News from Rome: “Australia declares war on the Aborigines”

So reads the headline of a three page article in the Friday 27th July 2007 Il Venerdi supplement of La Repubblica, the most widely distributed national daily newspaper in Italy (La Repubblica has an excellent website [fixed broken link, JHS]; however the supplements are print only and not available on the internet). The headline and subhead read:

“L’Australia dichara guerra agli aborigeni. Sulla base di accuse che sembrano costruite (violenza sui bambini, alcolismo) il governo manda militari << ispettori >> nei territori sacri dei nativi. Dietro ci sono le promissime elezioni, E le miniere di uranio.”

which I translate as:

“Australia declares war on the Aborigines. Based on accusations that seem made up (violence against children, alcoholism) the government sent troops ‘inspectors’ into the sacred lands of the natives. Behind this are the next elections. And the mining of uranium.”

The article covers the main points of the “Little Children are Sacred” report and goes on to say that the government’s actions are a pretext (“un cavallo diTroia”, a Trojan horse) for the final phase of a plan:

“with the excuse of reestablishing public order and preventing the sale of alcohol and pornographic materials, Howard has in effect practically imposed federal administration and annulled the pre existing laws on land rights which guaranteed a certain administrative autonomy to the Aborigines in the years after the devastating invasion of the British colonisers” [my translation]

The author, Raimondo Bultrini, points to the interests of national and international mining companies, particularly those involved in uranium mining, in such Federal intervention, along with Howard’s concerns about positioning himself for the next election, as the main causes of the government’s actions (it mentions the photos and videos used by Howard in the 2001 election).
There is a breakout box entitled “E c’e chi approfitta dei nativi pagando i loro quadri in Viagra” (And there are those who profit from the natives by paying for their pictures with Viagra) that describes the spectacular prices for some Aboriginal art, such as that by Emily Kngwarreye, in contrast to transactions in Alice Springs where bottles of rum and Viagra are the currency of exchange. The article ends on a sombre note suggesting that the uranium mining interests will far outweigh those of the Aborigines in the next election.
Postscript: Australia is also being shown in a more positive light in Rome – on Thursday night I went to an open air showing by the Tiber of “Razzle Dazzle”, a nice pseudo-documentary about kids competitive dancing. The mostly Italian audience certainly enjoyed the film and gave it a rousing round of applause at the end.

2 thoughts on “News from Rome: “Australia declares war on the Aborigines””

  1. Apologies to Italian readers – the first quote got mangled in transit. Instead of “militari >” read “militari e ‘ispettori'” (troops and ‘inspectors’) – the symbols Italian uses for (scare) quotes screwed up the HTML Jane created from my text file.
    [Jane: oops sorry for not previewing effectively – have now changed it, and it should work,]

  2. And an alternative view in the Corriera della sera on 18 May:
    NB: statements below in direct speech are back-translations:
    “The rapists go unpunished, protected by tribal law and ignored by Australian law in the name of self-determination rights for indigenous people (2.4% of the population).
    [Nanette Rogers] presented a chilling report on the situation in the Alice Springs community where the primary cause of death amongst women is murder, and children grow up amongst violence, drugs and alcohol. This time the press hasn’t turned a blind eye in the name of cultural diversity. The Australian, a daily newspaper, upbraided itself, publishing a photo of the little Kylie with the caption “Eight years ago this picture demanded action. But nothing happened”. […]
    Back then Howard didn’t lift a finger. Now he does. The Australian government has decided to confront what has already been termed “the black hole” of the country. Why? Mal Brough, the federal minister for Indigenous Affairs, threatened the aboriginal communities with the removal of the autonomy, benefits and finances that they enjoy.
    “It is a fact that there is growing violence amongst indigenous people. There are real networks of paedophiles. These individuals must be pursued. The nation will not accept this situation for a minute longer”.
    Farewell dreams of greater independence. Farewell tolerance in the application of tribal tradition, according to which it is the elder of the clan who takes responsibility for punishing crimes committed within the community. From today, Brough promised, the police will act amongst aborigines as they do in the rest of the country.”

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