Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in all parts of Australia
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in all parts of Australia; from large cities to small country towns and very remote communities. They speak approximately 250 languages and identify with distinct cultural groups. This diversity is acknowledged by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the organisation is committed to improving the quality and comprehensiveness of the available data on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. (Source: ABS Topics at a Glance) Defining who is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander? • In 1983 the High Court of Australia defined an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander as "a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and is accepted as such by the community in which he or she lives". • The ruling was a three-part definition comprising of: 1. Descent: was genetic descent and unambiguous, but led to cases where a lack of records to prove ancestry excluded some. 2. Self-identification: consider themselves as Indigenous 3. Community identification: self- and community identification were more problematic as they meant that an Indigenous person separated from her or his community due to a family dispute could no longer identify as Aboriginal. (ABS) Busting some myths! ‘Myths are powerful: they influence the way we think about things we might not have direct experience of. Because relatively few Australians have direct relationships with Indigenous Australians, myths have become one of the main ways of ‘knowing’ about Aboriginal people. As Aboriginal academic Marcia Langton says, the most difficult relationship is not between black and white people ‘but between white Australians and the symbols created by their predecessors. Most Australians do not know and relate to Aboriginal people. They relate to stories told by former colonists.‘ (Generation One Website) Most Indigenous people live in the bush (rural or remote areas). • • The highest proportion of Indigenous Australians live in Sydney. In 2006, 31% of Indigenous people in Australia lived in major cities; 22% lived in inner regional Australia; 23% in outer regional Australia; 8% in remote Australia and 16% in very remote Australia. Not as many Indigenous people live in the bush compared to urban and regional areas. It is important to remember that a person does not stop being Aboriginal because they have a western lifestyle; the two cultures do not cancel each other out. How Indigenous are you? • One of the biggest myths about Aboriginality is that if you have white skin you can’t be Indigenous - you’ve got to be black to be ‘a real’ Aboriginal - or that Aboriginality is attributed to the degree of ancestry, such as "she is 1/8th Aboriginal" or a varying combination of "white-bits and black-bits". • Ideas of genetics and culture are often mistakenly collapsed together so that if someone’s skin is lighter, they are thought to have lost that equivalent of Aboriginal culture. Identity is tied to the cultures that a person is raised in, and how they identify with that culture. Indigenous people are alcoholics who can’t handle their grog. • Drinking alcohol is a well-entrenched Australian tradition. In fact, settled Australia began as a rum-colony and rum was the currency that paid for our hospitals and built our churches. Alcohol abuse is a thread throughout Australian colonial history and remains a problem for many communities, black and white. But it is the notion of the ‘drunken black’ that remains one of the most pervasive stereotypes of Indigenous Australians. • As a proportion of each population, more Indigenous (37%) than non-Indigenous (22%) people do not drink alcohol at all. Though it has been found that those Indigenous people who do drink, do so in more dangerous quantities than non-Indigenous Australians. Lending weight to the perception of high levels of Indigenous alcohol use is the fact that Indigenous social drinking, unlike non-Indigenous drinking, is also often highly visible, conducted in public places like parks. Indigenous people are lazy and don’t want to work. • The Indigenous jobless rate has fallen from 18.3 per cent in 2002, when the bureau of statistics first began its survey, to 14.3 per cent in 2006. The figures also show that, despite common stereotypes, the proportion of the Indigenous community working or looking for work is not much different to the national average. Between 1994 and 2002, there was an increase in the number of employed Indigenous people aged 15 years or over (from 36% to 46%). There was an increase in both mainstream and Community Development Employment Project scheme (CDEP) employment. • Patterns of employment were different between remote and nonremote areas, with the majority of Indigenous people in remote areas having jobs with the CDEP scheme (63%). In non-remote areas 90% of employed Indigenous people had jobs in mainstream employment. Indigenous people get free houses, cars and undeserved special treatment. • Indigenous people are subject to the same social security laws and entitled to no more (and no less) government sponsorship than any other Australian. There has never been a government program that distributes free houses or cars. • It is incorrect to say that Indigenous people receive undeserved special treatment. Tailored solutions are necessary to overcome the unique problems that confront Indigenous Australians. Violence/Abuse against women and children is part of traditional Indigenous culture. • Sexual assault, particularly child sexual assault, forms no part of Indigenous culture and a multitude of authoritative national reports have shown this to be a myth. While there used to be systems of punishment for people who contravened community regulations, including physical punishment, violence and sexual abuse against women and children has never formed part of traditional cultural practices and it is considered abhorrent by Indigenous men and women of all generations. • Such behaviour is learnt and has been found to be generational and cyclical; abusers have often been victims of abuse themselves. The literature on abuse is clear - that the trauma suffered by one victim will often manifest in that victim being a perpetrator of similar crimes to others later in life. • The recent report on abuse in the Northern Territory by Pat Anderson and Rex Wilde states: 'sexual abuse of children is not restricted to those of Aboriginal descent, nor committed only by those of Aboriginal descent. The phenomenon knows no racial, age or gender borders. It is a national and international problem. Indigenous people are doing nothing about their own problems and expect government to do