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We've Taught Them How To Die

Indigenous peoples across the planet have carried, and continue to carry, the burden of colonisation. The single most important lesson learnt by indigenous peoples from the colonisers is how to die. First nations people around the world suffer from the same side effects of colonisation. Poor health, high infant mortality rates, alcoholism and drug abuse, poor educational and employment outcomes. Whether you look at the lives of the Inuit people of Greenland or Australian Aborigines in central Australia, colonisation’s legacy is largely negative.

We tend to forget colonies were not only plundered of their natural resources to benefit the colonising country, the colonisers also physically, culturally and sexually exploited the original inhabitants while they plundered the lands people had inhabited for tens of thousands of years. Religion and civilisation were the justifications that were used by the colonisers to make the unthinkable and unacceptable, acceptable. A lack of knowledge about practices that have been carved out of the historical record allow practices that were common place in a colony to become normal in a sovereign nation state. Although Australia has been a sovereign nation state since 1901, we still continue to foster the same relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders the colonisers had.

Three things have happened in Australia in the past few months that have highlighted nothing has fundamentally changed. The mildly reformist demands of the Uluru gathering of indigenous voices from all over Australia that asked for a representative body of indigenous Australians to be incorporated in the Australian constitution that could advise parliament has been ignored. The call for the beginning of a dialogue to look at the question of a treaty between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians has been swept aside. The call for Invasion Day, 26th January, not to be celebrated as Australia Day has been reported as an attack on Australian values and largely ignored.

While all this is going on the statistics remain static in some areas and are becoming worse in other areas. Incarceration rates, life expectancy, infant mortality, health outcomes, education outcomes and employment outcomes have not improved. We need to acknowledge the past to understand the present and change the future. If we refuse to acknowledge the brutality of the past, we cannot understand the present, let alone change the future.