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Reparations for aboriginies in Australia

 
 
Reply Tue 12 Feb, 2008 08:38 pm
Australia is a country whose cultural frictions have been significant and I'd like to applaud them today not just for their PM Rudd's apology to aboriginies but because of the fact that the Australian public has come to want it so.

But on to what I really want to know about.

I am already detecting signs of a subsequent reparations rift that I really hope doesn't spoil the moment. The more debatable moral question of cultural burden of responsibility across generations (what a mouthful!) isn't something that should ruin this milestone and the important thing is that an overwhelming majority of Australians have repudiated the previous governments' policies.

Yet just like in other swings of the pendulum there is controversy over how far it should go the other way before it settles in the middle. And I know this period can be pretty ugly. In extreme cases like South Africa it is downright violent. In less extreme cases like the United States it can turn into a "neo-racism" where the conflict over reparations generates new racial discord and resentment among new generations. No matter what the case, it is rarely pretty.

My curiosity is how big an issue this is for Australians? In the US the scope of the injustice was of a different magnitude and as a race-obsessed country (for better and for worse) it was all over the place and I wonder how this is playing out on the street in Australia.
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msolga
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Feb, 2008 08:58 pm
bookmarking.




(Interesting question, Robert. I'll defintely return later.)
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2008 02:08 am
Re: Reparations for aboriginies in Australia
Robert Gentel wrote:
Australia is a country whose cultural frictions have been significant and I'd like to applaud them today not just for their PM Rudd's apology to aboriginies but because of the fact that the Australian public has come to want it so.

But on to what I really want to know about.

I am already detecting signs of a subsequent reparations rift that I really hope doesn't spoil the moment. The more debatable moral question of cultural burden of responsibility across generations (what a mouthful!) isn't something that should ruin this milestone and the important thing is that an overwhelming majority of Australians have repudiated the previous governments' policies.

Yet just like in other swings of the pendulum there is controversy over how far it should go the other way before it settles in the middle. And I know this period can be pretty ugly. In extreme cases like South Africa it is downright violent. In less extreme cases like the United States it can turn into a "neo-racism" where the conflict over reparations generates new racial discord and resentment among new generations. No matter what the case, it is rarely pretty.

My curiosity is how big an issue this is for Australians? In the US the scope of the injustice was of a different magnitude and as a race-obsessed country (for better and for worse) it was all over the place and I wonder how this is playing out on the street in Australia.







Uncertain. This is very personal and doubtless very flawed, but this is how I see it, with all the distortions created by my neuroses.




One of the things that (allegedly) stopped the previous government from apologising (I think this was an excuse, but I could be wrong....but I really don't think I am. More on this later.) was the fear that apologising would open the way to massive compensation cases, that would potentially cripple the finances of the country.



Rudd was careful to apologise in Parliament, which carries all kinds of legal privilege....(are you familiar with the notion of Parliamentary privilege in supposedly Westminster systems? Some call it "coward's castle).




Prior to the election of the Howard government in 1996, and as a result partly of key Labor leaders' ideological commitment to improving the lot of aboriginal Australians, and partly as the result of the key High Court decision re Mabo (familiar with it????) and partly as a result of national awakening, AND conservative leaders' enlightened actions, there was a strong impetus towards justice and understanding and ACTION re the massive problems faced by first Australians.



This coincided (not exactly, but within a couple of decades - 1966 to 1996....with the opening of the borders to large numbers of Asain, African etc immigrants.



For many, it all happened bloody fast, and coincided with economic rationalism and lowered or annihilated tariffs, pressure for free trade, and the death of multitudes of Australian industries, with subsequent trauma, grief and anger.



In a way, it is as though there was a top-down (in part) dragging of the country towards a transformed future.


It was hard. I found parts of it hard, and I was bloody cushioned from its effects. Change is hard and scary. Some people found it utterly annihilating.



The horror of the experience of Indigenous Australians was a thing about which Australia, en masse, was (in my view) in toxic denial.



My personal experience was of gradually discovering some of the truth.....reacting with utter horror, and protecting myself with denial, then facing it again.


This, I think, engenders defensive anger and and a mess of emotions.


It feels as though Oz then entered a period of reaction (dialectically speaking).


It felt as though the dark side needed to be expressed.......thesis/antithesis.....(please...synthesis.)


I cannot describe (to me) the horror of the ensuing "rough beast, slouch(ing) toward Jerusalem to be born".


Yet......to some extent, the beast was me. I coiled and roiled upon the realities of history. I got angry and defensive and cynical ( I was seeing the very worst - constantly - of aboriginal abuse of aboriginal people). I did the blame, cynicism, reaction, denial, projection...all of it. I STILL do it sometimes. What did I do? How dare they **** on me? On my wonderful colleagues.......on the innocent kids? ELDERS, goddammit!!!!!!


