"Aboriginal people are 13 times more likely to be locked up than other Australians."
That’s a figure that comes from the National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee (NIDAC is a division of the Australian National Council on Drugs, a Federal government body) report "Bridges and Barriers – Addressing Indigenous Incarceration and Health".
There are about 750,000 aboriginal people in Australia out of a total population of about 23 million. They comprise about 3% of the total population. But, according to the report:
"One in four prisoners in Australia is Indigenous and their over-representation in the jail system is only getting worse."
3% of the population – 25% of the prison population.
And it’s just getting worse.
"In the decade to 2007, the number of Indigenous Australians in prison rose by 6.7 per cent a year, on average.
Aboriginal people went from comprising 18 per cent of the prison population to 24 per cent."
Obviously it’s a complex issue and there are lots of reasons, some that go back 200 years, but I believe the major reason is this:
Aussies are racists.
And I know most Aussies are going to hate that – but I think it’s true.
Wikipedia defines racism as:
"… the belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race."
Ask most Aussies why they think one quarter of the prison population is Aboriginal and I guarantee you most of them will shrug their shoulders. They just don’t care. Why? Because we’ve been programmed not to care. We’ve been programmed to think aboriginals are just lazy, child-molesting alcoholics. Unless, of course, they excel at an Anglo sport, such as athletics or footy. Then they’re alright. Or if they excel at an Anglo art – musicians and actors, they’re okay too. Or if they become a politician and survive in the Westminster System (the form of government instituted by their occupying power) – then they’re alright in our books too.
But as for the other 99% of the Aboriginal population – we’ve been told, over and over, by the mainstream media and successive governments, that they are mostly just lazy, child-molesting, petrol-sniffing alcoholics who don’t appreciate the money we throw at them, who drive a car until it runs out of petrol then leave it by the side of the road, who rip perfectly good fridges out of houses and leave them to rust in their backyards.
So most Aussies just shrug their shoulders, as if to say "what more can we do?".
Meanwhile, a 45,000 year old civilisation is being wiped out in our backyard.
A people who lived in harmony with nature for 45,000 years, who lived sustainably, who didn’t feel the need to go out and invade other countries, a civilisation that was already 40,000 years old when the Great Pyramid of Cheops was built – is being wiped out as a direct result of the Christian invasion and occupation of their country.
Imagine if the headlines said "One in Four Prisoners is Muslim". I think that would create more of an uproar. I guarantee you a week from now, people won’t even be talking about this issue in the press.
But we’ll still be talking about Neda.
We’ll still be talking about Andrew Symons.
We’ll still be talking about Utegate.
We’ll still be talking about Transformers 2.
We’ll still be talking about whatever we’re told to talk about.
Just not the Aboriginals.
Racism isn’t just when you put on a white robe and burn people on crosses. That’s just an extreme expression of racism. That’s just a convenient version of racism that lets the rest of us off the hook. We can say "oh I’m not a racist".
Meanwhile, we let a 45,000 year old civilisation disappear.
I think we’re guilty of the same kind of insidious racism that allowed the people in Germany 60 years ago to turn their heads while their Jewish population were being lead out of their homes.
It’s the kind of racism that says "they don’t look like me – so it doesn’t matter."
If we – the people – don’t talk about it, the politicians won’t talk about it.
Oh they will – they will have committees, Kevin Rudd will say sorry for the lost generation – but it won’t be a major focus.
He’ll spend his time looking after the interests of mining companies and banks.
He’ll spend his time worrying about how to get re-elected.
But the Aboriginal people of Australia are a long way down the list.
It’s up to us. We need to make this a priority.
We need to say "not on our watch".