Hello everyone, and welcome to today’s news story. As you know, our show tries to inform you of crucial but ignored social issues in our societies. Today, I will take you through the worrying levels of discrimination and discrimination against Australian′s First Nations people in the 21st century.
For almost four decades after complete independence from the shadow of British politics, Australian′s First Nations people still cry for justice. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the first Australian First Nations people who have memories of a violent history and media racism that make their case worse. Indigenous people suffered heavily under the hands of British colonizers when they were violently dispossessed of their lands and enslaved for forced labour in the same lands. Many died in isolated prisons and during riots. Those who resisted were arrested and jailed in isolated island prisons (United Nations, n.d.). Besides, Aboriginal children lost their children through an assimilation policy in which their children were forcibly taken away to non-Aboriginal. The cruel history continues in Australia’s modern-day life, where Aboriginal people suffer coded racism, and their voices are repressed due to a lack of national representatives. In today’s ne, I will take you through the continued discrimination, racism and lack of appropriate representation, which continue to violate basic human rights and freedoms enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Although Australia has made tremendous improvement on the issue of discrimination and racism, there is still significant racism in the society and the media. The anchor point has shifted much in the last 30 years, and the Aboriginal population in jail accounts is disproportionate to the national population. Moreover, the average death rate for indigenous people in custody has not improved either. Assuming this as the starting point, it is clear to understand why the issue of discrimination remains a sensitive issue to the people. A recent study by investigators at Monash University that surveyed people regarding their daily experiences with discrimination produced worrying data on the issue of discrimination toward Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. There was a drastic rise in the report of at least one form of discrimination from 28.6 per cent in 2019 to 52.2 per cent. The drastic rise is attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated existing prejudices. Another crucial data to note from the survey is the rise of direct discrimination on a personal level for no apparent reason. More people report routine or daily discrimination, from receiving poorer services than others to being called names and treated with less respect.
A crucial point is that racism has transformed from open racism and derogatory language to a more coded racism that denies rights to Aboriginals. Serious human rights issues are driven by systematic and institutional racism and discrimination. Systemic discrimination in the justice system is caused by over-policing policies in the Indigenous communities, punitive bail laws, fixed sentencing laws and a low age of criminal responsibility of 10 years. The forcefully removal of children from their families and high incarceration rates for Aboriginal people, especially young people, account for some inhumane treatment. In 2020, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people represented 29 per cent of adults in prisons and just 4 per cent of the national population. Even worse, there are disproportional deaths of indigenous people in prisons. Policies encourage Aboriginal children to be taken away from their families using the excuse of child sexual abuse. These children lack their identity as they are received mostly by non-Aboriginal families. All these are ongoing impacts of colonization driven by institutionalized discrimination. The situation on some issues is worsening daily, as per Government data.
It is believed that the continued discrimination towards Aboriginal people results from a lack of voice at the national level. It is against the law for indigenous people to form a national organization to represent them. Recently, the situation has improved with increasing concern for representation. However, significant changes cannot be achieved without constitutional change through a referendum to create a democratically elected representation in the national parliament. The referendum can face major challenges because the Aboriginal population only makes up 4% of the Australian population. Without a clear plan, the constitutional reforms to accommodate minority First Nation People may remain a dream to many.
The UN provides a forum for people to engage global governments and other indigenous people to advance human rights for indigenous people. Australia is a member state of the UN and is bound to implement declarations adopted during the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. Other member states have a role to play by genuinely engaging and upholding the rights of indigenous people. Although Australia is independent, other member countries can influence domestic policies by presenting and arguing their cases in UN forums. The UN remains a prestigious international organization that member countries should respect. Therefore, the indigenous people should have their voices heard at internal forums and utilize their power of international law.
It is worrying to the extent of the present-day discrimination against Australian First Nations people who continue to experience daily and routine experiences of major discrimination such as denial of job opportunities, incarceration or violent treatment by police. Different platforms at the national and international levels have been created to solve these historical and social injustices. More work needs to be done by the Australian government by adopting policies that protect Indigenous people from institutionalized racism, eliminate punitive laws and increase the voice of Indigenous people at the national level.
United Nations. (n.d.). First-person: Aboriginal Australians suffer from “violent history” and ongoing “institutional racism” | UN news. United Nations. https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/04/1135827