Explainer: what is decolonisation?


Mary Frances O’Dowd, CQUniversity Australia and Robyn Heckenberg, Curtin University

Colonisation is invasion: a group of people taking over the land and imposing their own culture on Indigenous people.

Modern colonisation dates back to the Age of Discovery in the 15th century, as European nations sought to expand their influence and wealth. In the process, representatives of these countries claimed the land, ignoring the Indigenous people and erasing Indigenous sovereignty.

Laws and policing were significant tools of dispossession and oppression. Indigenous people were brutalised, exploited and often positioned as subhuman. As Jean-Paul Sartre described colonisation:

[…] you begin by occupying the country, then you take the land and exploit the former owners at starvation rates […] you finish up taking from the natives their very right to work.

Colonisation is more than physical. It is also cultural and psychological in determining whose knowledge is privileged. In this, colonisation not only impacts the first generation colonised but creates enduring issues.

Decolonisation seeks to reverse and remedy this through direct action and listening to the voices of First Nations people.

Seeking independence

The word “decolonisation” was first coined by the German economist Moritz Julius Bonn in the 1930s to describe former colonies that achieved self-governance.

Many struggles for independence were armed and bloody. The Algerian War of Independence (1954- 1962) against the French was particularly brutal.




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Other struggles involved political negotiations and passive resistance.

While the exiting of the British from India in 1947 is largely remembered as nonviolent resistance under Gandhi’s pacifist ethic, the campaign started in 1857 and was not without bloodshed.

The quest for independence is rarely peaceful.

Justice

Decolonisation is now used to talk about restorative justice through cultural, psychological and economic freedom.

In most countries where colonisers remain, Indigenous people still don’t hold significant positions of power or self-determination. These nations are termed “settler-colonial” countries – a term made popular in the 1990s by academic Patrick Wolfe, who said “invasion is a structure not an event”.

The activist group Decolonize this Place protesting in New York City, January 31,2020.
shutterstock.com

Another word that is useful in understanding decolonisation is “neocolonial”. It was coined by Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, in the early 1960s to refer to the continuity of the former coloniser’s power through economic, political, educational and other informal means.

In these neocolonial or settler-colonial countries, advocacy for the rights of Indigenous people is not always matched by action. The voices of Indigenous people for treaty and truth in culture, politics, law and education resound while practice lags.




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True decolonisation seeks to challenge and change White superiority, nationalistic history and “truth”.

The Rights of Indigenous people was adopted by the United Nations in 2007. It says:

Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

It lists several important rights in the process of decolonisation, including:

  • the right to autonomy and self-government, including financing for these autonomous functions
  • freedom from forced removal of children
  • protection of archaeological and historical sites, and repatriation of ceremonial objects and human remains
  • the right to provide education in their own language
  • state-owned media should reflect Indigenous cultural diversity
  • legal recognition of traditional lands, territories and resources.



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Ways to support decolonisation

Decolonisation must involve challenging both conscious and subconscious racism. Non-Indigenous people in settler-colonial societies can start by asking:

  • whose Country do I live on – what nation?
  • if my land was stolen, my culture and sovereignty denied, what rights would I want, need and expect?
  • who on Country must I listen to and work with?

To engage with decolonisation you can:

  • value Indigenous knowledge and scholarship. In Australia, this can mean listening to Indigenous people on their knowledge about bushfire management
  • encourage and insist on teaching about Indigenous people and cultures in schools
  • support restitution efforts, such as programs which are revitalising Indigenous languages
  • call on institutions – including across education, the arts, media and politics – to hire Indigenous people throughout the organisation and in positions of leadership
  • look for ways people in your workplace might face discrimination and unconscious bias, and speak up against these structures
  • fight for justice arising from Indigenous guidance, by walking alongside Indigenous people at rallies and placing their voices front-and-centre at events.



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Racism injures, chokes and kills unless challenged.

Racist structures make the victim the problem.

