In her report ‘Worlds Apart’ released this week, Indigenous author Jacinta Nampijinpa Price analysed a wide range of data from locations and communities across Australia. Her report describes the vast difference between Indigenous communities and the rest of Australia when it comes to health and wellbeing, employment, education, crime, and domestic violence.
‘Education and employment rates in remote Indigenous communities are on a par with countries like Afghanistan’, she says. ‘Health and severe overcrowding in housing is like that of sub-Saharan Africa. School attendance rate is below countries such as Zambia and Iraq and life expectancy places remote Indigenous communities on a par with third-world countries like Yemen and Eritrea.’
‘Alcohol-fueled crimes occur at an abnormally high rate, petty crime is commonplace, and assaults are a regular occurrence. Within the home, the situation is just as bad. Domestic violence rates are so high that women and children do not feel safe in their homes. These factors then feed a vicious cycle that impacts school attendance, employment, and physical and mental health — leaving many communities at breaking point”, she says.
Australian governments spend over $30 billion a year on Indigenous programs yet the gulf between the world most Australians inhabit and the world a high number Indigenous Australians occupy is as wide as ever.
In the same week, News Ltd columnist Michael McGuire did Indigenous Australians no favours by invoking the myth of ‘terra nullius’ (The Advertiser, 27/1). McGuire talked about ‘acknowledging the actual history of the nation’ but then repeated the myth that ‘Australia was founded on a lie, that the land was empty and that the people who were here didn’t count’.
No-one in the 1700s ever said those things. The phrase terra nullius wasn’t used in reference to Australia until the 20th Century. Australia was settled in accordance with the principles of international law at the time and ‘terra nullius’ was not part of it. International law mentioned res nullius but that is not the same as the modern day usage of the phrase terra nullius.
Telling people false narratives about their past is not uncommon and can absolve them of personal responsibility. But to do so at a time when family breakdown amongst Indigenous communities results in domestic violence rates up to 1000% higher than non-indigenous families is unforgivable.