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How much is an Aboriginal youth's life worth?

  • 08 August 2017


In the wake of the Elijah Doughty verdict I find myself considering the implications for my own family and loved ones. I have followed for some time the extraordinary number of American citizens recklessly killed by police (over 700 so far this year and counting) and I am distraught at the disproportionate number of black people, including minors as young as 14 and 15, represented in these statistics. The prejudice and self-righteous bigotry behind these deaths in unconscionable. But until the Elijah Doughty case, I had not considered that this horrific, racially motivated violence does occur so much closer to home.

I have four sons, one of whom identifies strongly with his Tasmanian Aboriginal heritage and claims this as a significant part of who he is and where he fits in the world. His partner is Indigenous as well. These people are my family. Are their lives in danger? Do I need to worry? In the past, my son has encountered unprovoked conflict instigated by authorities whilst using public transport, and also from random strangers whilst walking down the street. He is an individual and does not conform to society’s expectations of dress or appearance.

On top of this, by claiming his Indigenous heritage it seems to me that society has placed him further in the path of danger; a personal decision to claim his identity will, in all likelihood, make him a target for vilification, abuse and increased aggression – something thousands of Indigenous Australians experience on a daily basis. This troubles me deeply. We live in a society where this should not be his, or anyone’s, reality.

Australians claim an identity as a nation built from the principle of a fair go for all, regardless of background or the colour of a person’s skin. Yet I hear and read an ongoing litany of complaints about our Aboriginal communities and individuals; attitudes which reveal no understanding of why people present themselves or conduct their lives in the ways they do.

I hear and read rubbish about so-called privileges afforded Aboriginal people in this country, when clearly the opposite is the norm and it is the white whingers who hold the actual position of privilege.

Rule of Law is supposed to be the great equalizer, one of the irrefutable tenets of human rights. Australia claims to be an egalitarian nation. How can we make that claim in the face of plain and clear evidence to the