Howard came to power surfing, in part, on the dark underbelly of Oz racism, fear, trauma, defended against guilt, ignorance and desire for the old safeties.......



NONE OF THIS HAS GONE.





Yet, perhaps, the Howard years allowed the expression and lancing of a national boil??????????????? They allowed many of us to "catch up" and begin to demand previously feared changes?




The apology was done specifically in a manner to not support compensation.




I cannot predict how big and divisive it will become.



As I understand it, stolen generations can individually sue.....thing is, the precedents say that, if practices reflect best practice AT THE TIME, there is no blame. This leaves a lot of leeway for compensatory damages awards.




I would hope that, possibly, aboriginal people may accept intelligently and graciously targeted money, aimed at, and assessed as addressing, the ills of the stolen generation, as compensation independently of this process.

If they do not. I get it (and I think millions of us do).


But it could get nasty. Sigh.









Sorry for the rambling.




I utterly understand if folk have difficulty with this
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2008 05:26 am
"The mood of the nation is for reconciliation now," Rudd said.

http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/02/12/australia.aborgines/index.html

And that is the most important thing, right now, as I see it.

But where to go to from here?: I'm hoping (fervently!) that this new Labor government's emphasis on health, education & housing will bring about far better outcomes than previous efforts. And this means massive expenditure. I hope Labor can I carry this through. I believe there have been a number of genuine attempts, over time, to address the very real disadvantage of aboriginal Australians (land rights, respectful consultations with aboriginal groups, etc..) about "solutions" & also a number of "interventions" that have not worked.

To tell the truth, Robert, many of us of good will are unsure of what exactly it will take to turn the most disadvantaged aboriginal communities around. Even aboriginal leaders disagree on where to go from here. (This morning on my local ABC radio, I heard Gary Foley, an aboriginal activist, argue that that "stolen generations" were just the tip of the iceberg .. that others well before them deserved an apology, too. And then there's the question of compensation.) It is extremely complex. There are things that we simply do not understand (not being aborigines ourselves), try as we do. But today was an excellent start. So long as Australians of good will do not confuse a wonderful act of symbolism with actually "fixing" the problem ... & are willing to see the process through, I have a bit of hope for all of us.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2008 06:15 am
Noting comments re compensation from different indigenous leaders:


Apology must be followed by compensation: ALS

Posted 7 hours 43 minutes ago


The Aboriginal Legal Service says compensation must follow the Prime Minister's formal apology to the Stolen Generations. (ABC)
Map: Perth 6000

The Aboriginal Legal Service in Perth says Indigenous people are now looking to compensation following the formal apology to the Stolen Generations by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.

West Australians packed Perth's foreshore to listen and watch the telecast of Mr Rudd, but the Opposition leader's reply was met with an angry response that forced organisers to cut short his speech.

This morning a large crowd, including the Premier Alan Carpenter applauded Kevin Rudd from an auditorium on Perth's foreshore as he said sorry to the Stolen Generations.

The Chief Executive of the Aboriginal Legal Service Dennis Eggington says the crowd's reaction to Dr Nelson's reply was indicative of the passion surrounding the issue.

"Because of the acknowledgment that these policies were wrong and that they have suffered there's no denying that compensation should be paid," he said.

Legal experts believe the apology will not trigger claims because authorities removed children lawfully.



http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/02/13/2161802.htm




Lowitcha O'Donoghue:

"O'Donoghue suggests a special fund worth around $1 billion to address compensation claims.

"The money that was spent in advertising for the elections ... (it would be) a much better way to spend the money," she said.

And she warned governments they couldn't use extra money for services like health and education in lieu of compensation payments.

"They're talking about closing the gap now ... but they must not consider that to be a compensation," Ms O'Donoghue said."


http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23207882-1702,00.html




Mick Dodson:

"Sorry compo won't cripple nation: Dodson

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February 13, 2008 - 2:09PM
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Aboriginal leader Patrick Dodson has urged the government to follow today's apology with compensation for the stolen generation.

Mr Dodson, the former chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, said anyone treated badly under the law deserved to pursue recompense.

He said the debate leading up to the apology to indigenous people had not been edifying.

"There is an exaggerated anxiety that there will be an avalanche of demands for monetary compensation," he said in an address to the National Press Club in Canberra.

"Even if the courts said there was a case for compensation would the scale cripple our economic future?

"Any group of people who have been treated badly under laws made legitimately by the crown deserve to pursue compensation judicially, legally or politically and they deserve our support."

Mr Dodson said the whole issue of making good on the past, including compensation for the stolen generation, wasn't easily pursued.

"Is our fear of having our past governments and its servants condemned for their failure to act, to protect indigenous people so great that we simply cannot countenance the notion of reviling their actions and establishing a process for recompense, restitution or reconciliation?" he asked.

