The news has been full of it – but no-one, as far as I have seen, has bothered to actually write about the reasons for the protests that took place yesterday. (No, the media seems to think Australians are more interested in whether our Prime Minister got her shoe back.)
So we have an opposition leader who says that the Aboriginal Tent Embassy has long outdated its purpose – basically, that it’s not needed anymore. He cited events such as the Apology to the Stolen Generations (which he himself opposed, if I remember correctly) in 2008, and the recent decision to hold a referendum recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the original inhabitants of the land in the constitution to back this up – wonderful achievements that obviously negate any disadvantage faced by Aboriginal people (snark).
I would like to say that I completely agree with the Aboriginal woman on the 7:30 report today who said that Aboriginal people still suffer human rights abuses every single day. They absolutely do. This is why we have such a divide in white and Aboriginal life expectancy, literacy rates, education, employment. Discrimination abounds – both societal and institutional. The protesters were absolutely, unequivocally justified in their anger.
Sad thing is though, I don’t think the protests will do any good in the end. Cynical as I may be, I don’t think the government will take this opportunity to really sit down and say “why did this occur?” and “what can we do to address these issues?” I think that the protests will only reinforce the (unjust and inaccurate) stereotypes of all Aboriginal people as violent and aggressive. Maybe they will start a much-needed dialogue that speaks with Aboriginal people, not for them; a dialogue that actually values Aboriginal voices. I sincerely hope that it will. But I have my doubts.
It makes me think about what I can do to be a better ally to Aboriginal people in Australia. I’ll certainly be speaking up to anyone who brings this up in conversation. Because the tent embassy is not an outdated concept. Discrimination and disadvantage are still real, pressing issues – and however far the government sweeps them under the carpet once again, they’ll still be there.