Analysis; Australia's Black-White Divide Still Stark

Manila Bulletin, February 15, 2008 | Go to article overview

Analysis; Australia's Black-White Divide Still Stark


Byline: SID ASTBURY Deutsche Presse Agentur

SYDNEY - A police car pulled up outside Glennis Saunders' primary school 35 years ago and quite literally transported her to white Australia.

She was taken out of the care of loving Aboriginal relatives for a bed in an orphanage and a life as a ward of the state.

Saunders, 46, was among thousands of indigenous Australians in Canberra to hear the historic apology to those like her who were removed from their families in what's now seen as a misguided attempt at inducting blacks into white society.

"It will be sad because it will bring back memories of what happened to my family," Saunders said. "But it will also be a good day because I reckon we'll all feel relieved when the prime minister says sorry to us."

Relieved, yes. But after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered his longed-for apology to what are called the stolen generations, the realities of Aboriginal Australia remain depressingly the same.

Despite over 2 billion Australian dollars (1.9 billion US dollars) spent annually on special health and welfare projects, indigenous males die on average 17 years earlier than their white counterparts.

Infant mortality is four times as high among the 500,000 who identify as descendents of a 60,000-year-old culture. Suicide is twice the national rate, murder six times the rate, and blacks are 11 times more likely to be imprisoned than whites.

Professor Mick Dodson, director of Aboriginal studies at the Australian National University, is convinced that the symbolism of Rudd's apology to the stolen generations will eventually show up in practical improvements in black welfare.

"The reality is that how you feel about yourself, and whether you feel your culture and history is acknowledged and respected, is a key part of facing your problems and being able to turn things around," Dodson said.

In the crowds outside Parliament House to hear the apology there was a palpable feeling that a breakthrough in race relations had been made, that an impediment to progress had been removed. …

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