Philobiblon: Australia's shame

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Australia's shame

Many years ago I covered the Aboriginal issues beat for a regional daily paper in Australia, and it was the most depressing subject I've ever had to deal with. My inability to find a legal way to report the abuse of an Aboriginal youngster counts as one of my greatest failings as a journalist. And Australia's shame just goes on and on.

Jenissa Ryan, 15, was the great-granddaughter of the revered Albert Namatjira, Australia's first celebrated Aboriginal painter. Was.

Police believe Jenissa was bashed by a teenage boy and a girl - almost her own age - as she walked the Alice Springs streets on the last Friday night in January. It may have been the injuries she sustained in this attack that killed her.
Attempting to walk home to the Hidden Valley camp, she collapsed unconscious in the gutter near the college. It was there that three teenage boys found her in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Police have testified that the boys thought Jenissa was drunk or dead. Instead of calling for help, they dragged her 10 metres behind a knoll on the verge of the college grounds and raped her. Discarding their condoms, they left the scene.
...Nobody knows how long Jenissa Ryan lay unconscious in the fierce morning heat as her life slipped away. But by the time ambulance officers arrived, honey ants were beginning to gather on her dishevelled clothes.
That means a number of residents of middle-class Grevillea Drive probably noticed. ...It was not until around 10.30am that a female college employee called for an ambulance.

Now it has made the national media - two months later.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is absolutely appalling. What an unconscionable waste of a young life. I had no inkling that such conditions existed in Australia (I have been to Soweto with a Parliamentary delegation, and the smell of the place lingers in my nostrils even after so many years, Winnie Mandela's compound positively palatial with its security fences and surveillance cameras in stark contrast to the surrounding hovels). Rabbit Proof Fence was my one and only exposure to the maltreatment of the Aborigines. That such assaults happen frequently really is heart-breaking. As the commentator says, it is a disgrace.

4/02/2006 08:53:00 am  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

I haven't been to Soweto, but I'd imagine that the comparison is apt. By most indicators the circumstances of Australia's indigenous population compared with the immigrant population shows the worst gap anywhere in the world.

4/02/2006 12:18:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are so many layers of dreadfulness in that story it is hard to know what is linked to what.

Is this symptomatic? Just a unique story? Does it feed the racist notion that Aborigines are just like that?

We don't need this story to tell us the larger truth that Natalie is referring to - the lives and deaths of many, many Indigenous people in Australia are a national indictment.

It should probably also be said that there is money available to fix the situation - at least a Federal surplus - and a lot of good will, particularly from the urbanised south.

But there's a lot of rat ugly gut level racism too. And a lot of government distortion. It comes, for instance, as a surprise to most people that the per capita government spend on Aborigines is no higher than Whites, even though their needs in remote communities are much higher.

I could go on. Did you know that Telstra won't put the phone into the town camps? Even to the administration? When they complained, Telstra just said they were only obliged to supply a pay phone within half a kilometre of the gate. So they did, and its busted.

- barista

4/03/2006 02:54:00 pm  
Blogger clanger said...

John Molony reviewed Tony Roberts' 'Frontier Justice' in the TLS of 31st March issue (you can't miss it, trust me, the covers are getting weirder). It covers the Northern Territory ('Territories'?) in the colonial period.

There are clear indications here of sporadic attempts at the genocide of the native aborigines by the white incomers.

Apparently Australian Prime Minister John Howard doesn't like 'black armband' historians who highlight such issues.

I smell holocaust denial, which in a politician, you would hope, would be a career breaker.

Most nations with displaced natives have worryingly lumpy carpets where things have been swept under them over the years for reasons of national tidyness.

All nations need to come to terms with their past crimes, or they will not stop committing them.

And if you are still smugly thinking of Australia, perhaps I might remind you, dear reader, of the bombing of Dresden, which was every bit a warcrime as was the Blitz.

And as for our chums across the pond, exactly what is a 'weapon of mass destruction' if not what was dropped on the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

What are chemical weapons if not those dropped by US bombers on Vietnam (they are still causing cancers today, and will continue to for many years, as will the uranium tipped shells used by the allies in the Gulf).

The world could use a little more honesty, humility, and justice, and a lot less cruelty, racism, homophobia, sexism, and institutionalised hypocrisy.

4/04/2006 12:33:00 am  

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