We might kneel to remember those murdered. But we need to call on institutions to enact required reforms for decolonisation. We need to support people in organisations who speak out against racism. We need to question whether colonisation taught us to stand, in institutional uniforms of the mind, and passively watch the choking.The Conversation

Mary Frances O’Dowd, Independent Scholar, Ethical Citizenship & Racism Studies, CQUniversity Australia and Robyn Heckenberg, Dean Learning and Teaching Centre for Aboriginal Studies, Curtin University., Curtin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

For First Nations people, coronavirus has meant fewer services, separated families and over-policing: new report



MICK TSIKAS/AAP

Lorana Bartels, Australian National University and Thalia Anthony, University of Technology Sydney

Yesterday was National Sorry Day in Australia. It marks the anniversary of the tabling of the Bringing Them Home report, which chronicles decades of removals of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families.

Sorry Day also acknowledges the strength of the Stolen Generations survivors and reflects on the role everyone can play in healing our country.

Yesterday was also the third anniversary of the release of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which poignantly notes:

Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.

And this week is National Reconciliation Week, which represents a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements. The theme this year is “In This Together”.




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Findings of a new report

However, a new report released today makes clear the treatment of First Australians during the COVID-19 outbreak is not the same as for non-Indigenous Australians.

The report by Change the Record, the First Peoples-led justice coalition of peak bodies and allies, highlights numerous ways Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been disproportionately affected by the more punitive and restrictive policy responses to the pandemic.

Among the findings were:

  • First Nations people have experienced an increased use of lockdowns in prisons and have had reduced access to lawyers and visits from families

  • some prisons have required people in prison “to pay exorbitant fees to call loved ones”

  • victim-survivors of family violence have been unable to access police protection and support services due to staffing shortages (a particular concern because there is evidence such violence is increasing)

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services have reported “substantial challenges” in working with their clients and are concerned about a spike in legal demand as soon as restrictions are lifted

  • the closures of residential drug and alcohol facilities have led to people being sent home, leaving some people without alternative and safe living arrangements

  • First Nations parents have had access to their children in out-of-home care restricted, causing “distress and anxiety in a time of heightened stress for everyone”

  • there has been over-policing of First Nations people for offences such as public nuisance, public drunkenness, fare evasion and failure to comply with move on orders. There have been high numbers of fines issued in small towns with high First Nations populations and low levels of COVID-19.

Governments’ COVID-19 prison policies have been inadequate

As we have argued in open letters to governments and elsewhere, the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in prisons has been a concern requiring immediate action across the country.

First Nations people are particularly at risk of infection, due to:

Accordingly, we have called on governments to release some prisoners early, including First Nations people.

The government response to prevent the spread of coronavirus in prisons has included restrictions on visitors (especially family members), enforced isolation and lockdowns of people.

These circumstances have created unrest in prisons and likely contributed to three recent deaths in Queensland prisons.




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The Change the Record report chronicles the despair of First Nations people in prisons and their lack of access to services and support.

An Aboriginal man, Daniel, has been remanded in prison in Tasmania since early 2020. … Daniel is not allowed any visits with his family or his lawyer because of COVID-19 restrictions. He reports feeling lost in the legal proceedings because he cannot have a decent chat with his lawyer about the matters and get advice.

The report makes recommendations for people in prisons, including:

  • the release of First Nations people in prisons who are low-risk, on remand, elderly or at increased risk of COVID-19, as well as children and those with chronic health conditions

  • protecting the human rights of First Nations people in prison, by ensuring access to oversight and monitoring agencies, family, legal services, mental health care, education and programs

The impact of COVID-19 restrictions on children

Some of the invisible victims in the pandemic are the children of prisoners. Imprisonment disrupts family life, especially in cases when a First Nations mother or primary caregiver is incarcerated.

Because physical visits have been suspended, children’s access to their imprisoned parents has been even more constrained.




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This has life-long and intergenerational effects on individuals and communities. It can also lead to the permanent placement of children in state care.

