Bits and Pieces

Monday, February 16, 2004

Sydney Riots

A serious riot broke out last night in the Sydney suburb of Redfren between the local Aboriginal population and police. Roger Maynard reports on a confrontation which again highlights Australia's most enduring social problem.

The death of Thomas Hickey, a 17-year-old Aboriginal boy. He was impaled on railings after falling off his bicycle on Sunday. The local community, including Thomas's mother, insist that the police were chasing the teenager when he lost control of his bike and died. A warrant had recently been issued for his arrest after his failure to appear in court over assault claims.

Should we be surprised? Since whitey landed at Botany bay we've treated Aboriginals as second-class citizens. We denied them the right to property, hunted them down like animals and even made it government policy to take a generation of their children into care. Should it come as a surprise that they're a little disgruntled?

The results of our awful behaviour can be clearly seen by anyone who has spent time in Australia. Most of the Aboriginals I've ever met have been on welfare or in low-paid jobs. A shocking proportion are dependent on drink and drugs, and the life expectancy is over 20 years less than that of the white population.

I love Australia. I would like to retire there. In fact, given the option I would emigrate there today. However, the country is institutionally racist. The Aboriginals have never had a Martin Luther King to effect a shift in the nation's consciousness. The best they had was King Billy, and all he did was stand around in ragged clothes.

In short, we can expect these problems to get much worse before they get better. If there is ever to be a unified, inclusive Australia, they need to start taking a long hard look at themselves.
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