Socialist Worker

Utopia: The brutal theft of a continent goes on in Australia

Paddy Gibson says the recently elected Tory Australian government will only tighten the oppression of Aboriginal people

Published Tue 12 Nov 2013
Issue No. 2379

Utopia, John Pilger’s new film set for release in November, examines the worsening oppression of Aboriginal people in Australia.

Anti-Aboriginal racism is a cornerstone of the Australian political system. It was created to justify the theft of an entire continent, and the attempted genocide of its people, to make way for settler capitalism. 

Its most vicious expression today is the “Intervention” in the Northern Territory (NT) which began in 2007 under Tory prime minister John Howard.

Aboriginal communities suffer extreme poverty leading to chronic health issues such as trachoma. This eye disease is unknown in the rest of the developed world. These conditions lead to suicide, violence and substance abuse.

Howard blamed this desperate poverty on Aboriginal people themselves, and their refusal to assimilate into “mainstream” culture and the market economy. 

It was an attempt at a final dispossession, to sweep away the “Aboriginal problem” and bury the idea of Aboriginal self-determination.

It was justified with lies about “paedophile rings”—later disproved by the Crime Commission.

In the 20th century, before the Aboriginal liberation struggles of the 1960s and 70s, Aboriginal people were herded onto “reserves”. This system inspired the architects of South African Apartheid.

Under the Intervention, communal Aboriginal lands have been taken over by white government administrators.

There is a blanket ban on alcohol and police have special powers to enter homes without a warrant and force people to answer questions.

Gutted

An employment programme for 7,500 Aboriginal people—that kept remote communities functioning—was gutted. 

Welfare payments are now on a “BasicsCard” which limits what people can buy to government stipulated “essential items”.

The Labor government, elected in November 2007, continued the Intervention and expanded welfare controls to other disadvantaged groups in Australia. 

It was renamed “Stronger Futures” and enshrined for a further ten years. 

The formal apartheid in the NT is mirrored across Australia by Aboriginal people’s persecution by state agencies and their exclusion from the economy. 

Less than half of working age Aboriginal people have a job. And despite being only 3 percent of the population, more than a quarter of prisoners in Australia, and over half of juveniles in detention centres are Aboriginal.

More than 13,000 Aboriginal children are currently removed from their parents—mostly for “neglect” driven by extreme poverty. Many are given to whites and lose all contact with their families. 

It rivals the 20th century child removal known as the “Stolen Generations”. Then racist governments tried to smash Aboriginal culture and force assimilation by “breeding out the black”.

These screws are set to tighten with the election of a new Tory government. 

Already, new prime minister Tony Abbott has flagged up privatisation of communal lands and large cuts to Aboriginal Legal Services. 

The government also plans to expand welfare quarantining to more Aboriginal and deprived communities.

Paddy Gibson is an associate producer of Utopia, which is in UK cinemas from 15 November and on ITV 19 December. He is a member of the revolutionary socialist organisation Solidarity in Australia

Article information

International
Tue 12 Nov 2013, 17:43 GMT
Issue No. 2379
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