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Last Updated: Monday, 21 February 2005, 18:22 GMT
What can be done to improve Aborigines' lives?
Aboriginal protesters
The problems of Australia's Aboriginal people have long been a challenge for the country's government.

Racism and high levels of unemployment, ill-health and substance abuse are all faced by many Aboriginal communities.

But John Howard's government has promised a new approach, including the formation of a new body to address Aboriginal affairs and a new policy on welfare.

Are you an Aborigine, or do you have friends in the Aboriginal community? How do you think Australia can improve the lives of its Aboriginal people?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

It's heartening to see the range of opinions and input to this forum, if only the issues were discussed as broadly in mainstream Australian society. Unfortunately for many years now the common consensus among most non-indigenous Australians is 'we've given aborigines money and self-determination, now they can fix themselves up'. Clearly it's not working, but things are unlikely to improve while this apathy continues.
Meredith Griffiths, Sydney, Australia

I think the Australian government should allow it's Aboriginal tribes to have "self-governing" lands along the lines of US American Indian tribes and allow them to set up casinos or tax-free businesses that can be used to take money generated from these enterprises to invest in Aboriginal housing, jobs, awareness of their culture and art, and self-pay for improved health services. If Australia wants their "local" people to get off state welfare and improve their lives, they need to give them the ability to self-generate the income needed to do that and allow them to take pride once again in a culture that white Australia has decimated.
Victor, San Francisco, CA

No nation with a history of colonisation has been able to solve the problems its indigenous population faces
Aaron, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Education alone isn't enough. What's the point in being well-educated if there are no jobs waiting for you? No nation with a history of colonisation has been able to solve the problems its indigenous population faces, not in North America, not in South America and not in Africa. But perhaps in the myriad of programs with their successes and failures a series of solutions can be found. To say one nation shows a clear example to follow is emphatically false.
Aaron, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The Aboriginal leaders should become responsible for the education of their people and the Australian Government should provide the means to accomplish this objective without just dishing out money to the leaders.
Des Woodford, Perth, Western Australia

I think the only way the Australian Aborigines can survive in the modern world is for them to live in isolation, with the option of reaching out to this modern world when and if they feel ready. The only indigenous hunter-gatherers left in the world who have not had their societies utterly destroyed by modern society (either through disease, despair or forced conversion) are in North Sentinel Island (Andaman), some parts of the western Amazon basin and some parts of the interior of Papua. They survive because they reject all contact with us. All the others are now decimated or extinct. Australia is vast. A sovereign Aboriginal state, sufficiently remote yet fertile, is urgently required where Aborigines would be allowed to cut themselves off until they felt ready to deal with us. That means no diplomatic relations, no trade and no interference. Yes, there would initially be anarchy, but their ancient society would slowly re-discover itself. Only then would they have pride again and a purpose in life.
James Frankcom, London, England

As a child I only spoke "Australian" this all ceased when I started school, to speak "Australian" was a crime, punishable with a whack across the mouth, and was told constantly I was "scum". Other kids would not sit next to me - I was made to eat my lunch in the mid-day sun - I was barred from almost every shop, picture theatres and public transport. Although this is "my ancestral land", I was not an "Australian citizen". I question "why" immigrants were allowed to hold on to their past and culture and work towards their future. I am still looked upon as being an alcoholic, thief and no-hoper. But then I welcome all to my home, "Australia", but only ask each and everyone to respect me and my culture, take the time out to say "hello" and acknowledge me as a "human being", as I am an "Australian born original"
Australian born original, Australia

Each and every race in this world has good and bad in it
Jeff, Moree, NSW, Australia
I have lived and worked in a town that has 40% Aborigines all my life. Racism is certainly not one sided - many a time I have been harassed for being "white". Each and every race in this world has good and bad in it. Equality people say, no one gave me any help to get where I am, no one gave my family handouts, free loans, etc. Any person can succeed in life - they just need determination to do so. I have seen this first hand - I went to school with many Aboriginal friends, some do nothing with their lives, others have gone on to great things. Wake up government and stop handing out money. Maybe our tax will become more realistic if you get rid of all welfare....
Jeff, Moree, NSW, Australia

