Brazil’s Bolsonaro has COVID-19 – and so do thousands of Indigenous people who live days from the nearest hospital



Satere-mawe Indigenous men in face masks paddle the Ariau River, in hard-hit Manaus state, during the coronavirus pandemic, May 5, 2020.
Ricardo Oliveira /AFP via Getty Images

Nadia Rubaii, Binghamton University, State University of New York and Julio José Araujo Junior, Rio de Janeiro State University

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has denied the severity of the coronavirus pandemic and ridiculed social distancing, tested positive for the novel coronavirus on July 7 after showing mild symptoms.

Bolsonaro is one of 1.9 million confirmed COVID-19 victims in coronavirus-wracked Brazil. But as a white, wealthy and powerful man, he is not a member of the most hard-hit group. Data shows that Black Brazilians and Indigenous people are getting sick and dying at much higher rates.

Indigenous communities face particularly daunting odds to survival during the pandemic. Most of Brazil’s roughly 896,000 Indigenous people live in the Amazon region, where the nearest hospital may be days away by boat and offer limited care. Indigenous Brazilians also have higher rates of malnutrition, anemia and obesity than the general population – risk factors for severe COVID-19.

As of July 6, Brazil’s Health Ministry reported 7,958 COVID-19 infections among Indigenous people and 171 deaths. The National Committee for Indigenous Life and Memory, an advocacy group for Indigenous people during the pandemic, estimates 12,000 infections and 400 deaths.

The situation is dire for the Amazonian Yanomami people. If current trends continue, 5,600 Yanomami – or 40% of their entire population – could become infected with COVID-19, according to a report from Brazil’s Indigenous Environmental Institute.

COVID-19 is just the latest deadly threat to Indigenous people under Bolsonaro, whose policies and rhetoric are so openly hostile that they essentially amount to a campaign of genocide, our research finds.

A 92-year-old Baniwa Indigenous patient who recovered from COVID-19 leaves the hospital in the Amazonian city of Manaus in May 2020, holding a sign reading ‘Another Recovered Warrior.’
Andre Coelho/Getty Images

What is genocide

Under Bolsonaro, who took office in January 2018, Brazil has dismantled environmental protections of the Amazon, allowing deforestation to spike. He has also curtailed the land rights of Indigenous people and turned a blind eye to illegal mining, logging and farming operations on their territory.

In late 2019, those policies led two leading Brazilian human rights organizations to report Bolsonaro to the International Criminal Court, alleging that the right-wing leader was “inciting genocide” against Indigenous people. This case is still pending.

Under international law, the crime of genocide requires “intent to destroy, in whole or in part,” a group based on their nationality, ethnicity, race or religion. While genocide often involves explicit killing, it can also include causing serious harm to a population and destroying their way of life.

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As scholars of mass atrocity prevention and Indigenous rights, we have watched with alarm as Brazil showed warning signs that this latter, slower type of genocide was underway. Now COVID-19, which is actually killing Indigenous people by the hundreds, could be the final straw.

A protest demonstration honoring Brazilian COVID-19 victims in the capital of Brasilia, June 28, 2020. At the time, Brazil had 57,070 coronavirus deaths.
Andressa Anholete/Getty Images

Warning signs

In theory, many Brazilian Indigenous people should be well situated to escape COVID-19 exposure. An estimated 10,000 live in voluntary isolation across the Amazon, separated from broader Brazilian society. Many others have only limited contact with the outside world.

Their rights to self-determination and isolation are confirmed by two international agreements on indigenous rights, both of which Brazil signed. In recent years, however, loggers, miners and farmers have aggressively violated these land rights and set up shop in the Amazon, sometimes with the Bolsonaro government’s explicit endorsement.

The illegal land grabs have worsened during the pandemic, as the world’s attention turned away from the Amazon. The number of non-Indigenous gold miners working on Indigenous lands in Brazil increased from 4,000 in 2018 to over 20,000 so far in 2020. Such incursions risk bringing the coronavirus into Indigenous communities.

The systematic violation of Indigenous land rights also endanger their very survival.

Indigenous people have lived in the Amazon for centuries, protecting the rainforest in a manner that not only supported their traditional way of life but also protected this global natural resource. Historically, they could count on at least minimal government regulations intended to defend the Amazon rainforest, though deforestation has long been a challenge.

But Bolsonaro does not believe in defending the Amazon or its inhabitants. One of his first acts in office was to roll back environmental protections. Deforestation of the Amazon has increased 34% since 2018, according to the Brazilian Amazon monitoring program. Deforestation of Indigenous lands is up almost 80%.

Illegal property seizure and rights violations like those experienced by Indigenous Brazilians under Bolsonaro are known warning signs of genocide. So is the physical destruction of a persecuted group’s homeland. According to the UN, “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its
physical destruction in whole or in part
” constitutes genocide.

Yanomami Indigenous Brazilians wait to receive health care from missionaries in Roraima state, July 1, 2020.
Andressa Anholete / Getty Images

Denying the humanity of a group is another frequent precursor to genocide, history shows. Before the Holocaust, for example, Nazis referred to Jews as rats.

