Boxing Day is the most important day on the Australian cricket calendar.
The passage to Indigenous enfranchisement has been fraught and hard-won in incremental steps but the status quo in 2016 should give us all pause for thought
A ‘national organiser’ and key promoter of this weekend’s anti-Muslim Reclaim Australia rallies has been forced to issue an apology after a video surfaced of him saying good Aboriginal people were “few and far between” and that “so many of them are just dickheads”.
The video was posted by Shermon Burgess, who runs the popular anti-Islam facebook page the Great Aussie Patriot.
In it, Burgess counsels viewers on how to deal with “left-wing idiots in the workplace”, but goes off on a tangent, complaining about critics who “bring up the Aboriginal card”.
“Just know, I’ve met some nice Aboriginal people, I really have, but they’re few and far between, really, so many of them are just dickheads man. You see ‘em on metho, passed out, bludging cigarettes, and still blaming the modern generation for what happened 200 years ago, which wasn’t even this modern generation that did anything to them,” Burgess said.
Behind him an Australian flag hangs from the wall.
Burgess is understood to be a former member of far-right group the Australian Defence League.
Though deleted, the video was saved and reposted by ‘Reclaim What’, a website dedicated to monitoring the activities of far-right and anti-Islamic groups.
It’s also available on the New Matilda Youtube channel.
John Oliver, an organiser of the Reclaim Australia rallies, confirmed to New Matilda that Burgess was a member of the event’s national organisers’ group.
Rallies are planned across the country today and have been widely promoted on social media.
In a bizarre apology video posted from The Great Aussie Patriot facebook page, Burgess said he was sorry for making the comments, but reiterated his belief that contemporary white Australians are not responsible for earlier mistreatment of Aboriginal people, and admitted he used to dislike Aboriginal people.
Explaining his change of heart, Burgess said his father had asked him to imagine how he would feel if Muslims took over Australia, and that this was how Aboriginal people felt about the British invasion.
To put that another way, Burgess used racism to overcome his racism.
In an equally strange turn, Burgess was moved after an Aboriginal person stood up for his right to ignore another Aboriginal person.
“I had one Aboriginal girl, she was at me, blaming me for stuff that happened, that my ancestors did, that I didn’t do, and it was really frustrating because I was trying to ignore it and she was at me, and at me, and at me, and her Aboriginal friend actually stuck up for me and said ‘hey, just leave him alone, he hasn’t done anything wrong’,” he said.
“Once I got to know some Aboriginal people, they were some of the nicest people I’ve met,” Burgess said.
The video made a special mention of another popular facebook page ‘Blackfulla Revolution’ https://www.facebook.com/ourcountryourchoice?fref=ts and the Tent Embassy.
It didn’t seem to bring them round to his point of view, howevever
We stand strongly opposed to ‘Reclaim Australia’, just another brand of the kind of racism this country was founded on through dispossession and genocide of First Nations. Every racist who posts to this page seems to support ‘Reclaim Australia’ and there’s nothing coincidental about it. Muslim brothers and sisters have shown great solidarity in recent weeks and we stand with you in rejecting all forms of oppression and bigotry. Full support to all opposing the hate brigade. #SOSBLAKAUSTRALIA
Since the Burgess clip came to light, Reclaim Australia promoters have posted pro-Aboriginal videos and spoken out against the closure of remote First Nations communities in Western Australia
Oliver told New Matilda Aboriginal people had been involved in organising the Reclaim rallies, and had seen the video.
“Oh yeah, yeah, yeah they’re not happy with those at all,” he said.
“We have to live with that, he made a mistake, the video you’re talking about happened about a year and a half before the rallies and he’s apologised and we’ve just got to move on.”
Reclaim organisers have worked hard to convince the broader public that the rallies are not fuelled by racial hatred.
Oliver told New Matilda he was concerned about ‘extremist’ Muslims and that “we’re suspect of anyone who questions us for questioning extremists”.
Having said that, Oliver admitted his own event was attracting extremists.
“I’ll be the first one to say we have a lot of people on board who have extremist views as well. Now I know that’s a fact that we can’t do anything about. Some people are trying to hijack it for their own gains.”
An oft-quoted refrain of Reclaim supporters is that they can not be considered racists as Islam is a religion, not a race.
Dr Ghena Krayem, a University of Sydney academic whose research interests include multiculturalism and legal pluralism, told New Matilda this reasoning was misleading.
