Right royal NT whitewash

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Turnbull's snap decision to call a Royal Commission into juvenile detention is now looking like a complete whitewash.

IT IS CLEAR that the Royal Commission into the torture of mainly Indigenous kids in the Northern Territory "justice" system will be a whitewash.

The terms of reference are extremely limited. There was no consultation with Aboriginal groups about its terms of reference or the Commissioner.

Malcolm Turnbull appointed Brian Martin QC as the Commissioner.

In his former role as Chief Justice of the Northern Territory, Martin was a key administrator of a justice system that, as Pippa Rudd said in The Conversation, resulted in

‘... 86 per cent of those in prison and 96 per cent of those in juvenile detention [being] Indigenous.’  

Not only that but, according to Rudd, the

'NT imprisonment rate sits at 847 per 100,000 adults, nearly four times that of its nearest Australian rival, Western Australia. The ‘adult imprisonment rate [in the US] is only 623 per 100,000.’

In an infamous case, Martin described five white youths who beat Aboriginal man Kwementyaye Ryder to death as "of otherwise good character". He gave them sentences of from 12 months to four years, in part, because most of the other prisoners they were to mix with would be Indigenous and, presumably, would not welcome them for their crime.

As I have written before, this whitewash will not address the deeper issues. It will not even mention the genocide and systemic top down racism that are the root causes of the problems we see today, of which Don Dale is just a glimpse. It certainly will not suggest ways to address these systemic issues. Thus it will not recommend a treaty or recognition of prior ownership. There will be no discussion of paying the rent, or of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sovereignty.

The Royal Commission will not draw out the deliberate policy the ruling class has of "othering" various groups, from the eternal other of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, to the shifting other from the Irish, to the Catholics, to the Jews, to the Chinese and on to the Germans, Jews, the Japanese, Southern Europeans, the Vietnamese, and today, of course, Muslims and refugees.

Certainly, the Royal Commission will not expose the double helix of the Aboriginal concentration camps – prisons and remand centres being just one specific example – and the refugee and asylum seeker concentration camps here and on Manus Island and Nauru. One reinforces the other.

So called practical solutions, like Constitutional recognition, that some, such as Noel Pearson, suggest will not solve the underlying systemic abuse of Aboriginal people. In fact, such measures will only reinforce the system of oppression that imprisons Aboriginal people in their own lands.

Is there a solution? Yes, I believe there is. Our mass actions can change the world. United, we can fight back. The history of the fight for civil rights in the U.S., for basic democratic rights in South Africa, for freedom from colonialism in much of the world, shows that negotiating with the oppressor will not win change.

From Sydney to Perth, from Darwin to Adelaide, tens of thousands gathered across Australia to protect our kids.

We got a glimpse of what can change the world for the better in Melbourne on Saturday night. As part of nationwide "Hands off Aboriginal Kids" protests. I went to the one in Canberra called by the Aboriginal Tent Embassy

In Melbourne, about 1,000 people rallied and protested against the ongoing and systemic abuses highlighted by the Don Dale scandal. Hundreds occupied the busy intersection of Swanston and Flinders Streets, and set up camp, which included a cage with four young Aboriginal people in it.

We have to defeat those who oppress us or make the costs for them too great to go on with the old ways.

Read more by John Passant on his website En PassantYou can also follow John on Twitter @JohnPassant.


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