Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Howard's Return to Assimilation

Howard's relentless attack on indigenous rights continues unabated.

Having killed off the permit system, which allowed a number of Aboriginal communties to determine who came onto their land or accessed their sacred sites, and having effectively killed off community leases (land rights) and thrown thousands onto the dole by phasing out CDEP programs, the latest move is to seize any NT indigenous organisations' assets above the value of $400,000.

In a bizarre twist, these assets are to be transferred to a new body, the Indigenous Economic Development Trust, and then rented back at prime commercial rates to the same organisations from which they had been seized!

It seems that this is yet another part of the plan to implement the goal of making Aboriginal people "engage in the market economy without hindrance" that was outlined in last year's Discussion Paper on changes to the NT Land Rights legislation.

It's just that Indigenous communties and persons cannot be trusted to manage that "engagement" by themselves - they have to be guided and shepherded along the capitalist path by an overlord of a Trust. How ironic the name "Trust" is under these circumstances!

Howard was quoted as telling the community at Ntaria (Hermannsburg) on Tuesday that "We have a simple aim and that is whilst respecting a special place of Indigenous people in the history and the life of this country, their future can only be as part of the mainstream of the Australian community."

This is simple alright - simple "assimilationism" of the kind that destroyed Aboriginal Australia in the middle years of the last century. After refusing to be shot and poisoned out of existence during the frontier war years, and then ungraciously refusing to lay down on the "dying pillow", a new way had to be found to obliterate the blackfellas - and it was to turn them into darker-skinned white fellows.

In 1961, all Australian governments adopted a common definition of "assimilation": "The policy of assimilation emans that all Aborigines and part-Aborigines are expected eventually to attain the same manner of living as other Australians and to live as members of a single Australian community enjoying the same rights and privileges, accepting the same responsibilities, observing the same customs and influenced by the same beliefs, as other Australians."

This policy was rejected by communists and other progressive non-indigenous Australians, but it was not until the great walk-offs began, and in particular, the walf-off from Vestey's Wave Hill, combined with agitation by young blacks setting themselves up as the Black Panther Party of Australia, that assimilation was forced to give way to "integration" and the extension of multi-culturalism to indigenous communities.

From this flowed the begrudging acceptance by non-Indigenous Australia of land rights and native title.

However, racism has been clung to tenaciously by the Australian ruling class and it has surfaced time and again under Howard's government, most noticeably in the Tampa Affair and the treatment of asylum-seekers, and in all things to do with Muslims and the Middle East, up to and including the despiable treatment of Dr Haneef. We won't even go near the ridiculous new "citizenship" test - for the moment.

Howard succeeds in some of this because racism also infects a portion of the non-indigenous working class and petty-bourgeoisie. As GaryFoley, one of the original Black Panthers, wrote in 1993: "The Americanisation of Australia's youth is viewed with increasing concern by many non-Koori (non-Indigenous) Australian parents, and yet these same good people who see the evil of cultural imperialism clearly when it relates to the USA and their own white middle-class Aussie kids, claim not to comprehend the same principle when we apply it to our own situation as Kooris".

It is imperative that we reject the old paternalism and assimilationism that Howard has allowed, like policy scum, to rise to the surface of his mischievous "intervention" in the NT.

A capitalist Australia is now showing the world that it cannot reconcile itself to the existence of Aboriginal land rights and native title.

A socialist people's republic must have the opportunity to solve this problem.

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