Why Howard is no friend of Indigenous people
It is hard to imagine that exactly 40 years after Vincent Lingiari led Aboriginal workers at Wave Hill Station to walk off in protest against work and pay conditions, leading to the campaign to have their traditional land returned, that Australia could be taking another giant step backwards in Indigenous Rights today.
The Senate has passed the changes to the Land Rights Act. ABC News online reports:
Attempts by Labor and the Greens to have amendments, including the provision of 99-year leases on Aboriginal land and a reduction in powers for land councils removed from the Bill, failed.
In that iconic 1975 moment, Gough Whitlam poured sand into Vincent Lingiari's hands to symbolise handing back control and rights of the land of Wave Hill Station to the Aboriginal people. The next year, the government passed the breakthrough Aboriginal Land Rights Act.
30 years later, the Howard's government has put another nail in the coffin of land rights with this Bill.
The opposition are claiming that the whole debate of the bill is disrespecful to Aboriginal people, because so little consultation – especially with the traditional owners – was held. Of course, if the Government had consulted fully and openly, they would have been told outright that their changes to land rights law was wrong.
This legislation is really disrespectful because it undermines sovereignty and land rights of Aboriginal people affected by the Bill.
The Howard government started dismantling any possible advances to the rights and livelihoods of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as soon as they came in power: they de-railed the potential for healing between Indigenous Australia, and white and non-white non-Indigenous Australia through the Reconciliation movement, refused to acknowledge the true extent of and say sorry to the Stolen Generations, and used Wik to water down Native Title and protect their pastoral mates' leases.
Some people then saw these moves as eventually honing in on undermining land rights, but I'm sure they would be just as shocked today.
Yes, this is a grubby land grab. Yes, it is outrageous. But this is no aberration. Unfortunately, is totally in keeping with Howard's anti-Indigenous agenda of the last 10 years. And all of us will bear the costs.