trendy and left wing, it almost makes Abbott sound like he’s mainstream. (No, of course, not to you died in the wool Left wing socialist, latte-sippers who lap up sites like this :)  ). While we’re making effigies of Bolt to throw on the bonfire, we can be distracted from the fact that he’s not the one in government. In the end, Bolt is an irrelevant errand boy who’ll write what he’s told.

And yes, I am aware of the irony of spending an entire blog only to say that Bolt doesn’t matter. However, I make the simple defence that one can’t allow misinformation to spread, no matter who’s spreading it.

“Much has been accomplished when one man says ‘No’!” Bertold Brecht

WE WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS BELOW

NACCHO Aboriginal health : Mundine “Racial vilification legislation is not about freedom but about how we think about race “

Wm

In the coming months, Australia will have a polarising debate on the federal government’s decision to amend section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, one that will test the government’s working relationship with indigenous people and other minority groups.

Nyunggai Warren Mundine  Opinion article Sydney Morning Herald 18 December

Pictured above  Justin Mohamed and Matthew Cooke with Warren Mundine (centre)  at the recent Garma Festival

The government believes the law goes too far in limiting free expression. Its decision was triggered by the censure of Andrew Bolt for articles suggesting ”fair-skinned” people of mixed indigenous and non-indigenous descent could not genuinely identify as indigenous, should not take part in indigenous arts and cultural awards and chose to identify as indigenous for personal gain. Bolt described these individuals as ”the white face of a new black race – the political Aborigine”.

All political traditions limit free speech; conservatives support censorship on moral and national security grounds, for example. The government’s job is to balance individual freedoms with legitimate restrictions to protect people from harm. Balance is achieved through consistent, principled reasoning, not reacting to single events. I’m concerned this is not happening here and I question whether the government would take similar action over other groups.

Take, for example, British National Party chairman Nick Griffin’s statements that black people cannot be British. Griffin believes British people of African or Asian descent are ”racial foreigners”; that British-born people of Pakistani descent are not British but remain of ”Pakistani stock”. Griffin has been convicted of inciting racial hatred. In 1998, the Howard government denied him entry to Australia.

Griffin imagines a continuing, authentic Briton and believes the absorption of non-white people into Britain and mixed marriages is leading to ”bloodless genocide” of the British race. This is obviously nonsense. Foreigners have been settling in the British Isles for thousands of years, through bloodless and bloody means alike.  British identity is defined by national laws and based on descent and citizenship, not genetic purity.

Indigenous people are also from tribal nations, with membership based on kinship and descent. Traditional laws are complex, highly developed and unique to each nation. Traditionally, these laws defined the nation’s members and regulated how people could interact. They also regulated how outsiders fit into the community.

I’m not part of a ”black race”. I’m from the Bundjalung nation and a descendant of the Bundjalung, Gumbaynggirr, Yuin and Irish peoples. My children and grandchildren are also Bundjalung, including those with ”fair skin”. For me, it’s just as offensive to say any of us aren’t Bundjalung as it is to say a black person cannot be British.

Bolt clearly does not see this parallel. He dismissed Mick Dodson’s call for a treaty because Dodson’s father is Irish. ”Sign a treaty with yourself, Mick,” he wrote. Yet I’m sure Bolt would not describe Britain as signing a treaty with itself when it agreed the Treaty of Versailles with Germany, even though Britain’s King George V was ethnically German and Danish. Likewise, a treaty in Australia would not be between black people and white people. It would be between the Commonwealth and indigenous tribal nations.

Bolt’s articles actually adopted the same logic as Griffin’s. The difference is Britain is a sovereign nation able to define its people through its laws. Indigenous nations were invaded and colonised and their traditional laws are not recognised. This difference is not relevant when it comes to defining racial vilification.

Jewish people are a nation of people originating from a common geography, genealogy, language and religion. They were also dispossessed of land and sovereignty and dispersed over thousands of years, yet they maintain their identity as a people and nation. Judaism is not just a religion; there are many secular Jews. Traditionally, Judaism is defined primarily by matrilineal descent: a person is Jewish if born to a Jewish mother. Israel’s law of return allows any Jewish person to migrate there.

Imagine if Bolt wrote that people with Jewish matrilineal lineage were not authentically Jewish and disputed their right to migrate to Israel because they did not resemble the Israelites Moses led out of the desert. Undoubtedly, he would warrant censure under section 18C. But I doubt this would prompt  a repeal of those laws.

It’s legitimate to question if people who are not disadvantaged are receiving benefits at the expense of those who are, but ”indigenous” is not synonymous with ”disadvantage”. Bundjalung law does not require that I have been discriminated against to be recognised.

Skin colour makes people a target of bigotry. However, bigotry is not always based on skin colour. I know ”fair-skinned” people who have hidden their indigenous ancestry to avoid discrimination. Indigenous people of mixed descent do not necessarily escape disadvantage or its consequences through their families. Some have suffered more.

Initiatives for indigenous arts, culture and language are not welfare. Their purpose should be to foster indigenous cultures and maintain them as they evolve. Skin colour and disadvantage are irrelevant for an award open to people of indigenous descent. Likewise, if the purpose is to break disadvantage, the question is whether the recipient meets the relevant disadvantage test. Being of indigenous descent is not, of itself, enough.

I doubt the government would repeal section 18C to protect the right to describe black Britons as ”the black face of a new white race” or to call people ”political Jews” because they do not have the same skin colour as Abraham. The problem is Attorney-General George Brandis does not regard Bolt’s articles as being in the same league.

This debate is not really about individual freedoms; it’s about perceptions of race and racism. The problem is not section 18C; it’s ignorance of the sophistication of indigenous laws and cultures.

I am pleased the Attorney-General has promised to consult before introducing legislation. I hope the federal government will listen and keep an open mind. Amending section 18C would send a dangerous signal. I believe it would be a mistake.

Nyunggai Warren Mundine is an aboriginal activist and former Federal President of the ALP.