Politics Opinion

Australia needs to move on from the racist ideology upon which it was founded

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Australia was founded on racist attitudes after officers of the First Fleet engaged in conflicts with Indigenous Australians (Screenshot via YouTube)

Despite global attitudes changing, the racist principles on which our country was founded are still prevalent in today's government, writes Bilal Cleland.

WITH THE UPROAR around the murder of George Floyd in the USA, followed by the Black Lives Matter movement across the English speaking world, the notion of White supremacy has once again been put under the spotlight.

The White supremacist/QAnon conspiracy insurgency in Washington, which appears to have been intended to remove political figures who disobeyed former President Donald Trump, increased the intensity of that light.

It is not only the USA with its history of Indigenous genocide and Black slavery which struggles to rise above its bloody past.

The upsurge against slave trading “philanthropists” and colonial killers in the United Kingdom, leading to protective barriers being placed around Churchill’s statue, rattled conservative cages.

Here in Australia, BLM protesters took to the streets despite the pandemic, highlighting the 432 deaths in custody since 1991.

The number was, in fact, higher:

‘...based on reports that have reached us from families and other sources, including coronial reports, we can say that number is now at least 437.’

That the USA, despite its internal White supremacist terror threat, has produced a Black president and now a Black vice-president, suggests it is more civilised regarding its racist undercurrent than Australia.

Here in Australia, the beginning of White settlement, the arrival of the First Fleet on 26 January, is still the central national celebration.

Independent MP Zali Steggall, who defeated the former PM Tony Abbott, called for us to observe a minute’s silence on that day to recognise the “price paid” by Indigenous Australians during colonisation.

Abbott is remembered for telling one of the Sydney shock jocks:

"What happened on the 26th of January 1788 was on balance, for everyone – Aboriginal people included – a good thing because it brought Western civilisation to this country, it brought Australia into the modern world.”

He is an English immigrant and may not be aware of our colonial history of Indigenous genocide, but that may be too generous an interpretation.

Of deeper concern is the opinion of a younger member of the Federal Government.

Recently promoted Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, associated like several other ministers with Hillsong, accused Ms Steggall of “playing negative politics”.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, he claimed this day united all Australians.

The changing of one word of the national anthem from “young” to “one”, which was supposed to be a gesture towards acceptance of First Nations concerns, is pathetic tokenism.

Continued refusal to acknowledge the Frontier Wars, which marked resistance to colonialism, adds to the refusal of the colonial mindset to come to terms with the real history of this country.

What appears to be a “cop out” appears on the Australian War Memorial website:

The “Frontier Wars” were a series of actions that were carried out by British colonial forces stationed in Australia, by the police, and by local settlers.


...but the Memorial has found no substantial evidence that home-grown military units, whether state colonial forces or post-Federation Australian military units, ever fought against the Indigenous population of this country.

The promotion of the commencement of the penal colony and the beginning of convict slavery on this continent as the beginning of our nation insults the First Nations which were subsequently destroyed physically or culturally, as well as the suffering of those exiles from England who, for minor crimes, were forever separated from their families.

The adherence to the old imperial ideology found in Brittania rule the waves is still strong in the minds of the ruling coalition, despite masses of evidence that those days have long gone.

Bilal Cleland is a retired secondary teacher and was Secretary of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Chairman of the Muslim Welfare Board Victoria and Secretary of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.

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