“It doesn’t matter what you call it, the thing that’s bad about racism is not its name, it’s the underlying process behind it. You are ostracising a group for no reason other than the basis of their race, an aspect of identity that is so important to them,” Krayem said.
“You’re just lumping all these people in the one group and effectively discriminating against them.”
Krayem said the objections of Reclaim Australia, for instance in relation to halal certification and Sharia law, were not well informed.
“They need to be sure their position is an informed position. It doesn’t mean they need to agree with Muslims, but they need to be more informed than the current level of public discourse,” she said.
When pushed to explain his positions, Oliver admitted he was not an expert.
“I’ve spoken to my local mosque. I wanted to know exactly what I was dealing with,” he said.
New Matilda was not able to reach Shermon Burgess for comment.
Tony Abbott is an utterly appalling, maliciously deceitful, dangerously incompetent and just plain bad prime minister, says Natalie Cromb. He also doesn’t have the best interests of Indigenous people at heart.
Tony Abbott — you, sir*, are a troglodyte of the highest order!
Let me preface my rage by saying that I appreciate different points of view and having perspectives broadened and challenged by healthy debate in a diplomatic manner. I appreciate that we all come from different life experiences that can enrich our understanding of certain situations and people. I respect everyone’s opinions as exactly that and try not to become emotional if their opinions are ignorant or offensive.
But having said that, Tony Abbott is a malevolent scum bag. He doesn’t utilise his unique position for the good of the nation, he doesn’t try to listen to the citizens of the nation to broaden his understanding of social, moral, familial, cultural and religious issues.
He pushes his agenda and, when people who actually are actively representing their electorate question his policies and motives, he makes threats and tries to circumvent the process. This sort of behaviour breaches the intent of the separation of powers, upon which this nation’s legal system was built. It is tantamount to a toddler having a tantrum in order to get a Kinder Surprise at the supermarket checkout.
Tony, you have undermined this country in every conceivable way. You say you are a conservative, but you are a radical fascist that is intellectually impotent and emotionally infantile. You cannot grasp simple concepts of decency let alone complex concepts of cultural connection and identity and yet, you say you are “comfortable with your credentials” when it comes to Indigenous Australia.
Cut the crap Abbott, you are not fooling anyone. You are a narcissistic bigot stuck in the 1950’s. You seek to marginalise and berate all that disagree with you. You seek to vilify and undermine all that stand in your way.
You think women are simply housewives that iron and don’t always have the right to withhold sex; you think that gay people are threatening in their audacity to want equality to love without condemnation or exclusion from rights and privileges afforded heterosexuals; you expect all Muslim people to speak out against a radical few that happen to share their religion, while excusing the entire Catholic faith of which you are a member for not speaking out against the widespread child abuse perpatrated by its representatives; you have opined that scientifically proven climate change is “absolute crap” and you think Aboriginal people are bludgers.
Now Abbott loyalists, dismount your high horses before you bombard me with your vitriol (I assure you, I have heard it all before) and look at the facts.
There are far too many to list them all, but here are a few:
- He repealed the carbon tax and cut funding to scientific and environmental programs, so there goes the future of this nation from an environmental perspective.
- He has postured about his opposition to domestic violence while he crosses his fingers behind his back and axes funding to all of the services that are helping vulnerable women and children.
- He says that he has a plan for Indigenous people that will Close the Gap and proceeds to cut over $600 million in funding to Indigenous grass root programs – including access to justice.
- He ran an entire campaign vilifying people who he dubbed ‘leaners’ on the premise that the small percentage of Centrelink cheats are to blame for the poor budget but then proceeds to give his biggest donors tax cuts that would make us sick to the stomach and undoubtedly have our budget well on its way to the black had they not been granted.
Ignorance is something that we have come to accept from the national shame that is our prime minister, but enough is enough, he isn’t a kooky uncle that we try to ignore for the most part and cringe when they open their mouth. This is the leader of our nation, democratically elected and the fact that he uses this platform to advance his racist agenda royally (pun totally intended) really pisses me off!
The prime minister of Australia, rather than listening to the Indigenous people he purportedly represents, has been having pot shots and kicking Aboriginal people in the guts for far too long and it is about time that we called him out for the overt racist he is.
Tony Abbott has, since becoming prime minister referred to Australia as
“… the then unsettled or, um, scarcely settled, Great South Land”.
