Aboriginal self-determination in Australia - download pdf or read online

Human Rights

By Christine Fletcher

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Example text

A national referendum was required to have them recognised and accorded the rights described in that constitution. In Western Australia Aboriginal children were denied access to free state schooling until the late 1940s when a change began to occur. When special 'native' schools were established, Aboriginal children were told not to speak their language in the classroom or the playground. From my own experience, in one particular Aboriginal school, teachers spent a whole weekend collecting quartz stones to mark the boundary of the school and, during the morning assembly, they said, 'When you step over those quartz you are not allowed to speak Aboriginal, your own tongue.

So if the law can reach back beyond the normal barriers of time set up by statutes of limitation to award the beneficiaries of those wrongful acts, all principles of equity would suggest at least an equal concern for those who lost their land. What is good for the weak, what is good for the victor is surely also good for the vanquished. Further problems present themselves with this proposition. White Australians argue vehemently that the present generation cannot be called to account for the actions of previous generations.

Government should reconsider the budgetary process and establish Aboriginal affairs appropriation under a line item in the context of a separate capital fund, on the basis of compensation payments for land lost. An essential element in all of this financial rearrangement is the accompanying psychology and public perception (not forgetting the practice of removing Aboriginal affairs funding out of the context of welfare). The annual appropriation of over one billion dollars through the federal government should be placed under the direct control of Aboriginal people: obviously this organisation (for example, ATSIC) would have no connection whatsoever with the Commonwealth or state government.

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