Bolsonaro has not gone so far as to characterize Indigenous Brazilians as vermin. But he refers to them using derogatory language.

“The Indians do not speak our language, they do not have money, they do not have culture,” he told Campo Grande newspaper in 2015, when he was still a congressman. Earlier this year, Bolsonaro said Indigenous people exposed to the outside world are “increasingly becoming human beings, like us.”

Time for intervention

Land grabs, insufficient health care, deforestation and stigmatization all threatened Indigenous Brazilians before the pandemic. Genocides can be that way. They are a process, not sudden, isolated events.

Risk factors and warning signs can smolder for years in a country. Then a “trigger” like COVID-19 ignites them, resulting in mass death.

We’re not alone in making this dire forecast. On June 29, a Brazilian indigenous rights organization and six political parties jointly requested an order of protection for Indigenous people during the coronavirus pandemic to prevent genocide from occurring.

The plaintiffs insist that the government must provide adequate health care to all Indigenous Brazilians; physically secure Indigenous land to prevent illegal miners, loggers and others from entering; and expel those who do trespass. Failing these emergency measures, they assert, Brazil’s Indigenous peoples face extinction.

If the court grants their request, there’s no guarantee the government will comply. But it could saves lives. For indigenous communities with just a few hundred members, that may make all the difference.

There is a newer version of this article that reflects latest developments. The updated version can be found here.The Conversation

Nadia Rubaii, Co-Director, Institute for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention, and Professor of Public Administration, Binghamton University, State University of New York and Julio José Araujo Junior, PhD student of law, Rio de Janeiro State University

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

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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It will take critical, thorough scrutiny to truly decolonise knowledge


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.

When Trump attacks the press, he attacks the American people and their Constitution



AAP/Twitter/supplied

Peter Greste, The University of Queensland

Here is a line from the latest safety advisory for reporters issued by the US-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ):

Taking into account the increased levels of violence and tactics used by both police and protesters, ballistic glasses, helmets, and stab vests should be worn. If there is a threat of live ammunition being used, then body armour should be considered.

It is the kind of advice I used to be given before going on assignment to places like Baghdad, Kabul or Mogadishu. But the CPJ is aiming its latest note at US-based reporters more used to covering city hall than documenting running battles between police and demonstrators. It is deeply troubling that an organisation usually advocating for reporters in violent autocratic regimes decides it now has to support those in its own backyard.

One organisation, Bellingcat, has been tracking assaults on journalists since the riots broke out over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week. In the first four days of protests, its chief investigator counted more than 100 incidents. (The CPJ counts closer to 200.)

The 101st involved an Australian news crew from Channel Seven. They were beaten while filming outside the White House, as riot police used tear gas and batons to clear the peaceful protesters so President Donald Trump could walk across the street and hold a Bible in front of St John’s Church. (In a speech moments before, Trump had – without irony – declared, “I am your president of law and order”, and “an ally of all peaceful protesters”.)




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The startling number of attacks on journalists does not appear to be an accident. Inevitably, anyone reporting in violent places risks being caught in crossfire. But the numbers suggest something more troubling.

Bellingcat’s investigator Nick Waters, wrote

although in some incidents it is possible the journalists were hit or affected accidentally, in the majority of the cases we have recorded the journalists are clearly identifiable as press, and it is clear that they are being deliberately targeted.

The police actions against journalists might seem futile in our social media age when everyone with a mobile phone has the power to act as a reporter, but that doesn’t stop individual cops from lashing out at those they see as actively monitoring them.

There does not appear to be a coordinated strategy. In the United States, policing is generally a state and city affair, so collusion seems unlikely. The CPJ’s Courtney Radsh said the organisation’s experience of tracking violence towards journalists in some of the world’s most hostile regimes shows that the police step up their attacks when they believe they can get away with it.

In the US, the president himself has frequently derided journalists as “the enemy of the people”, who peddle “fake news”, and on Sunday he issued a tweet describing them as “truly bad people with a sick agenda”.

There is no doubt some journalists have behaved unethically or been loose with the facts, and the news business more broadly has not always covered itself in glory.

But as imperfect as it may be, it remains a vital part of the way a free and open democracy works. It acts as a watchdog on behalf of voters, monitoring the behaviour of institutions like the police and government who are supposed to be acting in the interests of the public.

In so many cases in the protests, journalists have clearly identified themselves verbally, with accreditation, with vests labelled “press”, carrying professional-standard cameras, and by their actions, observing rather than participating in the protests. That observation is rarely comfortable for those in authority, but it is a necessary part of the system.

As a recovering journalist and press freedom advocate, I am of course concerned about assaults of my colleagues. But to be clear, this is not about them. What we are seeing in the United States is an attempt to make the public blind to heavy-handed police tactics.




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The founding fathers of the United States understood that when they wrote the First Amendment into its Constitution, guaranteeing “congress shall pass no law […] abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”. (The First Amendment also guarantees freedom of religion, the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.) Attack the press, and you attack the very system that has made places like the US and Australia among the safest and most prosperous in the world.

The reason autocrats in Turkey, the Philippines and Egypt throw journalists in prison with such enthusiasm is because they know a free media empowers the public, and threatens their survival.