everything. • Despite the effort and commitment of most Indigenous Australians to overcome problems confronting their communities, there is a pervasive myth of Indigenous passivity. • Since settlement, Indigenous leaders and communities fought long and hard for citizenship rights, land rights and the right to be counted in the census of the population; rights that non-Indigenous people take for granted. • A recent example of communities fighting to overcome their problems is the strong leadership of the Pitjantjatjara communities of South Australia in combating the scourge of petrol sniffing. There is no Indigenous leadership. • “Overcoming Indigenous disadvantage comes at a price but let’s stop pretending that there’s ever been an investment in Indigenous Australia based on need, let alone on a vision of success." Professor Mick Dodson • Most Australians have heard the myth about “too much money is thrown at Indigenous affairs". The reality is that Indigenous-specific funding represented 1.58% of total Australian Government spending in 2006-2007.31 As a percentage of GDP, Indigenous-specific spending is about a third of one percentage point,32 which is about the same amount as Australia spends on aid to foreign countries. • In the 2007 federal budget, $748.3 million33 is the identifiable amount being spent on Indigenous affairs - based on an Indigenous population of around 500,00034 this calculates to $1500 per person. Traditional marriage systems promote sexual abuse of children • The recent Northern Territory Little Children are Sacred Report debunked this myth noting, ‘the media has highlighted a few cases where sexual abuse of a child has occurred in the context of an Aboriginal traditional marriage in the Northern Territory’.42 The Inquiry did not come across any evidence to show that children were being regularly abused within, and as a result of, traditional marriage practices. This was despite the fact that in many places such practices still existed. • These practices do not exist to provide young women for the sexual gratification of old men, but are a part of a complex system that has had many practical aspects. These include preventing inter-family marriage, and providing a system of custodianship to land, information and ceremonies. Self-Determination was tried, and it failed • Self-determination is the principal right identified in the two major international human rights charters. Selfdetermination is the ability of peoples to determine their own future and is gauged by the amount that people feel they have control over the political processes that affect them. There was a brief period that Indigenous affairs in Australia had the title of ‘self-determination’ but has since been officially abandoned by the Australian Government. • Throughout the administrative history of Indigenous affairs, even during the so-called period of ‘selfdetermination’, the approach has been one of ‘top-down’ decision making where governments have controlled the major actions to be taken. • Self-determination is about effective decision making. • Self-determination has not been properly tested in Australia despite the fact that previous governments have adopted the term. This has created the myth that self-determination has been tried, and failed. 1. POPULATION and location http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/c311215.nsf/web/Aborigi nal+and+Torres+Strait+Islander+Peoples+-+Population INDIGENOUS AND NON-INDIGENOUS POPULATION - 30 JUNE 2006 3. Cultural Diversity • Religious demography among Indigenous Australians is not conclusive because the methodology of the census is not always well-suited to obtaining accurate information on Aboriginal people. The 1996 census reported that almost 72 percent of Aboriginals practised some form of Christianity; 16 percent listed no religion. 4. Income/socio-economic status • Estimates of household income are adjusted by the ABS according to 'equivalence factors' in order to recognise the impact of different household compositions and different household sizes. • In the 2006 Census, the mean equivalised gross household income for Indigenous persons was $460 per week, which amounted to 62% of the rate for non-Indigenous Australians ($740 per week). • For Indigenous persons, income levels generally decline with increased geographic remoteness. In the 2006 Census, in major cities the average equivalised incomes for Indigenous persons was 69% of the corresponding income for nonIndigenous persons. This declined to approximately 40% in remote areas. • Between 2001 and 2006 the average equivalised gross household income for Indigenous persons increased by 9% (after adjustment for inflation) which was the same increase for non-Indigenous people. • In 2006, the median weekly gross individual income for Indigenous peoples was $278, this represented 59% of the median weekly gross individual income for non-Indigenous peoples 5. Relationship with the land/spirituality • Aboriginal landowners continue to be reliant on the natural environment for both spiritual, social and economic well-being. • Creation ancestors form part of a living landscape and practices such as hunting and foraging have an important place in contemporary Aboriginal life. • Throughout Aboriginal land in the Northern Land Council area, there remains a strong belief in the land as sentient, or that ancestral spirits imbue the landscape, creating a situation in which spiritual and physical aspects cannot be altogether separated. Syllabus: Examine ways to reduce inequality • • legislation introduced to reduce inequality – local, national and global • • affirmative action policies • • community initiatives • • welfare systems ‘The intervention’ 2007-today • The Northern Territory National Emergency Response (also referred to as "the intervention") was a package of changes to welfare provision, law enforcement, land tenure and other measures, introduced by the Australian federal government under John Howard in 2007 to address claims of rampant child sexual abuse and neglect in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities. Operation Outreach, the intervention's main logistical operation conducted by a force of 600 soldiers and detachments from the ADF . • The package was the Federal government's response to the Territory government's publication of Little Children are Sacred, but implemented only two out of ninety-seven of the report's recommendations. The response has been criticised, but also received bipartisan parliamentary support. The current Prime Minister Julia Gillard has and continues to support the response, though her predecessor Kevin Rudd did make some adjustments to its implementation. The Emergency Response has since been lapsed, and is being replaced.