Indigenous Issues and a Fair Go

Did it all start with Governor Phillip’s Mob?

No. What we see today has much of its origins in the British Government’s  decision to settle in what is now Australia at Botany Bay. “…a colony there would be of great assistance to the British Navy in facilitating attacks on the Spanish possessions in Chile and Peru…”

At the time, British and European Society, indeed the World’s Societies, were fragmented – upper/lower classes: brutal and inhumane.  Phillip was a product of his times and culture, more enlightened than most.

“The laws of this country [England] will of course, be introduced in [New] South Wales, and there is one that I would wish to take place from the moment his Majesty’s forces take possession of the country: That there can be no slavery in a free land, and consequently no slaves.”[

Phillip believed in severe discipline; floggings and hangings were a almost daily event, although Philip commuted many death sentences. Phillip ordered that Aboriginal people they must be well treated, and that anyone killing Aboriginal people would be hanged. Despite this and over many years Aboriginal people were driven-off, killed, mistreated. The European population of New South Wales in 1792 was 4,221, of whom 3,099 were convicts. Most of the rest were soldiers.

Not a great start, but almost inevitable because those ruling and administering (and plundering) were uneducated, often sick (scurvy, smallpox) but most significantly, accustomed to being brutalised and incapable of understanding “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” or “Whatever is hurtful to you, do not do to any other person.”

Despite Phillip’s ‘enlightened’ views, subsequent dealings with Indigenous people were seriously and brutally mismanaged. A good deal of the mismanagement continues to this day.

Some key relevant points (see)

  1. Federation – The Commonwealth Constitution states “in reckoning the numbers of people… Aboriginal natives shall not be counted”.
  2. White Australia policy – ban all non-Caucasian people from entering the country.
  3. Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 which grants men and women in all states the right to vote in federal elections, but denies it to every ‘aboriginal native’ of Australia, Asia, Africa, or the Islands of the Pacific.
  4. Charles Perkins becomes the first Aboriginal university graduate at University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Arts. First Aboriginal Australian to graduate from university.
  5.  Charles Perkins leads a freedom ride by Aboriginal people and students  …draw attention to segregation (places of leisure in country towns – swimming pools, picture theatres, hotels and RSL clubs), refusal of service in shops,  and the appalling conditions under which Aboriginal people live.
  6. Causes of a low life expectancy include: poverty poor health and nutrition – Research found that about 80% of the life expectancy difference is due to preventable chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, poor housing, dispossession of their traditional lands, low education level, high unemployment, hidden racism, and inability of politicians to address Aboriginal problems.

 Further observations and some tentative conclusions

  1. Since Australia was settled by the British, essentially as a place to dump the unwanted and to provide a naval base, progress towards a ‘fair go’ was severely and adversely affected by the prevailing cultural, social and political views and cultures of the era along with an under-resourced community – convicts, soldiers, uneducated and sickly.
  2. It took too long to wake up to some aspect of Indigenous disadvantage – it took until 1962 to see Commonwealth Electoral Act provide that all Indigenous Australians should have the right to enrol and vote at federal elections, 2008 to see a bi-partisan Parliament apologise for the Stolen Generations.
  3. Preventable chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, poor housing, low education level, high unemployment, poverty – all of these horrors are evident in both both Indigenous and other  under-privileged Australian Communities.
  4. An inability of politicians to address Aboriginal problems is little different to their failure to deal with unemployment and social problems generally – eg Newstart, Robo-debt Aged Care and NDIS.
  5. Noel Pearson  has said “I believe that there is similar dysfunction in white populations as we witness in my Indigenous communities. I’ve got no doubt the kind of dysfunction that we see is not the result of skin colour, it’s the result of long-term welfare dependency, tied up with the epidemics of substance abuse. So I’ve got no doubt that this is a universal problem”.


The government should introduce a Job Guarantee that offers a job at a living (minimum) wage to anyone who wants to work but cannot find employment. See:- and Associate Professor Pavlina Tcherneva

The Australian government can afford this program because it has has no financial constraint as the issuer of the currency. A currency-issuing government can always choose the unemployment level once the spending and saving decisions of the non-government sector are implemented.

In terms of the overall working of a national economy ( macroeconomics), a Job Guarantee would be an automatic stabiliser that ensures that the Government isp doing necessary amount of spending where it is needed in the right places and right time to achieve full employment with stable prices.

When the private sector is recovering, federal government spending would automatically fall as people leave the Job Guarantee for higher paid jobs elsewhere. When the private sector experienced a downturn, federal government spending would automatically increase as people lose their private sector jobs and enter the Job Guarantee.

Unemployment is a major loss of valuable productive resources, depressing the economic economic growth and lowering our standard of living of the whole community.

Offsetting the cost of a Job Guarantee would include lesser demand for Centrelink services, enhanced tax revenue and receipts, including those on superannuation and investments.
The costs associated with substance abuse, including health care costs and police interventions would lessen. Unemployment and its adverse social effects adds very substantially to on-going and escalating Government spending. Local economies, particularly those in Rural and Remote areas would see an enhanced economy and small businesses would have better prospects.

Training must be included, to ensure that the unemployed are equipped with skills that will be needed when the private economy starts again to employ more people.

Not a “work for the dole” proposal. This is voluntary, full time employment, guaranteed and managed by the government.  It is not intended to be compulsory: it’s there for people who want to work. How to deal sensibly and humanely with those who are able to work and refuse to do so should examined and addressed – it is beyond the ambit of this paper. Those who cannot work because of drug or alcohol dependencies should be offered health care, training counselling and more to equip them for meaningful work.

Job Guarantee Programs should be managed at local area or even neighbourhood levels. Each area’s Program must be managed and supervised  by appropriately qualified people – a well paid, sought-after job. (eg – maybe Centrelink staff, fewer of which would be now needed).

Some  relevant Job Guarantee examples

  • Noxious Weed eradication – pests: graffiti
  • Road Maintenance at low levels – small truck/4 or so workers- potholes, rubbish.
  • Climate change responses – tree planting and care
  • Enhanced care of National Parks, recreation areas, sporting facilities, school premises and streets and neighbourhoods generally
  • Indigenous health, nutrition, social and other problem areas  – Care for Country.
  • Gardens for fresh produce in remote areas, particularly Aboriginal and Islander Communities.

The points made above are only a very broad outline – see here  and  generally  online and elsewhere for much more information. See also another Post on this Blog

Your email address will not be visible on the Blog and first name or pseudo will do

1 thought on “Indigenous Issues and a Fair Go

  1. Seeking a solution to the problems facing all who suffer disadvantage and discrimination is the way to go.


Comments are closed.