If Trump is the patriot he claims to be, he will honour the Constitution and defend the press rather than accuse reporters of “doing everything within their power to foment hatred and anarchy”.The Conversation

Peter Greste, Professor of Journalism and Communications, The University of Queensland

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

Explainer: what are the Australian government’s powers to quarantine people in a coronavirus outbreak?



AAP/Mick Tsikas

Amy Maguire, University of Newcastle and Bin Li, University of Newcastle

The Australian government has announced its intention to use powers under the Biosecurity Act, if needed, in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Attorney-General Christian Porter has described these powers as “strange and foreign to many Australians”, but potentially necessary in the face of a pandemic.




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The 2015 Biosecurity Act aims to manage biosecurity threats to human, animal and plant health. In the context of coronavirus (COVID-19), a biosecurity risk under this legislation would be defined as:

  • the likelihood of a disease spreading in Australian territory
  • the potential for that disease to cause harm to human health and/or economic consequences.

What powers could the government exercise?

The Biosecurity Act is a mammoth piece of legislation, comprising 11 chapters and 645 sections. It is framed in terms that deliver extensive powers to relevant officers. The attorney-general is correct in saying these powers will seem very foreign to many members of the Australian community.

The director of human biosecurity, in consultation with chief health officers in the states and territories, may determine that a disease is a “listed human disease”. COVID-19 has been listed as such a disease, as it is communicable and may cause significant harm to human health.

People with listed diseases may be subject to “human biosecurity control orders”. Control orders can require people, among other things, to:

  • provide their contact information and health details (including body samples for diagnosis)
  • restrict their behaviour
  • undergo risk-minimisation interventions (including decontamination) and/or medical treatment
  • accept isolation from the community for specified periods.

If a person does not consent to a control order, the director may require them to comply. In some cases, if they refuse, a person may be detained by police.

A person who fails to comply with a control order or escapes from detention could be charged with a criminal offence. Under the act, these offences carry penalties ranging up to imprisonment for five years.

The director may also designate “human health response zones”. This may result in restrictions on entering or leaving a particular area. Failure to comply may incur a fine.

Chapter 8 of the Biosecurity Act sets out circumstances in which the governor-general may declare a “human biosecurity emergency”. Sweeping powers are then available to the health minister.

During a human biosecurity emergency period, the Health Minister may determine any requirement that he or she is satisfied is necessary:

a) to prevent or control…

(ii) the emergence, establishment or spread of the declaration listed human disease in Australian territory or a part of Australian territory…

This power includes, but is not limited to, imposing requirements on:

  • entering or leaving specified places
  • restricting or preventing the movement of people in or between places
  • evacuating places.

Criminal and civil penalties can also apply to people who refuse to comply with requirements under such emergency powers.

In practice, the health minister or delegated officials could require the closure of premises such as shopping centres or sporting facilities. The potential restrictions could have a far-reaching impact on people’s daily lives.

Coercive powers and the community

Such powers, including civil and even criminal penalties, are not uncommon globally. Other countries have similar laws for the purpose of containing the spread of communicable diseases. For example, in Singapore the police can enforce quarantine-related measures.

In China, where the COVID-19 outbreak originated, some infected people are facing police investigation for failing to avoid contact with other people. Indeed, some have been charged with the crime of endangering public security. Penalties for conviction could be very severe, ranging up to life imprisonment or even the death penalty.

To avoid the abuse of such powers, the Chinese Supreme Court has recently warned against the strict application of endangering public security charges in relation to pandemic control measures.

Concerns will certainly be raised in Australia about the exercise of special and emergency powers. The attorney-general is clearly aware of this. He has said the more extreme powers would be used only as a “last resort”. Yet he has also confirmed that biosecurity powers are very likely to be used on a large scale.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is the frontline agency administering the Biosecurity Act. Its website aims to engage Australian citizens with their responsibilities to protect Australia’s biosecurity.

The Biosecurity Act sets out extensive provisions with the apparent aim of ensuring special powers only be exercised where warranted and for the shortest possible time. It also provides for judicial review of certain decisions under the act. Lay people may find it quite challenging, though, to interpret their rights under the act when faced with the imposition of a coercive measure.




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Many Australians may be tolerant of special governmental powers if they see such intervention as essential to protect everyone’s health. The community is undoubtedly being inundated with information about the COVID-19 outbreak from government and media sources.

On the other hand, some people may be tempted to resist coercive powers that interfere with their personal liberty. The president of the Law Council, Pauline Wright, notes that the powers under the Biosecurity Act can be exercised against a person even where the relevant officer does not know or reasonably suspect the person is infected with coronavirus.

It will be crucial for government officers to be cautious in their use of special powers. They must seek to balance legitimate efforts to protect public health with individuals’ rights to liberty and due process.The Conversation

Amy Maguire, Associate Professor, University of Newcastle and Bin Li, Lecturer, University of Newcastle

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

Feel like you’re a mozzie magnet? It’s true – mosquitoes prefer to bite some people over others



Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash, CC BY

Cameron Webb, University of Sydney

It’s always you, isn’t it? The person busy swatting away buzzing backyard mosquitoes or nursing an arm full of itchy red lumps after a weekend camping trip.

