Indigenous Disadvantage Issues sample essay
The indigenous society of Australia has been estimated to be around for tens of thousands of years. The contrast between non-indigenous and Indigenous society across all aspects of social and economical structures has been widely debated, reported, monitored and theorized. Indigenous Australians are significantly more disadvantaged then non-indigenous people in various social aspects such as health, education, employment, and income. This case study looks at the Indigenous disadvantages from both a post-colonial perspective and post-modern perspective through the portrayal of Australian media.
An overview of the Indigenous disadvantages will be provided using statistics and media coverage. There will be an outline of Fanon’s post-colonial perspective on colonization. Furthermore, Foucault’s post-modern theory will be outlined, in which he argues that certain social and politically communities manipulate by using power disguised for their own gain. Essentially this paper will identify the apparent neutral intervention by government bodies to ‘close the gap’ of the disadvantages Indigenous Australians face and how this has failed due to their own culture bias.
The Indigenous people are the original residents and owners of Australia at the time of colonisation. Today the indigenous population is estimated at around 517, 000 making up 2. 5% of the Australian population (Ranzijn, McConnochie, & Nolan, 2009). The following statistics identifies the social situations of the Indigenous population on a whole. The 2006 census showed Indigenous Australians’ life expectantly to be lower than non-Indigenous, a gap of 11. 5 years for male and 9. 7 years for females (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006).
Only a small proportion of indigenous Australians in year 7 met the National minimum standards for reading, writing and numeracy and only 36% obtained a year 12 certificate as opposed to 74% for non-indigenous in the 2006 census (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006). The unemployment rate for indigenous people is estimated at 16% whereas 6% for the non-indigenous population, and the general weekly income is one and half times higher for non-indigenous than indigenous (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006).
Indigenous communities in 2007 had a higher rate of child abuse and neglect with 35 per 1000, whereas 6 per 1000 for non-indigenous, and they had a 26% rate of overcrowded housing compared to 6% for non-indigenous (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2007). Crime, alcohol and drug use is a persistent concern for Indigenous communities along with psychical and emotional wellbeing (Carson, Dunbar, Chenhall & Bailie, 2007). As reported by Wilson (2011) the government and Bureaucracies believe they are taking efficient measures to ‘close the gap’ of social-economics between the indigenous Australians and non-indigenous Australians (Packham, 2012, p.1).
Recently Prime Minister Julia Gillard was quoted in her annual ‘closing the gap’ statement that the government was “generally on track”, she also noted that faster improvement was needed (Packham, 2012, p. 1). However, Bennett (2011) reports, the New South Wales auditor-general found “the states indigenous people still face “substantial” disadvantages, despite a government plan to overturn the problem (Bennett, 2011, p. 1). Frantz Fanon made important contributions to the critical study of colonialism.
He focused predominately on the psychological and social impact of colonial subjugation and resistance and was interested in how colonial powers justify this subjugation (Sardar & Bhabha, 2008). He believed colonialism involved territorial, economical and military domination, where previously independent people are subdued and suppressed by western culture ideals (Sardar & Bhabha, 2008). Fanon also believed that the oppressed played a contributing role by accepting the demoralisation and tolerating and justifying the loss of their way of life and culture (Sardar & Bhabha, 2008).
Fanon additionally noted this could lead to suppressed rage towards the more dominate powers which in turn lead to violent outbursts (Sardar & Bhabha, 2008). Fanon recognised the reality of class conflict and acknowledges that nations/states benefit different classes unequally (Sardar & Bhabha, 2008). As for Michel Foucault his critical studies of social phenomena had a significant influence on culture and social research.
His key interest was on the relationship between knowledge and power, meaning the powerful inflicted control on others by undermining the repressed so as to keep control and dominance of the population (Holmes, Hughes, & Julian, 2007). Foucault believed that the social life could never be free from regulation or constraint (Gordon, 1980). He was more concerned with how it was justified and camouflaged to appear as a humanistic concern for individual wellbeing (Holmes, et al. , 2007).