The Change the Record report also notes how First Nations parents are unable to visit with their children in out-of-home care.

Julia had been having multiple face-to-face visits with her child every week. Due to COVID-19, Julia’s contact with her daughter has been reduced to one phone/video call a week. … When children cannot engage in this mode of communication, for some parents contact with their children has stopped all together.

The report makes recommendations for policies affecting children during the pandemic, including:

  • increasing support and access to safe accommodation for First Nations families fleeing family violence to stop further removals of children

  • implement legislative changes to ensure parents of First Nations children in out-of-home care don’t lose their children to permanent care during COVID-19.

The report also calls for:

  • rebuilding our justice system after COVID-19 to focus on investing in community, not prisons, to increase community safety and prevent black deaths in custody.

No return to status quo

We endorse these recommendations, especially the final call to rebuild our justice system. As we emerge from the immediate threat of the pandemic, it is vital that we not return to the status quo.

More than two years ago, the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Pathways to Justice report was tabled in parliament. It outlined a comprehensive blueprint for reducing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander over-incarceration.

The Australian government is yet to respond.

If Reconciliation Week is to be meaningful, governments must take action to heal, rather than jail, First Nations people. In the current circumstances, this includes acting on Change the Record’s recommendations.The Conversation

Lorana Bartels, Professor and Program Leader of Criminology, Australian National University and Thalia Anthony, Professor of Law, University of Technology Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Albanese says Voice must be in the Constitution


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese says an Indigenous “Voice” to parliament must be enshrined in the Constitution.

His position, spelled out in a speech to be given on Saturday to the Garma Festival, makes it difficult to see how he and Prime Minister Scott Morrison will be able to agree on a referendum question.

Albanese says in his address, released ahead of delivery:

With a Voice in place, there can be truth-telling, and there can be Makaratta. […] It is clear to me that enshrining that Voice in the Constitution is what must come first.




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Morrison has been adamant there should be no reference to a Voice in what is inserted in the Constitution to recognise Australia’s First Peoples.

Without bipartisan support, a referendum would not have a chance of success and, indeed, would not be put.

Indigenous leaders in the Uluru Statement from the Heart called for “the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution”.

Albanese says:

I want a Voice and Truth then Treaty to be part of our nation’s journey, part of our national life. It’s not just about respect and redress. It’s about progress and change. It’s about moving out of the darkness

Although there is a gulf between Albanese and Morrison over what should go into the constitution, Albanese says he still hopes for bipartisanship.

“We have not yet had true reconciliation, and a country that is not truly reconciled is not truly whole. And until we are whole, we will never reach our truest potential as a nation – and we have so very much potential,” he says.

But how can we have reconciliation when one side has no voice?

The Voice is the bedrock upon which we must build.

I will take the fight to the government on so many things; never have any doubt about that. But on this we must work together. We must be together. My hope we can have bipartisanship on this remains alive.




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Albanese says he is encouraged by “the tentative moves towards constitutional change” by the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt. “I hope he gets the support he needs and deserves from his colleagues.”

He says he is also encouraged by “the epiphany experienced by Barnaby Joyce.

“After being part of the chorus pushing the myth that a Voice would amount to a third chamber in parliament, Mr Joyce did something unusual. He stopped. He listened. He asked questions from people with knowledge. […]

“Mr Joyce then went on television to own up to his mistake, and to explain why he’d been wrong. And he encouraged others who’d made the same mistake to follow his example.”

At Tuesday’s caucus meeting Pat Dodson, the opposition spokesman on Indigenous recognition, said constitutional recognition had now been decoupled from everything that was in the Uluru statement. Uluru had now shifted to “co-design with select individuals”, he said.

Dodson said there was no structure for formal consultations with First Nations. “Apparently the minister has a plan for consultation with the Coalition backbench and apparently with Pauline Hanson”, he said.

The challenge now was to “assist the minister without walking away with all the fleas and ticks that would undermine a principled position”, Dodson said.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.