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The Australian indigenous solution: "alcohol or no alcohol"


If there is one thing I’ve learned in my long life it’s that there is no single cause and effect. Yet, this current debate appears to approach the issue as one dimensional: all will be well if these people are denied access to alcohol.

Let’s take a brief overview of events since 1788. The doctrine of Terra Nullius prevailed and the invaders of Australia quickly displaced the indigenous people who were powerless to turn them back. They had no status other than that of vermin in the eyes of the Europeans. (This doctrine took until 1992 to be overturned.) They were viewed as primitive despite having adapted and adjusted successfully for some 40,000 years until the arrival of the first fleet when they were denied their natural rights (rights not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of any particular culture or government, and therefore universal and inalienable).

These people were: driven off their lands, and contained and their movements limited or restricted by appointed officials; subjected to missionaries’ forced conversions to Christianity; raped and their mixed blood children were forcibly removed with the plan of whitening these offspring; forced into a lifestyle of dependence on their oppressor; hunted, killed, murdered with the aim of localized genocide (largely successful in Tasmania).

The indigenous people of Australia are a people with a developed “non-material” culture that integrates individual and collective subjectivity into the structures of the environment. They are not so much part of nature as they are its intelligence, playing a vital role in the self-government of the interactions between species and environment. The land has a great a longing for the return of the Aboriginal people as the Aboriginal people have for their return to their country.

Aboriginal people, since the arrival of the first fleet, have been oppressed to the point where they are outcasts in their own land, unemployed, uneducated, unhealthy, impoverished and possibly the most imprisoned people on earth. Police are known to maltreat Aboriginal children physically and psychologically.

Aboriginal people are largely invisible, and most Australians have no direct experience of these people. There are many people with some awareness of the issues and are appalled by the treatment of  aboriginal people and support improvements for them. However, most are victims of Australia’s mainstream media that tells people what to think and shape opinions.

Many prejudices towards Australia’s indigenous peoples have not gone away and remain to this day. There are many who resent any government expenditure on these people as they are viewed as spending it all on booze. Alcoholism remains a serious issue that can be traced back to disenfranchisement and other psychological issues. Any solutions for these people have to solve that too.

The existence of Australia’s first peoples remains unacknowledged in this nation’s founding document. The Constitution, the highest legal document of this country, remains silent on the entire first chapter of Australia’s history. And it contains traces of the racist views that allowed the first Australians to be denied a vote in their own land. Such as the section which says the States can ban any race of people from voting. This is no longer acceptable. In 1967, over 90 per cent of Australians voted yes to include the indigenous people as citizens of Australia. As such, the status quo does not reflect the current situation.

Further, the Australian government should study the advanced programmes for indigenous people in Canada and New Zealand. Admittedly, neither country has yet solved all its problems, but they are tracking in the right direction. All Australian governments (federal, states, territories, local councils) need a fresh commitment to sort the social problems surrounding Australia’s Aboriginal peoples. The status quo is shameful.


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