The Australian colonisation saw the Europeans control and dominate the indigenous people from the onset. Fanon would suggest the westerners assumed culture superiority over the indigenous people. Believing they were racially inferior and given over to instinct and impulse, they lacked self-discipline that is needed to properly develop their full humanity (Sardar & Bhabha, 2008). Since 1788 the degradation of the indigenous peoples was significantly profound with them only being recognised as Australian citizens in the census of 1968 (Ranzijn, et al. , 2009).
Fanon would suggest that for popular democracy and development to succeed, the indigenous people must stop blindly following the west (Sardar & Bhabha, 2008). They must stop mimicking western traditions and ideas and above all they must be forthright and innovative in developing their own ideas, concepts and institutes based on their own culture beliefs (Sardar & Bhabha, 2008). Looking at the disadvantages from Fanon’s point of view it is evident that prejudices, racism, and discrimination still continues to be imposed upon the indigenous people to some degree today (Carson, et al., 2007).
Furthermore the mainstream services provided for the indigenous Australians to ‘help’ their social structures are western based (Ranzijn, et al. , 2009). Media reports are bringing to light the illegitimate justification of colonial expansion, they are now showing the government’s attempts to address the previous wrongs under the assumption that the western society was superior (Korff, 2000). One of the government’s incentives is to improve infant mortality rates.
As Packham (2012) reported, the infant mortality rate amongst indigenous communities is higher than non-indigenous and this could be seen as a lack of trust of western medicines and unwillingness for women to seek medical help due to their cultural beliefs. The indigenous people themselves are starting to revolt by instilling Anakie against the western ideals through events such as ‘aboriginal tent embassy’ and the demonstration held at the restaurant in Canberra on Australia day 2012, where the indigenous people were protesting the suggestion by a bureaucracy the ‘aboriginal tent embassy’ be removed (Protest group went to far, 2012, p.1).
Fanon would suggest the portrayal of indigenous disadvantages is through a westerner’s cultural view; government interventions are comparing the indigenous people through ‘acceptable’ westerner views and because of this comparison the indigenous people are considered inferior (Gordon, 1980; Ranzijn, et al. , 2009). Although very similar to Fanon’s studies, Foucault theories have delved into the notion of Power particularly concerning Sovereign power. Foucault explains that law in the western societies has always been a camouflage for Sovereignty and its right to rule (Gordon, 1980).
Foucault also points out that laws are an opportunity for political and economic managements to exploit the differences between, and gain control of, a sector of peoples (Hughes, et al. , 2007). For power to continually grow and flourish it needs to have a relationship with ‘knowledge’ (Gordon, 1980). When talking about knowledge in relation to the Colonisation of Australia you can assume it entailed the geographic learning of the region, domain, implantation and displacement of its original peoples (Gordon, 1980). History has shown that once power and knowledge come together it is a formidable force (Kivisto, 2003).
As far back as 1824 media reports have told of European sovereign power enforcing its ideals and laws on the indigenous peoples (Korff, 2000). Westernising the Aborigines was considered a must. An example of this ideology can be seen with Governor Macquarie opening a school for Aboriginal children in Parramatta which was developed to “civilise, educate and foster habits of industry and decency in the Aborigines” (Korff, 2000). It subsequently closed and a board of National Education established in NSW stated it was “impractical to provide any form of education for the children of blacks” (Korff, 2000).
Although westernised policies and institutions were established in the 1800’s for the supposed protection of Aboriginals, its objective was for the segregation from the European settlement (Korff, 2000). This allowed the westerners’ beliefs to flourish whilst containing, subduing and pushing the indigenous needs to the back burner (Korff, 2000). This ideology is in line with what Foucault visualizes in that knowledge and power enabled for continuous examination and disciplining of society under the guise of a humanistic concern for the individual welfare (Holmes, et al. , 2007).
With the lack of understanding, or unwillingness to understand, the cultural needs of the indigenous peoples the Europeans sought to contain and to westernise their way of life on the assumption it was for their best interest (Ranzijn, et al. , 2009). In fact it has suppressed their rights to live as a community with their own beliefs and stifling their growth as a people (Gordon, 1980). In relation to modern Australia, where society seeks to compare the indigenous communities to non-indigenous it is apparent that there is strong and documented evidence of disadvantage according to western ideals (Ranzijn, et al, 2009).