"But let us do it in a considered and negotiated manner as part of a careful constructed process aimed at building an Australian nation that recognises and respects Aboriginal history, culture, language and society."

Mr Dodson said Australia had changed from the moment Mr Rudd made the apology."


http://news.smh.com.au/sorry-compo-wont-cripple-nation-dodson/20080213-1ryn.html


Rural scepticism the apology will "lead to another money grab"....articulating probably a sizeable minority's concerns:

http://www.abc.net.au/rural/news/content/2007/s2161387.htm



Ok....looking at a round-up of media releases from indigenous leaders, my sense is that compensation is a recurring theme, and that real funding of more attempts tpo address aboriginal advantage will not be seen by many of those spokespeople as viable alternative.


Given, as I said, that the apology was carefully managed so as to avoid any possibility that it would support compensation claims, and that governments are generally not supportive of it, I do see this as a possible quite intense and seriously abrasive rift issue.




Thing is, I think it would be unclear at this point if there would be a strong indigenous push for it....though Brendan Nelson's comments about no compensation seem to have initiated the back-turning and chanting, that his later references to gross abuse in aboriginal communities seems to have cemented (WHO were his advisers re that!!!!??????).


I have also heard various press releases by very conservative folk being very scathing and demeaning of the apology process.



I think only time will tell if this becomes really ugly....I think it has the potential to do so.



Mind you, the South Australian government formally apologised 11 years ago........and compensation does not seem to have become a deeply divisive issue here.


Given that we administered the Northern Territory during key years of the stolen generation, so our community welfare folk would have been very involved in the processes across two states with high aboriginal populations, that may be relevant.
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2008 06:30 am
And why shouldn't they be compensated?

They have experienced misery directly as the result of previous governments' decisions & actions.

But still (being realistic), my funding preference are for current & especially future generations. Longer living Australian aborigines, better health expectations, better education & future opportunities & far better living conditions ....
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2008 06:33 am
msolga wrote:
And why shouldn't they be compensated?

They have experienced misery directly as the result of previous governments' decisions & actions.

But still (being realistic), my funding preference are for current & especially future generations. Longer living Australian aborigines, better health expectations, better education & future opportunities & far better living conditions ....



I'm not arguing about the rights or wrongs of compensation, but trying to answer the question, re whether it's going to be an ugly rift issue.

I was going to add this above:

There's a lot of non-indigenous out there who believe that aboriginal people already get far more than other Australians spent on them in health, welfare, education, equal opportunity incentives, provision of services in tiny, unviable communities etc.....they are wrong (though more aboriginal people would be dependent on welfare than any other group, I would think, greatly to their ). Any compensation push is gonna piss those people off mightily.




A very immediate issue for the government is what they do re Howard's intervention, too.
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2008 06:56 am
dlowan wrote:
A very immediate issue for the government is what they do re Howard's intervention, too.


Yes, obviously. It's a tough one, given such divided opinion in aboriginal communities. Also that the welfare of children is the critical issue here.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2008 07:11 am
msolga wrote:
dlowan wrote:
A very immediate issue for the government is what they do re Howard's intervention, too.


Yes, obviously. It's a tough one, given such divided opinion in aboriginal communities. Also that the welfare of children is the critical issue here.



Do you have a sense of the "street" re a compensation rift, Msolga?


My "street" is such a rarefied one, given where I work, unless clients comment.
0 Replies
 
shewolfnm
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2008 07:40 am
bookmark
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2008 07:43 am
No, Deb. I'm not familiar with that term at all.
In my line of work I'm more than familiar with students who live on the edge. We try our best with them.
Explain "street" to me.
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2008 07:52 am
Wednesday's 'The Age' has six pages covering "Australia's new beginning" ...

http://i28.tinypic.com/2eq3vv5.jpg



... and this cartoon (page 15)

http://i32.tinypic.com/2cyfb0n.jpg
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2008 03:09 pm
msolga wrote:
No, Deb. I'm not familiar with that term at all.
In my line of work I'm more than familiar with students who live on the edge. We try our best with them.
Explain "street" to me.



Look at what Robert asked:

"My curiosity is how big an issue this is for Australians? In the US the scope of the injustice was of a different magnitude and as a race-obsessed country (for better and for worse) it was all over the place and I wonder how this is playing out on the street in Australia."



"The street" as I understand it means among ordinary people, what people on the ground actually think, as opposed to what the media or leaders may enunciate. What people are saying in pubs, or round water coolers, the village pump, that sort of thing, over back-yard fences....


