Slavery in Australia
SLAVERY IN BLACK AUSTRALIA.
Gracelyn Smallwood AM
Advisor to the VC on Indigenous Affairs
July 23, 2008
For the past 220 Years, Black Australians have endured all forms of racism, slavery and continued violations of human rights. Prior to the invasion of our country on the 26th January 1788, Black Australians lived in an equitable society that operated largely without hierarchy or major conflict. Taking possession of our lands through the legislation "Terra Nullius"--meaning no mans land--the English colonisers were implicitly supported by the government in the murder, rape and pillage of my people and our environment. After many killings and deaths from introduced Western diseases, the remaining Aboriginal peoples were placed on reserves and missions, similar to the First Nations peoples of other countries.
While living in these forced settlements, Aboriginal people were made to work on cattle stations, railways, as domestic servants, or building infrastructure around the country. Technically, they were paid for this work, but in reality the money was paid to the government and managed by white superintendents. Today, our elders are dying in poverty because they were never able to access the money that they worked for decades to earn. Even when Aboriginal workers were able to get their hands on a small amount of their hard-earned money, it was a pittance compared with the wages earned by white counterparts for the same work. Often, wages took the form of white flour, tea, sugar, salt beef and tobacco, or worse, alcohol.
The situation many Aboriginal people lived in was essentially slavery, and the impacts are still felt today. Whilst rule by guns and slaughter is over, discriminatory legislation and implicit racism keep Aboriginal people in a subordinate position within Aboriginal society. We suffer disproportionately from diabetes, kidney disease, cardiovascular disorders and other diseases which are directly related to the meagre and nutrition-deficient diets provided to us by the Australian government, churches, and pastoral bosses. To add insult to injury, the present-day governments continue to impose strict rules over our daily activities. The Northern Territory Intervention and the Queensland Alcohol Management Plans continue the government agenda to single out Black Australians and dictate what we can do with our money, our land, and our lives.
Associate Professor Gracelyn Smallwood, a human rights activist from Townsville, Australia, has been advocating for the rights of her people for the past 40 years. She is a Birrigubba, Kalkadoon and South Sea Islander woman, whose father was removed from his family and sent to the infamous Palm Island.Her Grandmother was a South Pacific woman whose families were blackbird. from their homelands to Australia as slaves for the sugar industry. Smallwood is a Registered Nurse/Midwife, Master of Science Public Health, Indigenous Mental Health Certificate and is completing a PhD on Human Rights Violations. Smallwood has travelled Australia and the world extensively and will discuss the issues that have impacted on her people through colonial legislation that has relegated Black Australia to third world status, despite being positioned within a first world nation.
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