Under Cover of Racist Myth, a New Land Grab in Australia

Claims of child abuse are proving a fertile pretext to menace the Aboriginal communities lying in the way of uranium mining

Its banks secured in the warmth of the southern spring, Australia is
not news. It ought to be. An epic scandal of racism, injustice and
brutality is being covered up in the manner of apartheid South Africa.
Many Australians conspire in this silence, wishing never to reflect
upon the truth about their society's Untermenschen, the Aboriginal

The facts are not in dispute: thousands of black
Australians never reach the age of 40; an entirely preventable disease,
trachoma, blinds black children as epidemics of rheumatic fever ravage
their communities; suicide among the despairing young is common. No
other developed country has such a record. A pervasive white myth, that
Aborigines leech off the state, serves to conceal the disgrace that
money the federal government says it spends on indigenous affairs
actually goes towards opposing native land rights. In 2006, some A$3bn
was underspent "or the result of creative accounting", reported the
Sydney Morning Herald. Like the children of apartheid, the Aboriginal
children of Thamarrurr in the Northern Territory receive less than half
the educational resources allotted to white children.

In 2005,
the UN committee on the elimination of racial discrimination described
the racism of the Australian state, a distinction afforded no other
developed country. This was in the decade-long rule of the conservative
coalition of John Howard, whose coterie of white supremacist academics
and journalists assaulted the truth of recorded genocide in Australia,
especially the horrific separations of Aboriginal children from their
families. They deployed arguments not dissimilar to those David Irving
used to promote Holocaust denial.

Smear by media as a precursor
to the latest round of repression is long familiar to black
Australians. In 2006, the flagship current affairs programme of the
Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Lateline, broadcast lurid
allegations of "sex slavery" among the Mutitjulu people in the Northern
Territory. The programme's source, described as an "anonymous youth
worker", was later exposed as a federal government official whose
"evidence" was discredited by the Northern Territory chief minister and
the police.

The ABC has never retracted its allegations,
claiming it has been "exonerated by an internal inquiry". Shortly
before last year's election, Howard declared a "national emergency" and
sent the army to the Northern Territory to "protect the children" who,
said his minister for indigenous affairs, were being abused in
"unthinkable numbers".

Last February, with much sentimental
fanfare, the new prime minister, Labor's Kevin Rudd, made a formal
apology to the first Australians. Australia was said to be finally
coming to terms with its rapacious past and present. Was it? "The Rudd
government," noted a Sydney Morning Herald editorial, "has moved
quickly to clear away this piece of political wreckage in a way that
responds to some of its own supporters' emotional needs, yet it changes
nothing. It is a shrewd manoeuvre."

In May, barely reported
government statistics revealed that of the 7,433 Aboriginal children
examined by doctors as part of the "national emergency", 39 had been
referred to the authorities for suspected abuse. Of those, a maximum of
just four possible cases of abuse were identified. Such were the
"unthinkable numbers". They were little different from those of child
abuse in white Australia. What was different was that no soldiers
invaded the beachside suburbs, no white parents were swept aside, no
white welfare was "quarantined". Marion Scrymgour, an Aboriginal
minister in the Northern Territory, said: "To see decent, caring
[Aboriginal] fathers, uncles, brothers and grandfathers, who are
undoubtedly innocent of the horrific charges being bandied about,
reduced to helplessness and tears, speaks to me of widespread social

What the doctors found they already knew - children at
risk from a spectrum of extreme poverty and the denial of resources in
one of the world's richest countries. Having let a few crumbs fall,
Rudd is picking up where Howard left off. His indigenous affairs
minister, Jenny Macklin, has threatened to withdraw government support
from remote communities that are "economically unviable". The Northern
Territory is the only region where Aborigines have comprehensive land
rights, granted almost by accident 30 years ago. Here lie some of the
world's biggest uranium deposits. Canberra wants to mine and sell it.

governments, especially the US, want the Northern Territory as a toxic
dump. The Adelaide to Darwin railway that runs adjacent to Olympic Dam,
the world's largest uranium mine, was built with the help of Kellogg,
Brown & Root - a subsidiary of American giant Halliburton, the alma
mater of Dick Cheney, Howard's "mate". "The land grab of Aboriginal
tribal land has nothing to do with child sexual abuse," says the
Australian scientist Helen Caldicott, "but all to do with open slather
uranium mining and converting the Northern Territory to a global
nuclear dump."

What is unique about Australia is not its
sun-baked, derivative society, clinging to the sea, but its first
people, the oldest on earth, whose skill and courage in surviving
invasion, of which the current onslaught is merely the latest, deserve
humanity's support.

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