A bit like "ask a taxi-driver"... :wink:



I would think your students might be a damn good indicator of what a particular segment of "the street" is really thinking, and I would be fascinated to know what they are thinking, and what teachers' reaction was.
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2008 05:08 pm
ah. I thought your reference to "the street" had something to do with the previous post ... children & intervention. I shouldn't post late at night! :wink:
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2008 06:59 pm
http://www.theage.com.au/ffximage/2008/02/13/sorry3_gallery__554x400.jpg

The crowd watching Kevin Rudd's speech on the big screen at 9 am, Federation Square, Melbourne.This'll give you some idea of the amount of interest in yesterday's apology, Robert. There were scenes like this all over the country, in Martin Place in Sydney, outside (& inside) parliament house in Canberra, in small halls all over the country (500 aboriginal people crowded into a small hall in a suburb near me, watching together) .... The interest was HUGE. All day on radio people just could not stop talking about it. I was sitting outside at my favourite local cafe in the afternoon, having a cup of coffee, & a woman walked by & declared loudly to everyone: "Hey, everyone! Smile! It's Sorry Day!" ABC radio reported that motorists in the city were turning on their car lights on the way home last night, as a sign of support & approval. I don't think anyone could have predicted that the apology (at last!) would so capture the public's attention. I went to a night class last night & everyone was enthusiastically discussing it, as were people in shops as I did my shopping in the afternoon. I know all of this must sound wildly positive, but honestly, I have never seen such a reaction (much of it quite emotional) from ordinary people to a parliamentary speech. I think a big motivation for such an overwhelming tresponse was a reaction to John Howard's (former PM) lack of respect for aboriginal people & his continued stubborn refusal to say "sorry". (Continued reference to "the black arm band view of aboriginal history" ... a complete lack of empathy with any but a very limited white view of Australian history ...) So it was such a blessed relief to finally hear that word! It was like we had all crawled out from under a rock into daylight at last! Really! Very Happy
0 Replies
 
vikorr
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Feb, 2008 05:13 pm
Just cause I want to put my 2cp worth in :

The basis of my belief in compensation is that society does not 'owe' a person anything beyond a basic living.

Compensation cases for injuries should be limited strictly to cost of living payouts. Any extra sought, should go to charities : This will stop people from seeking ridiculous sums of money for minor matters (I personally think it is a parasitic practice) while allowing suits that deter companies from unsafe practices - personally they can get rid of the need for this last bit through proper legislation.

Compensation claims from Govt for grievances should be allowed for cost of disadvantage (ie if they lost money because of Govt decision, compensation should be able to be claimed), with any extra sought going to charities (again, to stop ridiculous claims, but allow for a method that encourages accountability)
.........................................
It is my opinion that allowing people to sue beyond cost of living expenses damages :
-the person filing the suit
-the person against whom the suit is filed
-society as a whole

It encourages selfishness, thoughtless, a lack of empathy, and a 'me, me' attitude. It creates fear of being sued in good people, leading to a 'I don't want to get involved' attitude...it individualises people and continually attacks the will to be community minded.

I am of the opinion that Govt allows such as it is easier to control self interested people, than it is to control people who value community and other people.

Of course, that's just one of the many ways this is done, but a significant one nonetheless.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Feb, 2008 05:37 pm
Wow, that's an amazing picture, msolga.

Reading this whole thing with interest.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Feb, 2008 05:41 pm
vikorr wrote:
Just cause I want to put my 2cp worth in :

The basis of my belief in compensation is that society does not 'owe' a person anything beyond a basic living.

Compensation cases for injuries should be limited strictly to cost of living payouts. Any extra sought, should go to charities : This will stop people from seeking ridiculous sums of money for minor matters (I personally think it is a parasitic practice) while allowing suits that deter companies from unsafe practices - personally they can get rid of the need for this last bit through proper legislation.

Compensation claims from Govt for grievances should be allowed for cost of disadvantage (ie if they lost money because of Govt decision, compensation should be able to be claimed), with any extra sought going to charities (again, to stop ridiculous claims, but allow for a method that encourages accountability)
.........................................
It is my opinion that allowing people to sue beyond cost of living expenses damages :
-the person filing the suit
-the person against whom the suit is filed
-society as a whole

It encourages selfishness, thoughtless, a lack of empathy, and a 'me, me' attitude. It creates fear of being sued in good people, leading to a 'I don't want to get involved' attitude...it individualises people and continually attacks the will to be community minded.

I am of the opinion that Govt allows such as it is easier to control self interested people, than it is to control people who value community and other people.

Of course, that's just one of the many ways this is done, but a significant one nonetheless.




But do you think that the reparations issue is gonna get ugly?
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Feb, 2008 05:45 pm
(following along closely)
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Feb, 2008 05:47 pm
sozobe wrote:
Wow, that's an amazing picture, msolga.

Reading this whole thing with interest.


Has the US done this to native Americans?


I asked elsewhere, and didn't get an answer, so I googled...and all I can find is stuff from native Americans asking for an apology, and news about a bill to do so being debated in 2005......but nothing about it actually happening.
0 Replies
 
 

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