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|OLYMPIC GAMES SHOULD HIGHLIGHT OPPRESSION OF ...|
|09/16/00 at 23:24:43|
OLYMPIC GAMES SHOULD HIGHLIGHT OPPRESSION OF ABORIGINES
By: Dr. Firoz Osman
In former president Nelson Mandelas speech at the Olympic conference in
Sydney, he urged the Australians to talk through their racial problems
[The Star 04/09/00]. The Australian Prime Minister John Howard however has
persistently refused to apologise to the Aborigines as part of the
It is now opportune with the Olympics, for the world to focus on the
events that Australians in general try to forget: the horrific destruction
of Aboriginal communities for over 200 years.
The ships of the First Fleet arrived in Australia on January 20th, 1788
carrying with them their shipment of convicts. British colonialists
initially considered this region to be terra nullius [empty land], but it
was in fact populated by at least 300 000 Aborigines.
The British aristocracy, in an attempt to purge British society of a
criminal class, transported approximately 160 000 convicts over several
decades. As the convict population expanded in Australia, they encroached
upon Aboriginal land. Clashes between whites and Aborigines frequently
occurred as a result of the nomadic tendencies of many of the Aboriginal
tribes and the expanding territories and activities of the white settlers
and entrepreneurs. But the Aborigines were for the most part outmatched by
the superior firepower of the settlers. This replicates our own experience
in Africa. Two incidents which characterise Australias brutal treatment of
the First Australians need to be recounted.
The first occurred at Myall Creek, New South Wales, in 1838. In this
incident eleven stockmen, in what was apparently a reprisal against the
Aborigines whom they claimed stole and stampeded cattle, surrounded an
Aborigine encampment and marched off with 28 abducted Aborigine men, women
and children. They drove them to the nearby Myall Creek and murdered every
one of them using muskets and cutlasses.
The second occurred in Caulfields Lagoon on November 6th, 1873 when
government officials and gold-miners hunted between 80-150 Aborigines
along the Palmer River. They shot them and left their bodies floating in
Caulfields Lagoon. None of the murderers were ever punished for this
massacre. It was only 100 years later that the incident was confirmed to
have occurred in Australias history by Australian researchers. Yet John
Howard refuses to proffer an apology.
Many other sites of such murderous acts of the white population will never
be found, though they undoubtedly exist. For the Australian settlers were
estimated to have killed more than 20 000 Aborigines in their long wars
with the tribes. On the island of Tasmania alone, the Aborigines,
numbering between 3000 to 4000 were almost totally wiped out within the
first 75 years of colonisation.
These are some of the actual truths about the process of colonisation of
the Australian continent. This is Australia, a nation founded on the blood
of its native inhabitants and on the sweat and tears of convict labour. In
the course of time some sections of the convict population obtained their
freedom, but the plight of the Aborigines scarcely improved. They were not
hunted as ruthlessly as before but the loss of their lands and large
numbers of their populations was irreparable.
Even today when the memory of the so-called convict stain has almost sunk
into oblivion, the present day Aborigines lag behind the other sections of
the Australian population especially in the sphere of economic
development. They have at various times also suffered the oppression of
abnormal rates of imprisonment and death in police custody.
According to a report by the Human Rights Commission, police
systematically torture young Aborigines to get them to confess to crimes.
Another report concludes that if you are black and seriously ill, you are
unlikely to get an ambulance to come and get you. Aboriginal health levels
are described as shameful. The death rate of black children is two and a
half times that of white children; for adults, the rate is three times
higher. Diseases considered preventable in white Australia ravage
Aboriginal communities; tuberculosis is an epidemic.
Large sections of their population are now afflicted with alcoholism-
perhaps the only stimulant that can erase the memory of a history of
persecution, the trauma of being robbed of all that might have been theirs
and so many things they might have achieved, had not the accursed winds
blown the ships of the First Fleet to Botany Bay on that fateful day in
Dr. Firoz Osman
Cell: 082 337 6976
*Dr. Osman is secretary of the Media Review Network, which is an NGO
advocacy group based in Laudium, Pretoria.
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