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Australia's possible dual British citizen PM Tony Abbott today described Australia as “nothing but bush” before the arrival of the First Fleet. First Nations’ representative Natalie Cromb responds.

Australia is a focus point in international politics this week as it plays host to the 2014 G20 summit in Brisbane. International diplomats, representatives, staff, security and media have descended amidst a climate of tension and drama pertaining to Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s threats to “shirt-front” Russian President Vladamir Putin.

In this context of heightened international interest, speaking at the International Infrastructure Business Breakfast in Sydney this morning, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, in front of British Prime Minister David Cameron, took the opportunity to perpetuate the lie of terra nullius by describing Australia prior to colonisation 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…”

Granted, these comments come as little surprise to the Indigenous population of this nation given he has previously credited British people with the first

“... foreign investment … [in] the then unsettled or, um, scarcely settled, Great South Land…

and stated that

“… the First Fleet was the defining moment in the history of this continent.”

While not surprised by his comments, I am outraged.

I am outraged that a man of this unashamed racial intolerance holds the leadership position of this nation.

I am outraged that he uses this platform to manifestly attempt to rewrite history and decimate any progress made historically towards closing the gap, self-determination and reconciliation.

I am outraged that his entire platform of economic policy was based on scaremongering without any substance.

I am outraged that he so grossly underestimates the intelligence of the Australian people and that such underestimation, for a large portion of people, is well founded. How else can the fact he was elected be otherwise explained?

I realise it is facetious of me to expect the self-proclaimed “Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs” to consider the gravity of his words as they may be received by his alleged constituents — after all, a man holding the highest position in this land cannot possibly be expected to speak in a measured an accurate manner. Can he?

Of course not! He has proven time and time again that he is a simple man ‒ albeit an avid liar ‒ who has absolutely no sense of social justice. He has used his platform of leadership to decimate Australia in every capacity — socially, culturally, educationally, economically and environmentally.

Let me be clear, I do not hold Tony Abbott in high regard intellectually. I am not outraged at the views of a simple bigot.

I am outraged that we live in a country that has such an affinity with his views that he was elected into power to perpetuate his racist ideals with real policies that we, as Australians, are required to live with. These policies have real consequences and will reverberate for many years to come.

Australia is a racist country (cue gasps of horror and indignation). Are all Australians racist? No.

Let me explain.

This nation is one built on the lie that is terra nullius and the fact that there has been no meaningful attempt at reparation for the theft of an entire continent from the original inhabitants (“owners” for those of you who require capitalist terminology) demonstrates that we remain a racist nation.

At times, covert — but still racist.

Not only was an entire race of people dispossessed from their land, but they were subject to brutal massacres, slavery, disease, political policies of genocidal proportions and to deny this history and continue to benefit from it is the crux of the issue.

There is a wilful ignorance of many non-Indigenous Australians to the perspective of Indigenous Australians when it comes to discussing this history. There is a glazed look when this topic of discussion gets raised because there is no means in to empathise and there is a common misconception that Indigenous people want them to give up their homes and make claims that would directly impact them. This is not the case.

All too often you will hear discussions of this very issue and there are always comments of varying degrees of the same message:

“It was in the past…. I didn’t personally do it, it was my ancestors …. get over it …. it’s not my problem …. I can’t be held responsible for events of the past …. haven’t we moved on?”

A large part of the destruction of Indigenous culture did occur in the past, however, the destruction continues today. The current generation Australians benefit from the actions of previous generations of Australians (and British) and continued denial of this fact perpetuates the myth that the damage was done and remains in the past.

This denial of history and the effects rippling through modern Australia is the accepted perspective of a large portion of the Australian community. A portion of the community that elected a leader so blatantly racist that he uses his leadership platform to dispense with covert methods and go straight to telling anyone who will listen about British superiority and our obligation to give thanks for “creating” Australia — all the while denying the truth of the Indigenous history of this nation.

I am aware that being so blunt as to label Australia as a racist country is tantamount to setting the cat amongst the pigeons, but spare me the outrage; having lived and experienced this racism first hand, this is just plain honesty.

So while Adam Goodes (who happens to be Australian of the Year) gets lambasted for speaking the truth in relation to Australia’s sordid history, I will undoubtedly get my share of  vitriol, Tony Abbott is free to send a clear message to the world that Australia is, was and always has been a British colony (truth is irrelevant).

You can follow Natalie on Twitter @NatalieCromb.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

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