You’re not imagining it – mosquitoes really are attracted to some people more than others.

Why do mosquitoes need blood?

Only female mosquitoes bite. They do it for the nutrition contained in blood, which helps develop their eggs.

Mosquitoes don’t just get blood from people. They’re actually far more likely to get it from biting animals, birds, frogs and reptiles. They even bite earthworms.

But some mosquitoes specifically target people. One of the worst culprits is the Aedes aegypti species, which spreads dengue and yellow fever viruses.

Another that prefers humans are the Anopheles mosquitoes, responsible for spreading the parasites that cause malaria.




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How do mosquitoes find us?

Most mosquitoes will get their blood from whatever is around and don’t necessarily care if they’re biting one person or another.

Although it’s our blood they’re after, there is no strong indicator they prefer a particular blood type over another. Some studies have suggested they prefer people with type O blood but that’s unlikely to be the case for all types of mosquitoes.

Whether we’re picked out of a crowd may come down to heavy breathing and skin smell.

When they need blood, mosquitoes can pick up on the carbon dioxide we exhale. Around the world, carbon dioxide is one of the most common “baits” used to attract and collect mosquitoes. If you’re exhaling greater volumes of carbon dioxide, you’re probably an easier target for mosquitoes.




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When the mosquito gets closer, she is responding to a range of stimuli.

Perhaps it’s body heat and sweat: exercise that increases body temperature and perspiration can attract mosquitoes.

Perhaps it’s body size: studies indicate pregnant women are more likely to be bitten by mosquitoes.

How hairy are you? Mosquitoes may have a tough job finding a path through to your skin if there is an abundance of body hair.




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More than anything else, though, it’s about the smell of your skin. Hundreds of chemicals are sweated out or emitted by our body’s bacteria. The cocktail of smells they create will either attract or deter mosquitoes.

The saltmarsh mosquito is one of the biggest nuisance-biting pests in Australia.
Dr Cameron Webb

It’s not just who they bite but where

Mosquitoes could also have a preference for different parts of the body.

One study showed mosquitoes are more attracted to hands and feet than armpits, but that just turned out to be because of deodorant residues.

Mosquitoes may also be more attracted to our feet: studies have shown cheese sharing similar bacteria to that found between our toes attracts mosquitoes!

Who is to blame for this misery?

It’s not your diet. There is no evidence that what you eat or drink will prevent mosquito bites. Some food or drink may subtly change how many mosquitoes are likely to bite you but it won’t make that much difference.

Eating bananas or drinking beer has been shown to marginally increase the attraction of mosquitoes but the results aren’t enough to suggest any dietary change will reduce your mosquito bites. That’s why our supermarket shelves aren’t full of “mozzie repellent” pills.




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Your irresistibility to mosquitoes may not be your fault. Blame your parents. Studies have shown the chemicals responsible for the “skin smell” that attracts mosquitoes has a high level of heritability when twins are exposed to biting mosquitoes.

Whether you’re a mosquito magnet or not, topical insect repellents are the best way to stop mozzie bites.
Dr Cameron Webb

What can you do about it?

We have to be careful about generalisations. There are thousands of types of mosquitoes around the world and all will have a different preference for what or who to bite. And the attraction of individuals and the scenario that plays out in one part of the world may be much different in another.

Remember, it only takes one mosquito bite to transmit a pathogen that could make you sick. So whether you’re a mosquito magnet or feeling a little invisible because you’re not bitten so often, don’t be complacent and use insect repellents.The Conversation

Cameron Webb, Clinical Lecturer and Principal Hospital Scientist, University of Sydney

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

High Court rules Indigenous people cannot be deported as aliens, but the fight for legal recognition remains



Mick Tsikas/AAP

Kate Galloway, Griffith University and Melissa Castan, Monash University

The High Court made an important decision today about whether it is possible for Aboriginal Australians to be deported from the country if they are not citizens.

By a majority of 4:3, the court decided that

Aboriginal Australians … are not within the reach of the ‘aliens’ power conferred by s 51(xix) of the Constitution.

The outcome of the decision is clear for one of the men, Brendan Thoms, who is a registered native title holder. As such, it is beyond the power of the Commonwealth to deport him.

However, the majority was divided on the question of whether the other plaintiff, Daniel Love, was an Aboriginal person as a question of fact, and so did not make a finding about whether or not he was an “alien”.

This case is significant. In some regards, it is about questions of deportation and immigration. But, crucially, it is a constitutional law case grappling with the deeper question of whether Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians can be aliens and therefore excluded from the Australian state.

Although the decision applies to only a small number of people – Indigenous Australians who are not citizens – it has a broader impact in recognising the special status of Indigenous Australians in Australia.

Background of the case

The case involved two Aboriginal men born overseas who were ordered to be deported from Australia because they each had a criminal conviction. Both men appealed to the High Court and their cases were heard together late last year.

Love, a Kamileroi man, was born in Papua New Guinea to an Aboriginal father and PNG mother. He moved to Australia in 1984 when he was five years old, but never applied for citizenship. After serving a 12-month sentence for assault occasioning bodily harm, his permanent residency visa was cancelled by the government. He was in detention but was released in 2018 pending the High Court’s decision.