Social, economic and humanity statistics prove that the indigenous people fall well behind their co-existent counterparts (Carson, et al. , 2007). Government bodies are attempting to tackle the situation with numerous programs and incentives (Ranzijn, et al. , 2009). Looking at Foucault’s theory it could be asked are they simply changing the oppression it aims to improve from one site to another. The present day Government still hold the fate of the indigenous people in their grasp through westernized laws.
Dr William Jonas, (2002) Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Social Justice Commissioner points out, for further disempowerment of the indigenous people to cease, governments and society need to understand indigenous people want to fulfil cultural protocols to their own people that is based in Aboriginal systems of law and Aboriginal Sovereignty. Jonas, (2002) goes on to say the nature of the Australian sovereignty is ever changing. This being realigned and redistributed among a myriad of levels and players and Aboriginal Sovereignty needs to take its rightful place and reinvest in its peoples’ future (Jonas, 2002).
It could be suggested Fanon and Foucault’s theories in relation to indigenous disadvantages are similar in context. They both share analysis of the sovereign subject of humanism, both focus on the westerner’s dominance over indigenous people, and how westerners impose their cultural bias onto them. Fanon and Foucault believe this caused suppression and demoralisation to the indigenous Australians. However Foucault focused more on the power and knowledge the westerners hold as opposed to indigenous people and how this power has continued to suppress.
It is clear throughout this paper westerners hold a key responsibility for the indigenous disadvantages. Fanon’s theory illustrates how the colonisation demonized and suppressed indigenous people and how this has caused them to retaliate. Through Fanon’s theory it can be seen that it is important for the indigenous people to regain their self worth, they need to take back control their own destiny. Foucault’s theory is also relevant to the disadvantages indigenous people have and still do experience.
The introduction of sovereignty into the colony brought with it power and knowledge of the western society intentionally inflicted on the indigenous people. This in turn enabled the western society to suppress, monitor and restrain the indigenous communities. The media reports of the government’s attempts to ‘close the gap’ could be seen as patronising as all the so called interventions are coming from a westerner point of view. There needs to be a shift in society’s collective thinking through knowledge and education where the educators are knowledgeable of the sensitivities of the subject.
References Bennett, A. , (2011 May 18) Aboriginal disadvantages ‘still prevalent’. The Age p. 1 Retrieved from: http://www. theage. com. au Carson, B. , Dunbar, T. , Chenhall, R. D. , & Bailie, R. , (2007) Social determinants of Indigenous Health N. S. W, Australia: Menzies School of Health Research. Gordon, C. , (1980) Power/Knowledge Selected Interviews and Other writings 1972-1977 (Eds. ) Britain, England: The Harvester Press, Limited. Holmes, D. , Hughes, K. , & Julian, R. , (2007) Australian Sociology A Changing Society NSW Australia: Pearson Education Australia. Jonas, W., (2002 August 31)
Recognising Aboriginal sovereignty – implications for the treaty process Retrieved from: Http://www. hreoc. gov. au Kivisto, P. , (2003) Social Theory Roots and Branches (2nd ed. ) Los Angeles, USA: Roxbury Publishing company. Korff, J. , (2002) Creative Spirits Indigenous Australian Aboriginal Culture and Timeline. Retrieved from: Http://www. creativespirits. com. au Packham, B. , (2012 February 15) More work needed to meet targets to close the gap on indigenous disadvantage: Gillard The Australian p. 1. Retrieved from: Http://www. theaustralian. com. au Protest group went too far.(2012 January 31) Northern Territory News p.
1. Retrieved from: Http://www. ntnews. com. au Ranzijn, R. , McConnochie, K. , & Nolan, W. , (2009) Psychology and Indigenous Australians Foundations of Culture Competence South Yarra, Australia: Palgrave Macmillan. Sardar, Z. , & Bhabha, H. K. , (2008) Fanon black skin White Mask (ed. ) London, UK: Pluto Press. The Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved from: Http://www. abs. gov. au Wilson, L. , (2011 August, 26) Gillard holds hope for change on indigenous disadvantages The Australian, p. 1. Retrieved from: Http://www. theaustralian. com. au.
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