Racist Oz

In the 1980's during anti apartheid debates in both the Plaid Cymru conference and NUPE's* Welsh conference I suggested that Australia should be considered a pariah nation because of its abominable record on race relations, especially in the way in which it treated native Australians (The Aborigenes). My suggestion went down like a lead balloon in both places. The Australians were seen as the good guys, especially by the left who saw Labor Prime Minister Gough Whittlam, who was sacked by the Queen's Governor General in 1975, as a political martyr to the Socialist cause.

In both conferences I was seen as a trouble maker trying to detract from the debate on South Africa and trying to dilute the condemnation of South African and United States problems with race. In both places I was condemned for being racist for suggesting that Australia's record was equal to, if not worse than, that of South Africa and the USA.

I feel vindicated today, having read an article in the Guardian by vetran left wing journalist John Pilger that confirms what I was saying about Australia a quarter of a century ago:

The facts are not in dispute: thousands of black Australians never reach the age of 40; an entirely preventable disease, trachoma, blinds black children as epidemics of rheumatic fever ravage their communities; suicide among the despairing young is common. No other developed country has such a record. A pervasive white myth, that Aborigines leech off the state, serves to conceal the disgrace that money the federal government says it spends on indigenous affairs actually goes towards opposing native land rights.

Australia's record on attitudes towards the indigenous population is abhorrent, it should be condemned by all decent people, and I still think that we should use the same sanctions against Australia as were used against South Africa, to pressurize the Australian Government into a change of attitude.

*NUPE - National Union of Public Employees, now part of UNISON


  1. Of course, not one word of Pilger's is to be believed. He disgraced himself long ago. Better to quote a real source, Alwyn.

  2. James, Yes I would agree on the whole with your observation on John Pilger. Nether less after a conversation with my Australian Step daughter in law (try getting your head around that) I would agree that there is a lot of truth to it and that there is still quite a bit of real prejudice against the Aborigines.
    The same could be said of the Native Americans who have the same problems.

  3. Of note is the recent story I covered of an indigenous Australian who died after he was left abandoned by the authorities because he spoke Aboriginal languages. More here http://saiminu.blogspot.com/2008/09/language-death-by-language.html.

  4. I have only been to Australia once 15 years ago and was shocked at the level of racist views. It was like the UK in the 1970's. Only this weekend, someone who knew the Aussies a lot better than me described their race relations as about 15 years behind the UK, which adds up from my experiences.
    On the positive side, at least they are improving.

  5. I can't comment on Pilger's accuracy but I believe there is evidence that Australian Aborigines were subjected to genocide in a piecemeal sort of way, as happened with Native Americans, and that is why both communities have problems with depression and alcoholism. The last episode was in 1928 when a group of white policemen fired on unarmed Aborigines in the outback. An inquiry found:'The shootings were justified [!!!]. We shot to kill. What use is a wounded blackfeller a hundred miles from civilization?'

    This overlapped with the child snatching era now known as 'the lost generation.' I don't know if there's a connection but I've heard white Australians in pubs dissing Aboriginal culture as enabling child abuse. It's possible that this is accurate, but the same would probably go for all human societies. In any case, they didn't bother to produce evidence.

    I felt very sad after reading a book detailing the way that Aboriginal Australians have been treated by their white rulers. It was just tragic that so many lives were marred or ended because of other people's bad ideas. It did sound like incredible chutzpah when Australian politicians claimed to support civil rights in the American South while simultaneously oppressing Aboriginals as a group. Those who take a contradictory stand on racism, should be prepared to explain their stance. If it is anything other than moral cowardice, and personal convenience, they should tell us clearly and courteously.

    Marianne Y Fenni