Opening of Australia’s Aboriginal Land to the Public
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Indigenous affairs Minister Mal Brough called for input from the public regarding the 30-year-old permit system that allowed Australia’s Aborigines to legally stop people from entering their land. On October 4, 2006 Brough issued his request for input in an attempt to solve problems endemic to the aboriginal population from the nation’s capital.
“My concern is that the permit system has created closed communities which are restricting the ability of individuals to interact with the wider community and furthermore to participate in the real economy.” According to Brough has not protected vulnerable citizens include women and children. Opening the lands would add an additional layer of protect of these groups who suffer from the high rates of violence, sexual abuse and alcohol abuse.
Frequently, the policies of Prime Minister John Howard have run counter to the polices of Aboriginal leaders. Howard seeks a policy that will provide for greater opportunity to receive better health care and education. He wants to improve the lives of Australia’s aboriginals rather than a “more symbolic racial reconciliation issues such as land rights or an apology for past injustices.” The nearly inaccessible outback communities provide poor access to jobs, good housing, health services and education. Aborigines suffer high rates of domestic violence and alcohol abuse.
According to numbers published in the article, there are approximately 460,000 Aborigines who, although representing only 2.3 percent of Australia’s population, are in control of 20 percent of the land in Australia. This totals to about 593,000 square miles. In terms more understandable to Americans, this is approximately the size of Alaska with only about 75 percent of the population of Alaska.
George Newhouse, an attorney for the Mutijulu Aboriginal community located near Ayers Rock, said that scrapping the permits would lead to Australia becoming a “Aboriginal Disneyland.” Newhouse played the race card by alleging that Australia’s conservative government had a “white superintendent” approach and wanted to win back hard won rights of the Aborigines. “Now it’s time for the black fellas to feel their boot.” Presumably suggesting that the government was using force to gain their way among the Aboriginal people. Despite Newhouse’s misgivings, according to the article, the change in the permit system would not affect freehold land (private property).
This article was biased sensationalistic and sometimes wrong. The first paragraph contains three factual errors that are not supported by the story. First that the government is intending to open up the Aboriginal land, and second that the “Aborigines are set to lose the legal right to stop people from entering their outback lands,” and that there had been protests to prevent their homes would become an “Aboriginal Disneyland.” First, the government is not set to opening up, merely seeking information as to why they should not. The Aborigines have an opportunity to respond and state their position. There is no indication that the Aborigines are “set” to lose their land. They clearly they are not or they would not be issuing statements through an attorney decrying the potential taking control of access to such lands. Finally, there is no indication that there has been any protests claiming their homes would become an “Aboriginal Disneyland,” whatever that means. This has only been alleged by their attorney. Since this permit change does not involve freehold land (private property), but only public land. The claims the Aborigines will not be able to restrict access to their own private land is false. This was even noted by the Aboriginals leaders in their attempts to allay concerns among the Aboriginal people.
By citing the Disneyland comparison, which was suggested only by the Aborigines attorney, and by playing the race card by quoting this same attorney calling this a “white” policy and now its time for “the black fellas to feel their boot.” The writer is attempting to elicit sympathy.
Frankly the policies of Prime Minister Howard attempting to improve the lives of the aboriginal people instead of being appeasing and apologetic are refreshing. One wonders if there is land anywhere that has not be “won” by conquest if one goes far enough into the past. Throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas and Australia land has been acquired by defeating indigenous people. The attempt to declare that the indigenous people at one particular time are the true owners of the land is parochial and inaccurate. Consequently, the notion that the Aborigines have a particular, special claim on the Outback does not appear to follow. One wonders how it can be fair for 2.3 percent of the population should control 20% of the public land.
Taylor, R. (2006, 4 October). Australia Set to Open up Aboriginal Lands. Retrieved November 27, 2006 from the World Wide Web: http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=worldNews&storyID=2006-10 4T053606Z_01_SYD27747_RTRUKOC_0_US-AUSTRALIA-ABORIGINES.xml&WTmodLoc=IntNewsHome_C2_worldNews-6
Australia set to open up aboriginal lands
Wed Oct 4, 2006 12:41 AM ET
By Rob Taylor
CANBERRA (Reuters) – Australia’s Aborigines are set to lose the legal right to stop people entering their outback lands, which cover an area almost the size of Mongolia, sparking protests their homes will become an “Aboriginal Disneyland”.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough called on Wednesday for submissions on why a 30-year-old access permit system, which he said closed off black communities from the world, should remain.
“My concern is that the permit system has created closed communities which are restricting the ability of individuals to interact with the wider community and furthermore to participate in the real economy,” said Brough.
Brough said that opening Aboriginal land to outsiders would improve scrutiny and could help lower high rates of violence and sexual abuse in black communities.
“The permit system has not acted to protect vulnerable citizens, including women and children, and in fact makes scrutiny over dysfunctional communities more difficult,” he said.
Under the access permit system controlled by Aboriginal leaders anyone trespassing on their land faces prosecution.
Australia’s 460,000 Aborigines, who account for around 2.3 percent of the 20 million population, own or control 20 percent of Australian land, or 1.53 million sq km (593,000 sq miles).
Many live in remote outback communities with poor access to jobs, good housing, health services and education. Aborigines suffer high rates of domestic violence and alcohol abuse.
George Newhouse, a lawyer representing the Mutitjulu Aboriginal community next to tourist magnet Ayers Rock, or Uluru, said scrapping permits would turn Australia’s last outposts of indigenous culture into an “Aboriginal Disneyland”.
“If it was a white farmer who had a couple of houses on his property for stockmen, he could stop anyone coming on his land, so why does the minister want to strip Aboriginals of their right to some privacy?” Newhouse told Reuters.
Newhouse said Australia’s conservative government had a “white superintendent” approach and wanted to roll back hard-won rights giving Aborigines some control over their lands. “Now it’s time for the black fellas to feel their boot,” he said.
Aboriginal leaders have tried to calm fears that the ruling could see people lose their homes or backyards by repeating that it would not affect freehold land. Freehold land accounts for only a small amount of Aboriginal-controlled land.
Prime Minister John Howard’s government has often clashed with Aboriginal leaders, favoring practical measures such as better access to health and education to improve the lives of Aborigines, rather than more symbolic racial reconciliation issues such as land rights or an apology for past injustices.
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