Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How can we get more young Indigenous peeps to vote? Stop being so IRRELEVANT

I'm going to tackle this question of young Indigenous participation in the federal election with a simple word: RELEVANCE...

Within the post- referendum era, what is the freaking relevance of a federal election to the majority of young Indigenous kids, in the policy of reconciliation and self-determination there remain severe limitations on asserting ‘Aboriginality’ and participating with equal citizenship for Indigenous Australians (Anderson 2003: 43). The contemporary experience of Indigenous communities is still affected by the process of colonial history. This process concerns the way in which Colonisers, European Australians and current institutions ‘know the Aborigines’  in a discourse of authoritative and essentialist ‘truths’ about the identity of Indigenous Australians (Attwood 1992: i).  Basically there is no faith in government policies to improve, what the hell is some new fat cat pm going to do to dust off years of Federal governments Aboriginal Affairs strategies of sweeping shit under the mat?

The Australian political context still confines Indigenous Australians to a ‘constitutional anomaly’ (Morris 1988: 63). Indigenous people are represented as the “Aboriginal problem” discussed in terms of cultural difference through pluralist policies of ‘self-determination’ rather than in factual terms of colonial dispossession (Morris 1988: 63). This is due to the ‘legal fiction’ the Australian government has claimed in “Terra Nullius”, consequently denying the sovereign rights of Indigenous Australians (Morris 1988: 63). This denies the ability of Indigenous people to successfully challenge the denial of Indigenous human rights through the erroneous categories of Australia as a ‘settled colony’ rather than a ‘conquered colony’ giving precedence for false legal theory over historical evidence (Morris 1988: 64). Even in a post-referendum 1967 context, our constitutional core does not protect Indigenous equality but allows government to assume responsibility for Indigenous people under Section 51(26) in the constitution (Morris 1988: 66). This amendment holds the facade of Commonwealth government unable to intervene in Indigenous affairs; rather it became a measure that gives the power to discriminate against Indigenous people (Attwood &Markus 2007: 39). 
This is renders cultural differences within the constitution as validation to enact forces of positive discrimination, yet abdicates the supreme power over Indigenous people to the Commonwealth government (Morris 1988: 66).

This has shaped a domination of government over Indigenous people sustained by relations of dependency (Morris 1988: 64). This form of welfare colonialism is veiled in a liberal approach of welfare systems in Indigenous Affairs (Morris 1988: 64). This is sought in the concept of ‘formal equality’  by bringing about social and economic change through the provision of ‘special assistance’, this is rather useless when  Indigenous people are  further disadvantaged by a system that fails to take their situations into account (Attwood & Markus 200: 84). The government approach should instead move towards substantiative equality or the equality of results (Attwood & Markus 200: 84). Welfare colonialism impedes the success of such equality, through hegemonic assumptions on the basis of politics of identity that rely on interpretations of ideology and culture (Morris 1988: 64). This allows for subjugation of Indigenous people into ‘objects’ of knowledge, removing their right to speak for themselves and endowing the production of their identity to experts and authorities of institutional systems (Morris 1988: 64).
Ethnographic context displays indigenous experience as a fragmented life. As Anderson aptly suggests equalities arises not because we are “retarded by the black bits”, but because produced dichotomous barriers of western perception fail to orient themselves toward the needs of Indigenous Australians (Anderson 2003:51). Such dichotomies of Indigenous identity are productions of colonial history through misrepresentations of ‘Aboriginality’ and the arising assumption of authentic and traditional Indigenous people. This leaves us with the problems of moving forward towards contemporary alternatives to “Orientalism” and “Aboriginalism”, to the possibilities of managing representations outside the dominate mode of thought. Government policies have entrenched this denigration, which lies on the bed of false legal jargon encompassed in colonial history. This inhibits Indigenous peoples voices to be heard and as a consequence they have been removed from their cultural integrity. 

Essentially equality needs to be enshrined in the constitution to protect the rights of Indigenous people. The invalidation of ‘Aboriginalism’, in forms of ‘Aboriginal Studies’, based upon epistemological and ontological distinction between ‘Them and ‘Us and institutions holding authority over Indigenous Australians (Attwood 1992: i) is an integral part to appeasing the imposed misrepresentation of Indigenous Identity. This has been characterised by the overarching relationship of power between invader and invaded (Attwood 1992: xi). This authority masks the true representation of Indigenous Australia, rendering ‘Aborigines’ as objects, spoken for and contrived in artificial ontological terms on the basis of binary oppositions.

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