Picking the scab of colonisation

Stuarts party threatened by blacks

Dr John Falzon Eureka Street 1st March 2012

There's a deep wound in Australia.

There's a gash in our story.

It is a wound that is known by different names:

Colonisation.

Dispossession.

Coercion.

Control.

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 Falzon

Dr 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.