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Thoms, a Gunggari man and declared native title holder, was born in New Zealand to an Aboriginal mother and New Zealand father. He has lived in Australia since 1994. Like Love, his visa was cancelled after he served part of an 18-month sentence for a domestic violence assault. He has remained in immigration detention pending the court’s decision.

The Commonwealth has maintained that since the men are not citizens of Australia, the minister for Home Affairs has the power to cancel their visas and deport them. Under Section 51 (xix) of the Constitution, the Commonwealth has the power to make laws relating to “naturalisation and aliens”.

However, lawyers for the two men argued that although they are not citizens, they cannot be aliens – and therefore cannot be deported.

As a question of law, an alien is a person who owes allegiance to another country because they were born there. For people recognised as Aboriginal Australians, with longstanding connections to community, culture and traditional land, this implies they do not belong in their own country.

As Love’s lawyers argued to the court,

as a member of the Aboriginal race of Australia and the child of an Australian citizen … [he] is not an alien.

This argument suggests a new category of person described as “non-citizen non-aliens”. And under this special category, the lawyers argued, the minister would not have the constitutional right to deport them.




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The conflict in this case arises because it seems contradictory for Aboriginal people to be thought of as strangers in their own land. This is especially so for registered native title holders, such as Thoms. As a native title holder, the law recognises his connection to the land.

The basis of the men’s argument, therefore, rests on the connection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to their country and the obvious implication of belonging.

Impact for Indigenous Australians

The court’s decision is good news for Indigenous Australians, as it expresses a new form of relationship between Indigenous people and the state – that of a “non-citizen, non-alien”.

The category will protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians born overseas, ensuring they will not lose their right to traditional lands because of an accident of birth. The decision upholds the law’s recognition of the importance of Indigenous Australians’ connection to, and rights over, their lands.

But it does mean that a person must be able to prove their Aboriginality before the court as a question of fact.




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Because Thoms is a native title holder, his circumstances were clear. The majority was divided, however, on Love’s status as an Aboriginal person, as he is not a native title holder. And there was ultimately no finding as to whether he qualifies as an alien under the law.

The case also highlights the ongoing challenges for Indigenous Australians in their fight for proper legal recognition in relations with the state.

The minister ignored the implications of these men’s Aboriginality in seeking to deport them. And the Commonwealth argued before the High Court that these men did not belong in Australia – that they were aliens. Further, three of the seven judges agreed with that argument and decided there was no special category for “non-citizen, non-aliens”.

The fact this case was brought at all indicates that the relationship between Indigenous Australians and the state remains unresolved.

Despite the majority decision, it seems First Nations peoples’ close connection with the land is still not enough on its own to guarantee their ongoing rights to be part of Australia, and to retain their ties to community and country.

This decision will be recognised as a milestone for Indigenous Australians. But the closeness of the decision and the qualified finding in relation to Love’s case means this question of belonging for non-citizen Indigenous people will likely be raised again.The Conversation

Kate Galloway, Associate Professor of Law, Griffith University and Melissa Castan, Associate Professor, Law Faculty, Monash University

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

Online tools can help people in disasters, but do they represent everyone?



Social media helped some people cope with the Townsville floods earlier this year.
AAP Image/Andrew Rankin

Billy Tusker Haworth, University of Manchester; Christine Eriksen, University of Wollongong, and Scott McKinnon, University of Wollongong

With natural hazard and climate-related disasters on the rise, online tools such as crowdsourced mapping and social media can help people understand and respond to a crisis. They enable people to share their location and contribute information.

But are these tools useful for everyone, or are some people marginalised? It is vital these tools include information provided from all sections of a community at risk.

Current evidence suggests that is not always the case.




Read more:
‘Natural disasters’ and people on the margins – the hidden story


Online tools let people help in disasters

Social media played an important role in coordinating response to the 2019 Queensland floods and the 2013 Tasmania bushfires. Community members used Facebook to coordinate sharing of resources such as food and water.

Crowdsourced mapping helped in response to the humanitarian crisis after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Some of the most useful information came from public contributions.

Twitter provided similar critical insights during Hurricane Irma in South Florida in 2017.

Research shows these public contributions can help in disaster risk reduction, but they also have limitations.

In the rush to develop new disaster mitigation tools, it is important to consider whether they will help or harm the people most vulnerable in a disaster.

Who is vulnerable?

Extreme natural events, such as earthquakes and bushfires, are not considered disasters until vulnerable people are exposed to the hazard.




Read more:
Understanding the root causes of natural disasters


To determine people’s level of vulnerability we need to know:

  1. the level of individual and community exposure to a physical threat
  2. their access to resources that affect their capacity to cope when threats materialise.

Some groups in society will be more vulnerable to disaster than others. This includes people with immobility issues, caring roles, or limited access to resources such as money, information or support networks.

When disaster strikes, the pressure on some groups is often magnified.

The devastating scenes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017 revealed the vulnerability of children in such disasters.

