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Picking the scab of colonisation


There's a deep wound in Australia.

There's a gash in our story.

It is a wound that is known by different names:





It is still with us.

The wound is fresh. It is not yet healed. It is not even yet a scar.

The wound of colonisation is a wound in the heart of the First Peoples of this land.

To the people in high places who say that the wound does not exist, we say we know it does exist.

To the people in high places who say that the wound is an Aboriginal problem, we say that the wound is not an Aboriginal problem. It is a wound in the heart of Aboriginal families but it is not an Aboriginal problem. It is an Australian problem. It is our problem.

The policies that the Government wishes to enshrine as legislation today are policies built on the falsehood that the wound does not exist or that the wound exists but that it is an Aboriginal problem. They are policies that treat Aboriginal people as if they are the problem. They are policies that are imposed from above rather than coming from the wisdom of the people on the ground.

They are policies that do not treat the wound and cannot heal the wound.

They are policies that deepen the wound.

They are policies that continue to harm, to hurt, to humiliate, to degrade, to punish, to control. Like all forms of colonisation they deny the full humanity of those who are subjected to them.

They are policies that have been shamelessly trialled on the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory and that are now to be imposed on other so-called areas of disadvantage across Australia. The degrading trail of internal colonisation continues, discriminating one moment on the basis of race and the next moment on the basis of class.

The 'Stronger Futures' legislation might strengthen the futures of the powerful but it is an attempt to weaken the dignity of those who are subjected to its control.

As Elaine Peckham put it: 'We don't want the Basics Card. We want basic rights.'

I would add: we don't want social control. We want social justice.

Back in 1993, Mick Dodson explained what social justice means to him. He said:

'Social justice is what faces you in the morning. It is awakening in a house with adequate water supply, cooking facilities and sanitation. It is the ability to nourish your children and send them to school where their education not only equips them for employment but reinforces their knowledge and understanding of their cultural inheritance. It is the prospect of genuine employment and good health: a life of choices and opportunity, free from discrimination.'

You don't build a community up by putting its people down.

You don't build an inclusive society by locking people out or locking them up.

The injustice of the policies that we are taking a stand against today is that they treat people as if they are nothing.

In being here today we are saying that we are on the side of the people who are treated as if they are nothing.

We are saying that the strongest future for our nation lies in knowing that together we can be everything.

John FalzonDr John Falzon is the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council Chief Executive and a member of the Australian Social Inclusion Board. The above text is from a speech he gave at a rally outside Parliament House this week against the Stronger Futures legislation, which will extend and deepen some of the worst aspects of the NT Intervention.

Topic tags: John Falzon, Indigenous Australians, Stronger Futures, Intervention



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Existing comments

John, what you write has always impressed me as naming truth and reality, often in the face of many who don't want to see it. I appreciate your insights once again in this article.

Peter Dowling | 02 March 2012  

So what do we do, John? We know the question! What is the answer....the rhetoric is wonderful but we need to see outcomes instead of ongoing concerns How does it happen for people when Australians truly believe that is someone else's problem?

GAJ | 02 March 2012  

I so wish that John Falzon would go into Federal Government and try to get policy to reflect his thinking. He is "spot on " every time.

Narelle Mullins | 02 March 2012  

Narelle How do we get the likes of John into policy making positions Many of us know what would help but leverage in powerful places just doesn't exist...friend of Jenny...and money is the answer without good infrastructure to back it up

GAJ | 02 March 2012  

To go forward, we cannot afford to keep looking back into the past. Good things and bad things were done by people in past generations. It is so easy to be high and mighty and to be critical about the first colonials. Many of these people were bought here as convicts or they came here to escape starvation in Europe. Many lived in a hovel unable to feed themselves somewhere in Ireland or other places in Europe. Having the hope of getting some land to farm, the freedom to fish in rivers and to hunt in the bush was the choice for their future. I think it is very arrogant just to blame the colonialists for all the evil. Most of these people were good people trying to do good for their country and their families. We know how much pain and suffering colonialists have caused on the inhabitants of many countries including Australia. In some cases the colonial powers replaced brutal and hard existing powers with a more humane system. In other cases the impact on the local population was severe indeed. What can we do about it? NOTHING, the past is gone. We can act now and work for the future. The only way to go forward is to treat every Australian equally and with respect. The colour of the skin and the persons origin should never be a cause of discrimination of any kind. Respect, understanding and true partnerships must replace fake care.

Beat Odermatt | 02 March 2012  

On a day when Falzon talks of the wound in our national story that will not heal and Swan warns us of the poisonous billionaires who use their power to corrupt and exploit our people for their own selfish ends, I despair for our country. It is time for the good and righteous to stand up against their oppressors!

L Beriya Canley Heights | 02 March 2012  

Thank you L. Beriya for your wise words. You have prophetically brought together the two most burning issues that we must face as a nation; colonization and inequality. If only voices like yours and Falzon's could be heard in our national parliament.

Koba | 04 March 2012  

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