Australia to say ‘sorry’ to its Indigenous people this week.

This week in Australia will be a momentous one, and there is a feeling of tingling anticipation, for all caring people with some humanity who have been waiting decades for the reconciliation that has long been overdue with our Indigenous people.

The first sitting day of the new parliament (Wednesday) will finally be the day that we, as a country acknowledge, the wrongs committed by previous generations, the neglect of the present one, and the combined hope of a nation that comes together to speak from the heart and say what the Indigenous people of this country have been long waiting for- that we are sorry for the estrangement, loss and hurt they they have experienced since settlement.

The apology to the Stolen Generations by the new Rudd Government.

The iron will of the previous administration has weighed like lead on our hearts, suffocating the goodwill that most reasonable Australians felt. It is so easy to use semantics to distance oneself from any accountability. For eleven long years the mantra has been, that we do not have to say sorry for things done by others in the past. This however, overlooks that for which we could reasonably be held to account for – the third world conditions that these people endure in modern times in a “wealthy nation”. The statistics speak for themselves and should make those, choosing to turn away from the word sorry, stop and think.

Here is just a sample from the ReconciliACTIONnsw Network:

  • Life expectancy is 17 years less for Indigenous people: that’s 59.4 years for Indigenous men vs. 76.6 years for all Australian men and 64.8 years for Indigenous women vs. 82.0 years for all women.
  • Infant mortality (the rate at which babies die) is three times as high, and Indigenous babies are twice as likely to be low birth weight, which makes them much more vulnerable to illness.
  • There are significantly higher rates of chronic diseases, communicable diseases, disabilities and mental health problems amongst Indigenous people.
  • Indigenous students are half as likely to stay at school until the end of Year 12 as other students.
  • The average Indigenous household income is only 62% of the national average (this means Indigenous households get an average of $364/wk compared to $585/wk for other families, as of 2001 Census), and over half of Indigenous people get most of their income from government welfare.
  • The Indigenous unemployment rate is about three times higher than non-Indigenous people. Many Indigenous people also rely on government funded work unemployment programs, like the Community Employment Development Program (CDEP).
  • Indigenous people are much more likely to be renting a house (63.5% vs. 26.6% overall) rather than owning their own home (12.6% vs. 40.5% overall).
  • Overcrowding in housing is a major problem. This is worst in remote communities where up to 17 people can share a 3 bedroom house.
  • Indigenous people are much more likely to be victims of violence, for example Indigenous people make up around 15% of murder victims, even though they only make up 2.3% of the population.
  • There are much higher levels of substance abuse, family violence and suicide in Indigenous communities.
  • Indigenous young people are more than 4 times more likely to be sexually abused.

The most recent statistics were issued last week and you can read a summary here in the Australian Yearbook 2008 .

The words Paul Keating spoke, a part of his “Redfern Speech“delivered on December 10 1992 at the Australian launch of the International Year of the World’s Indigenous people, were recently and aptly quoted by the blog, Public Opinion and say it all so eloquently:

“…the starting point might be to recognise that the problem starts with us non-Aboriginal Australians. It begins, I think, with the act of recognition. Recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practised discrimination and exclusion. It was our ignorance and our prejudice. And our failure to imagine these things being done to us. With some noble exceptions, we failed to make the most basic human response and enter into their hearts and minds. We failed to ask – how would I feel if this were done to me?”

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~ by abstraktbiblos on Monday, 11 February, 2008.

One Response to “Australia to say ‘sorry’ to its Indigenous people this week.”

  1. Hey

    That link is from The ReconciliACTIONnsw network, not the Reconciliation netwrok.

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