Unfortunately, emergency management can exacerbate the vulnerability of marginalised groups. For example, a US study last year showed that in the years after disasters, wealth increased for white people and declined for people of colour. The authors suggest this is linked to inequitable distribution of emergency and redevelopment aid.

Policies and practice have until recently mainly been written by, and for, the most predominant groups in our society, especially heterosexual white men.

Research shows how this can create gender inequities or exclude the needs of LGBTIQ communities, former refugees and migrants or domestic violence victims.




Read more:
More men die in bushfires: how gender affects how we plan and respond


We need to ask: do new forms of disaster response help everyone in a community, or do they reproduce existing power imbalances?

Unequal access to digital technologies

Research has assessed the “techno-optimism” – a belief that technologies will solve our problems – associated with people using online tools to share information for disaster management.

These technologies inherently discriminate if access to them discriminates.

In Australia, the digital divide remains largely unchanged in recent years. In 2016-17 nearly 1.3 million households had no internet connection.

Lower digital inclusion is seen in already vulnerable groups, including the unemployed, migrants and the elderly.

Global internet penetration rates show uneven access between economically poorer parts of the world, such as Africa and Asia, and wealthier Western regions.

Representations of communities are skewed on the internet. Particular groups participate with varying degrees on social media and in crowdsourcing activities. For example, some ethnic minorities have poorer internet access than other groups even in the same country.

For crowdsourced mapping on platforms such as OpenStreetMap, studies find participation biases relating to gender. Men map far more than women at local and global scales.

Research shows participation biases in community mapping activities towards older, more affluent men.

Protect the vulnerable

Persecuted minorities, including LGBTIQ communities and religious minorities, are often more vulnerable in disasters. Digital technologies, which expose people’s identities and fail to protect privacy, might increase that vulnerability.

Unequal participation means those who can participate may become further empowered, with more access to information and resources. As a result, gaps between privileged and marginalised people grow wider.

For example, local Kreyòl-speaking Haitians from poorer neighbourhoods contributed information via SMS for use on crowdsourced maps during the 2010 Haiti earthquake response.

But the information was translated and mapped in English for Western humanitarians. As they didn’t speak English, vulnerable Haitians were further marginalised by being unable to directly use and benefit from maps resulting from their own contributions.

Participation patterns in mapping do not reflect the true makeup of our diverse societies. But they do reflect where power lies – usually with dominant groups.

Any power imbalances that come from unequal online participation are pertinent to disaster risk reduction. They can amplify community tensions, social divides and marginalisation, and exacerbate vulnerability and risk.

With greater access to the benefits of online tools, and improved representation of diverse and marginalised people, we can better understand societies and reduce disaster impacts.

We must remain acutely aware of digital divides and participation biases. We must continually consider how these technologies can better include, value and elevate marginalised groups.The Conversation

Billy Tusker Haworth, Lecturer in GIS and Disaster Management, University of Manchester; Christine Eriksen, Senior Lecturer in Geography and Sustainable Communities, University of Wollongong, and Scott McKinnon, Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Wollongong

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

How much do sedentary people really need to move? It’s less than you think


File 20190417 139116 v5n9hw.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
As little as 20 minutes of exercise a day can offset a sedentary lifestyle. And that exercise can include walking the dog.
from www.shutterstock.com

Emmanuel Stamatakis, University of Sydney; Joanne Gale, University of Sydney, and Melody Ding, University of Sydney

People who spend much of their day sitting may need to move around less than we thought to counteract their sedentary lifestyle, new research shows.

Our research, published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found about 20-40 minutes of physical activity a day seems to eliminate most health risks associated with sitting.

That’s substantially lower than the one hour a day a previous study has found.




Read more:
Health Check: in terms of exercise, is walking enough?


We spend almost all our waking day sitting, standing, or moving. The health impact of each one of these can be complex.

For example, too much standing can lead to lower back problems and even a higher risk of heart disease. But sitting for too long and not moving enough can harm our health.

Then there are people who sit for many hours and also get in reasonable amounts of physical activity. For example, someone who has an office job but walks to and from work for 20 minutes each way and runs two to three times a week easily meets the recommended level of physical activity.




Read more:
Why sitting is not the ‘new smoking’


While we know moving is better than sitting, what is far less clear is how much of a good thing (moving) can offset the harms of a bad thing (sitting).

That’s what we wanted to find out in our study of almost 150,000 Australian middle-aged and older adults.

We followed people enrolled in the 45 and Up Study for nearly nine years. We looked at links between sitting and physical activity with deaths from any cause, and deaths from cardiovascular disease such as heart disease and stroke, over that time. We then estimated what level of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity might offset the health risks of sitting.

This kind of activity is strenuous enough to get you at least slightly out of breath if sustained for a few minutes. It includes brisk walking, cycling, playing sports or running.

What we found

People who did no physical activity and sat for more than eight hours a day had more than twice (107%) the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to people who did at least one hour of physical activity and sat less than four hours a day (the “optimal group”).

But it wasn’t enough just to sit less. People who did less than 150 minutes of physical activity a week and sat less than four hours a day still had a 44-60% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than the optimal group.