And on a separate occasion, in order to perpetuate the fallacy of terra nullius, referred to pre-colonial Australia as [IA emphasis]
“… nothing but bush … the Marines, and the convicts and the sailors … must have thought they’d come almost to the Moon…. Everything would have seemed so extraordinarily basic and raw…”
He has attempted to rewrite history by saying
“… the First Fleet was the defining moment in the history of this continent … [bringing Australia] … into the modern world.”
His contempt is clear.
The prime minister and supposed minister for Indigenous affairs is so far out of his depth in not only relating to Indigenous Australians (notwithstanding his bromance with his token Aboriginal friend, Warren Mundine) but of having basic qualities of empathy and historical awareness to attempt to make reasonable decisions pertaining to Indigenous people. He does not conceive of the notion that the Australian Government owes a duty to Indigenous people to make reparations for past wrongs and symbolic constitutional change years down the track does not constitute reparation, it constitutes patriarchal condescension continued.
How dare he purport to make decisions for Indigenous Australia. How dare he prioritise corporations above the rights of people and communities. How dare he denigrate a race of people and have the audacity to imply he cares.
He is the sadistic child that taunts ants with a stick to see what happens. Well, guess what? Us ants have had enough and we are going to crawl up his legs and bite him!
The Indigenous people of this nation have been oppressed for long enough, have been polite for long enough and been drowned out for long enough. We are going to be loud and we are going to make sure that Australia, regardless of Abbott’s attempts to sanitise the history of this nation, knows the truth of the atrocities committed against Indigenous people for their gain.
This is not about white guilt. This is about honesty so that we have white voices speaking loud alongside our black voices. So our voices strengthen instead of being deliberately drowned out or vilified. Australia deserves to know the truth so they can stand for what is right, hand in hand with Indigenous Australians against the injustice that continues today.
* I choked on my coffee as I typed that.
Up to a third of Aboriginal people in remote towns are being ripped off by financial scams involving funeral pre-payments, pay-day lending or excessive interest rates on loans for household essentials such as a fridge.
Legal Aid NSW has called for the federal government to act on the Financial System Inquiry’s proposal to allow targeted bans of unfair practices.
Legal Aid senior solicitor Jemima McCaughan said salesmen are preying on high infant mortality and youth suicide rates among Aboriginal communities to sell high-cost funeral insurance plans to families to cover their children from a very young age.
“The younger you sign up, the more you will pay,” she said.
“Aboriginal people tend to attend and contribute to more funerals due to social and cultural obligations, and a larger kinship network, so having a way to pay for funerals is important to a lot of Aboriginal people.”
But the contracts can end up costing tens of thousands of dollars.
A Legal Aid program sending solicitors into four communities, Dareton, Lake Cargelligo, Condoblin and Murrin Bridge, to assist 350 Aboriginal families, will be expanded across the state in 2015.
“These issues are so prevalent that in some communities as many as 30 per cent of the population have sought – and received – legal help with these money worries,” said NSW Attorney-General Brad Hazzard.
One Aboriginal elder, John, who lived on the aged pension in a remote town, used a payday lender to pay for his car registration and living expenses after he took temporary care of his grandchildren.
When Legal Aid intervened, John had paid $6500 for $3500 in credit over 18 months, continued to pay $130 a fortnight from his pension and still owed $2500 on the contract.
Legal Aid found the contract breached consumer protection laws, and was able to get $1500 refunded.
Ms McCaughan said Aboriginal people on low incomes are paying a quarter of their wage on consumer leases for a fridge or other essential items because they are excluded from mainstream financial products, and aren’t told the full cost of the contract.
The inquiry has recommended that the financial regulator be able to target bans to conduct relating to certain classes of people. Banning consumer leases from being marketed in Aboriginal communities would prevent families getting into financial difficulty, she said.
“We think a prohibition on unfair trading will fill the gap. What we see is a lot of business models dependent on taking advantage of the vulnerable,” said Ms McCaughan.
Legal Aid has encouraged Aboriginal communities to put up “do not knock” stickers on letter boxes, which is helping, she said.
“There is a real capacity to improve the information people have and share information to strengthen the community. The Koori grapevine works very well.”
The solicitors are raising awareness of No Interest Loan providers.
Superannuation products are also a problem, because the preservation age is often higher than the life expectancy of Aboriginal people.
Aboriginal people have been unable to locate the superannuation of deceased family members, and have difficulty accessing death benefit funds, because of proof of identity requirements.
Low birth registrations, multiple names, and the difficulty of accessing documents from remote communities are hurdles, Legal Aid found.