Indigenous Lives Matter

Indigenous Lives Matter

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What kind of horror drives a child to kill themselves? I don’t think Honi Soit wants to know, unless the answer is racism.

Or rather, they matter only when they are lost under the thumb of white oppressors.

Honi Soit’s issue Indigenous Lives Matter tells the heart-wrenching story of Julieka Dhu’s death in police custody. Dhu, a 22 year old Western Australian woman, had been arrested for unpaid fines. After three days of incarceration, she died of pneumonia and septicaemia.

While the golden girl of the USU, Subeta Vimalarajah, asserts that Dhu’s death was the product of the system, the facts tell a different story.

It needs to be said that while Indigenous Australians make up between 14 and 18% of deaths in custody, they make up 28% of offenders in custody, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (‘4512.0 – Corrective Services Australia, June Quarter 2015’). They are not overrepresented in custody deaths. They are, however, grossly overrepresented in cases of family violence.

Something about the selective discussion of indigenous deaths chills me to the bone. It seems that no one is willing to discuss how violence has become part of the indigenous story.

Feminists lauded Rosie Batty’s appointment as the 2015 Australian of the year, yet said nothing about the intolerable fact that Indigenous women are 45 times more likely to become victims of domestic violence.

According to the Koori Mail (‘Long Way to Go to End Disadvantage’, 509. Pg. 9), 1 in 19 Indigenous children are in care. These facts don’t lie.

This means that one in nineteen indigenous children have been removed from homes due to a neglectful and/or abusive home environment. Considering this, it’s not surprising that the Australian institute of Family Studies published in the CFCA Resource Sheet in September last year, that Indigenous children were ‘7 times more likely than non-indigenous children to be the subject of substantiated reports of harm/risk of harm’.

There are claims there is a culture of underreporting incidents of abuse for fear of creating a new stolen generation. Closing the Gap itself suggested that a fear of racism was the foundation of the culture of underreporting. It seems that as a society, we are drawing a line; refusing to discuss the link between indigenous communities and child abuse.

But it’s a line drawn in blood.

On the 6th March, a ten year old Indigenous girl was found dead near the Aboriginal community of Derby, in the Kimberly.

Young people in indigenous communities make up 80% of all suicides in this category, yet just 2.4% of the population. This is not the kind of ‘gap’ that can be closed with twitter hash tags and tent embassy protests. It’s a chasm. And the only way we can close it is through early and constant intervention in problematic communities.

In the seven weeks preceding Christmas 2014 – a time when most Australian families were embracing the joys of the holiday spirit – six Aboriginal children killed themselves.

What kind of horror drives a child to kill themselves? I don’t think Honi Soit wants to know, unless the answer is racism.

We are in grave danger of creating a lost generation – a generation of indigenous children with all the potential in the world.

But the answer is not racism. It’s neglect. It’s sexual and physical abuse. It is the pain of watching your community – a community of proud people – descend into a pit of violence and substance abuse.

On the 9th March of this year, researcher and and suicide prevention worker Gerry Georgatos told The Australian that suicide was ‘actually their second leading cause of death’ (‘Suicide by girl, 10, triggers plea for action’, Taylor, P. 9th March 2016).  Georgatos has referred to the epidemic as a ‘humanitarian crisis’. And he’s spot on.

We are in grave danger of creating a lost generation – a generation of indigenous children with all the potential in the world. We are in grave danger of losing these children to suicide, to sexual and physical abuse, alcoholism, ice and heroin addiction.

Under the status quo, these children are being ignored. Those concerned for their welfare are being gagged by social justice warriors who cannot grasp that the health of a child is more important than the supposed preservation of culture.

Just look at the response to Alan Jones’ call for justice for indigenous children. Suggesting that children brought up around rampant substance abuse should be protected by the courts, the 2GB radio broadcaster was decried as a racist.

During a 4th August 2015 hearing of the Senate committee into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experiences of law enforcement and justice systems, Western Australia’s Chief Justice, Wayne Martin made a powerful concession. He said that the fear of being labelled as the propagators of more stolen generations was subverting the pain of abused children – ‘I am already in trouble so I might as well [say it]. I think there has been an overreaction to the stolen generation which has resulted in people being too willing to allow Aboriginal kids to remain in environments that they would not allow non-Aboriginal kids to remain in…’

See for yourself: in 2005 a child who was sexually abused at age seven had been placed with a non-Indigenous foster family. Two years later, a senior department official told The Australian ‘these non-indigenous people were fantastic-ensuring she went to school, and the father actually took a year off his work to personally supervise the girl’ (‘Child safety failed raped girl’ Koch, T. 11th December 2007). The intervention of two new social workers raised concerns that putting indigenous children with non indigenous families was ‘another stolen generation’. In a move that defies common sense and moral judgment, the child was then returned to the home in which she was sexually abused at age seven.

Unacceptable, sickening and all too common.

It seems there is no place for these children in the narrative of indigenous victimhood. And we mustn’t sweep them under the rug because their stories are inconvenient.

Despite all their highbrow talk of closing the gap, the left still refuses to engage with the facts of the matter. We can never truly close the gap until we open our eyes to the endemic disease, violence and drug abuse that rules many regional and remote indigenous communities.


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