Comment: Ethnic cleansing … what next?

COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA

 

The instant expert proffering solutions after a one-day visit has long been a figure in the debate about Aboriginal “problems”.

But Indian man Salil Shetty, Secretary-General of Amnesty International, of which one has much higher expectations, doing a double act with Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, provided a new low point last week.

Her confident, dignified demeanor and tireless advocacy, as well as her profile as the actress who played Jedda in that celebrated movie, make Ms Kunoth-Monks (at left) a sought-after spokeswoman on Aboriginal causes. Her inclusion in the panel of tomorrow’s Q&A panel on ABC TV is unsurprising.

Trouble is, what she has to say, on too many occasions doesn’t bear close scrutiny. How does she muster the impertinence of saying, quoted by AAP, that Australia is practising ethnic cleansing? While the taxpayer is forking out $1b on Aboriginal housing in the NT, as we speak, Ms Kunoth-Monks suggests her country’s treatment of Aborigines is akin to Serb forces slaying more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim boys in Srebrenica. And Mr Shetty chimes in in agreement.

The claim that “around 500 homeland communities are being left to wither as the Government starves them of essential services” is all his own work. Yes, 500. What he and Ms Kunoth-Monks trotted out was the usual tripe. Lucky for them the media run by people in the state capitals 2000 kms away can’t get enough of it. As our current report and readers’ comments show, the outstation movement is a complex issue, after years of debate still undecided, but revolving largely around this question: If a small group of people want to settle in some remote place of their own land, what extent of services – if any – should the taxpayer be providing? In every case a school? A hospital? A police station? Sealed roads?

How many of these outstations have been built, equipped, trashed and abandoned? Ms Kunoth-Monks’ home region of Utopia has had a thriving art industry for a couple of decades. Where did all that money go? Nearby TiTree is one of The Centre’s most prospective areas for horticulture. It had and still has major vineyards and other plantations. There is plenty of water and cheap backloading freight to Adelaide. How many of the unemployed in Ms Kunoth-Monks’ communities have worked or are working in these enterprises, constantly hampered by having to bring in labour from interstate, whilst being surrounded by hundreds on the dole? How many plantations have been started by Ms Kunoth-Monks and the other local elders?

How many cattle are they running in this prime beef producing area? How many of the men are continuing the proud tradition of Aboriginal stockmen – as workers on surrounding cattle stations, or in their own enterprises, on the vast stretches of land given to them under landrights? How come Aboriginal-owned cattle stations in Ms Kunoth-Monks’ neighborhood are leased out to white pastoralists? Where is the citrus plantation that’s been on the drawing board at Utopia for the best part of two decades? Let’s see what Q&A makes of all this. 

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3 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Posted October 17, 2011 at 8:31 am

    “Proud tradition of Aboriginal Stockman” – proud they were exploited then booted off their horses when they had the nerve to ask for pay. Who is proud of that? But that isn’t the point here, is it.
    The situation is closer to Salil Shetty’s and Ms Kunoth-Monks’ description than it is to “Utopia”. But you’re right on one thing, it is complicated.

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  2. Steve Brown
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 7:17 am

    The times are long gone when “You owe me” held any credibility. What we have today is the continuing language of dependency, victim-hood, mostly espoused by a parasitic bureaucracy that is completely reliant on handout charity from the rest of the nation.
    The tragedy, as it has always been, is that even when well intended, working Australians come up with funds, nothing that is life changing ever occurs on the ground. This is partly because the bureaucracy highjacks much of the funding, but in the main because you cannot help those who will not help themselves. Continual handouts simply encourage ever greater expectation of more for less and create a lethargic wallowing culture of self pity, self justification and a ever deepening sense of worthlessness.
    The only way out of the soul destroying mess is for Aboriginal Australians to take responsibility for their own plight, to take up their rightful role as equal Australians of the twenty first century, shake off the shackles of dependency and victimhood, force their kids into schools and make them able to take jobs. Start taking up the fantastic economic opportunities that their enormous land based wealth affords them.
    Opportunities I might add that most everyday Australians only ever dream of. It’s time to flick the chip from your shoulders and get to work. You are owed and should expect nothing more or nothing less than every other Australian.

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  3. Hal Duell
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 4:33 am

    Are Mr Shetty and Amnesty International being sold a camp dog masquerading as a utopian pup?
    I clearly remember a public meeting held two years ago at Araluen at which Mrs Kunoth-Monks, speaking from the stage, called for the return of “feather foot” or “feather boot”. As I understand it, he was the enforcer within traditional Aboriginal law.
    What does Mrs Kunoth-Monks say today? Does she still call for feather foot’s return? Would his return include the spearing of transgressors? If so, must a transgressor have reached a minimum age before this punishment could be exacted?
    Where do Mr Shetty and Amnesty International stand on this issue of extrajudicial punishment, especially if it includes the spearing of men (and / or women?) still young enough to be considered minors in the eyes of Australian national law?

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