We also calculated the effect of replacing one hour of sitting with standing, walking, and moderate and vigorous physical activity.

Among people who sit a lot (more than six hours a day) replacing one hour of sitting with equal amounts of moderate physical activity like strenuous gardening and housework, but not standing, was associated with a 20% reduction in dying from cardiovascular disease.

Replacing one hour of sitting with one hour of vigorous activity such as swimming, aerobics and tennis, the benefits were much greater, with a 64% reduction in the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

What does it all mean?

The great news for people who sit a lot, including sedentary office workers, is that the amount of physical activity needed to offset the health risks of sitting risks was substantially lower than the one hour a day a previous study found.

Even around 20-40 minutes of physical activity a day – the equivalent of meeting the physical activity guidelines of 150 to 300 minutes a week – seemed to eliminate most risks associated with sitting.

For people who sat a lot, replacing sitting with vigorous physical activity was better than replacing it with moderate activity; and replacing sitting with moderate activity or walking was better than replacing it with standing.

What’s the take-home message?

Our study supports the idea that sitting and exercise are two sides of the same health “coin”. In other words, enough physical activity can offset the health risks of sitting.

Should we worry about sitting too much? Yes, because sitting takes up valuable time we could spend moving. So too much sitting is an important part of the physical inactivity problem.

We also know only a minority of adults get enough physical activity to offset the risks of sitting.

For those who sit a lot, finding ways to reduce sitting would be a good start but it is not enough. The most important lifestyle change would be to look for or create opportunities to include physical activity into our daily routine whenever possible.

How to widen our activity ‘menu’

Not everyone has a supportive environment and the capacity to create opportunities to be active. For example, lack of time and physical activity being low on people’s list of priorities are the main reasons why inactive adults don’t exercise. Also, many do not have the motivation to power through a strenuous workout when they are juggling many other life challenges.

There are no known remedies to a lack of time or low motivation. So, perhaps we need to add new approaches, beyond exercising and playing sport for leisure, to the “menu” of physical activity options.




Read more:
Don’t have time to exercise? Here’s a regimen everyone can squeeze in


Incidental physical activity like active transportation – think walking fast or cycling part or all of the way to work – or taking stairs are great ways to become or stay active without taking much extra time.The Conversation

Emmanuel Stamatakis, Professor of Physical Activity, Lifestyle, and Population Health, University of Sydney; Joanne Gale, Research Fellow Biostatistician, University of Sydney, and Melody Ding, Senior Research Fellow of Public Health, University of Sydney

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

People and issues outside our big cities are diverse, but these priorities stand out


Stewart Lockie, James Cook University

This is part of a major series called Advancing Australia, in which leading academics examine key issues facing Australia in the lead-up to the 2019 federal election and beyond. Read the other pieces in the series here.


Rural and regional Australia is a big place – too big to be contained in one rural policy or represented by a single political party.

Several features of contemporary rural and regional Australia stand out, though, as deserving of serious policy attention.




Read more:
Report recommends big ideas for regional Australia – beyond decentralisation


The Indigenous estate

Indigenous peoples are among rural and regional Australia’s largest landholders. Native title rights are recognised on more than 37% of the Australian landmass. Exclusive possession native title applies to around 13%. Both these numbers will grow.

The cultural and social significance of the Indigenous estate is immense. So too is its economic significance. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander enterprises are active in agriculture, mining, infrastructure development, land and water management, and protected area management.

Governments have taken some positive steps to assist Indigenous enterprise. Changing procurement policy to encourage local suppliers is an excellent example. This must be seen in the context, however, of the missteps of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy and failure to engage with the Uluru Statement from the Heart.




Read more:
Building in ways that meet the needs of Australia’s remote regions


Respecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander aspirations for sovereignty and “closing the gap” on health, safety, education and employment are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, finance, insurance and business models that are relevant to the collective and enduring nature of native title rights will go a long way towards realising the economic potential of the Indigenous estate.

Native Title determinations as at December 31 2018. Native Title exists in green areas (darker green denotes exclusive title) and does not exist in brown areas (lighter brown denotes title extinguished).
National Native Title Tribunal, CC BY



Read more:
The Indigenous community deserves a voice in the constitution. Will the nation finally listen?


New labour markets

Agriculture, mining and other resources industries contribute mightily to Australia’s GDP. Yet their contribution to employment is comparatively small.

In 2016, agriculture, forestry and fishing accounted for 215,601 jobs in regional Australia. Mining provided 102,639 jobs. By contrast, health care and social assistance provided 445,087 jobs, retail 341,190, construction 292,279, education and training 291,902 and accommodation and food services 253,501.

Health care and social assistance and education and training contributed more new regional jobs over the last decade than any other industry.

This is not about commodity price cycles and their short-term impact on labour demand. It is about the relentless substitution of labour with technology as business owners strive to lift productivity and lower costs. Advances in automation and telecommunications will accelerate this trend.

The policy imperative is not to ignore resource industries or the workers who depend on them, but to face up to structural change in the labour market.

It is not unreasonable for regions hit by job losses following mine or plant closures to look for new projects to fill the void. But it is important to recognise that fewer jobs will be on offer in the resources industries. And these jobs will require higher levels of skills and training.

Maintaining high employment across non-metropolitan regions will depend, ultimately, on continued growth in other industries.




Read more:
The best way to boost the economy is to improve the lives of deprived students


Climate action

In the land of drought and flooding rain, climate variability is a given.

Managing for that variability is something we need to do better, even before taking climate change into account. The South Australian Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission into water use shows that political commitment to cross-border cooperation and the maintenance of environmental flows is fragile.

What evidence we do have on rural and regional Australians’ beliefs about climate change suggests uncertainty and lack of trust in government are more prevalent than outright denial. A precautionary approach to climate is favoured over business as usual.

Why a precautionary approach? Because failure to act on climate presents a number of risks. These include:

  • reduced market access for regions and industry sectors not seen to be reducing emissions
  • failure to develop cost-effective and industry-specific technologies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  • lost opportunities to develop markets in carbon sequestration
  • escalating economic and social impacts on rural and regional communities as climate variability increases.

Importantly, only the last of these risks is actually contingent on climate change.

Transition planning

The sustainability challenges facing rural and regional Australia are not solely environmental.

In the 21st century, industries require stable, high-speed telecommunications infrastructure. That’s no less true of agriculture and mining than it is of tech start-ups and e-retailers. Unfortunately, the digital divide between urban and rural Australia is a significant constraint on innovation.




Read more:
Will Australia’s digital divide – fast for the city, slow in the country – ever be bridged?


The industries of the 21st century also require stable and responsive institutional and governance infrastructure.

The rural politics we see reported in the media looks every bit as polarised and resistant to change as anywhere. Yet Australia’s best rural policies have always been the result of collaborative approaches to planning and innovation.

Landcare and regional natural resource management programs stand out for the positive relationships they have built across the agriculture, conservation, industry and Indigenous sectors.

While federal and state infrastructure funding is critical for the regions, so too is support for integrated and collaborative planning. Place-based approaches are not a panacea but it is always in specific places, and specific communities, that business, services, natural resource management, energy, transport and telecommunications infrastructure, and so on, come together.

Electoral diversity

Social conservatism, support for traditional rural industries and scepticism about climate change are all highly visible in rural politics today.

I have outlined some of the risks arising from climate scepticism, but contemporary social conservatism carries political risks too.

Most obvious is the alienation of voters who do not share these views. They include:

  • farmers who want meaningful action on climate
  • lifestyle migrants with no historical loyalty to the National Party
  • young people with more socially progressive attitudes.



Read more:
Meet the new seachangers: now it’s younger Australians moving out of the big cities


It is worth remembering that in the plebiscite on marriage equality most rural and regional electorates took the progressive option and voted yes.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voters warrant extra attention. Indigenous voters have swung elections in the Northern Territory with their preference for candidates who respect local leadership and priorities over traditional party allegiances and ideologies. Candidates for any seat with a large Indigenous population ignore these voters at their peril. As the Australia Electoral Commission works to lift the Indigenous vote, this influence will grow.

In sum, the issues that matter to rural and regional Australians are far more diverse than those discussed here. Many will disagree with how I have represented one or other issue. That, really, is the point.The Conversation

Stewart Lockie, Director, The Cairns Institute, James Cook University

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

Royal commission on the abuse of disabled people to be announced soon


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Morrison government is about to establish a royal commission into violence and abuse of people with a disability.

The aim is to have the terms of reference finalised before the
election. The disability area is a shared one, so the royal commission would be set up jointly with the states and territories.

As of late Wednesday, Queensland, Victoria, NSW, South Australia and Tasmania had agreed to the inquiry; Western Australia and the two territories are expected to do so soon.

Scott Morrison, campaigning in Tasmania, flagged a very extensive
scope for the commission.

“I think it will be a royal commission of a similar size and standing as what we saw with institutional child sexual abuse. Let’s remember that went for four years. It had five commissioners,” he said.

There is no cost for the royal commission as yet and the federal
government wants the other governments to contribute. The child sexual abuse commission cost about A$500 million; the banking inquiry was around $75 million; the aged care one is set to cost about $100 million.

The disability sector has been pressing for the inquiry. Greens
senator Jordon Steele-John, who has a disability, has been one of the loudest voices. The opposition has promised a royal commission, and earlier this month parliament passed a motion calling for one. The Coalition opposed that motion in the Senate but voted for it in the lower house.

In a letter to state and territory leaders Morrison said the scope of the inquiry being proposed by disabled people and advocates “is broad, including mainstream services that are regulated by state and territory governments such as health, mental health and education services provided prior to the establishment of the NDIS.

“The cooperation and support of state and territory governments is therefore essential”.

Morrison said he was seeking views from the states and territories on the “most appropriate consultation pathways to progress” the commission, including through the Council of Australian Governments. This process should also consider cost sharing. “I am also seeking views on options to undertake meaningful consultation with the disability sector, to ensure that the perspectives of people with disability are incorporated and they are provided with appropriate support”.

The opposition accused Morrison of haggling with the states over the funding of the royal commission, saying that “Labor committed to a separate, dedicated and fully federally funded royal commission in May 2017”.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.