The plight of Aboriginals is only weakened by the corruption of those in place to lead the aboriginal community. People such as Geoff Clark and Ray Robinson shape the way other Australians see tax money being spent to assist Aboriginals. There needs to be more accountability, not just to the Aboriginal people but to the wider community. An all inclusive community approach needs to be taken to end the division between 'black and white'. The first hurdle is the idea that non-Aboriginal Australians are all white.
Aussie Moore, Toowoomba, Australia

The Wik decision granted aboriginal people land rights. The government then started a disinformation and fear mongering campaign to turn public opinion against Wik. Finally they changed the laws to water Wik down. The Aboriginal people need a fair go and real land rights. Only with real land rights will the Aboriginal people regain real control over their own lives.
Peter Tosi, Townsville, Australia

It's safe to say that mistakes have been made by both sides of this, I've seen the racism and reverse racism, but what's needed is a stop to the blame game and work towards the future rather than argue over whose fault it was. We don't need to say sorry for something our ancestors (or even unrelated people who came to this country 200+ years ago) did, just accept that both sides have erred in that time and start again from scratch. Just throwing money at the problem and waiting for it to go away isn't the answer.
Ian, NSW North Coast , Australia

Give authority back to our real elders to sort out our law and order issues, which will balance out the social justice issues
Roderick Bennell-Pearce, Alice Springs Australia
Firstly, I would like to start by informing that I am of Buddi-mia and Wadjurri Yamatji as well as Bibelmen Nyungar descent. I also have Scottish white heritage. To put it simply the only thing that can be done is to recognise our people as the first people of this land and grant us our rights as the first peoples that are spelt out in the Magna Carta. Give authority back to our real elders to sort out our law and order issues, which will balance out the social justice issues! Before the invasion of 1770/1778 rape, theft, domestic violence and substance abuse problems were non-existent. These human traits were introduced to us in 1778, it has become endemic in Aboriginal communities and we are being blamed for the bad habits forcibly thrust upon! Our people had very strong traditional law with punishments well known for wrongdoings which were followed without exception and without favouritism. The invaders attempted to dismantle our traditional law which broke down our social structures. The situation was compounded further through the theft of our traditional lands and sacred sites. So to summarise if you really want to "help" us, pressure John Howard and his government to give back full control of our sacred sites and unrestricted access to, and joint control of our traditional lands, eg, enter into a treaty with us to spell out our mutual obligations to each other! Give back the power back to our real elders as well as consult with them on Aboriginal issues and policies and not the hand picked National Indigenous Council who has no authority to speak on Aboriginal rights in this country, they may represent themselves and their immediate families but that is all they represent! This is my own personal views!
Roderick Bennell-Pearce, Alice Springs Australia

I am a community worker and registered nurse who has worked with a number of Aboriginal families in South Australia and NSW. My experience has been that because they are such an ancient people that the Western diet and lifestyle negatively impacts their health - I am convinced that they do not have the constitution to withstand the refined Western diet and this leads to high levels of diabetes, high blood pressure, vascular disease leading to amputations, etc. The aboriginal people are very skilled at local networking and are willing to be empowered through education. I feel that grants and scholarships for aboriginal people and aboriginal workers would help this cause and raise awareness on a local level. I found the people with whom I have worked with have a wealth of traditional and local knowledge that could be shared and enhanced by running programmes through youth centres and community groups. Thank you.
Erica Hatton, Griffith, NSW, Australia

As a Pan-Africanist, I am concerned with the plight of blacks and other disadvantaged minorities in Africa, Asia, Australia, America and elsewhere. The Australian government should give a quota to Aborigines for special representation in government, parliament, and provinces. An affirmative action programme should be made for them as Uganda has done on women, youth, workers and people with disabilities. Action short of that will only be cosmetic.
Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi, Kampala, Uganda

Growing up in a rural town with a 45% Aboriginal population, I have seen first-hand many of the social issues both caused by and suffered by the Aboriginals. 'Guilt money' has to stop; we are one country and cannot continue over-compensating for the decisions and actions of previous generations.
Clare, Moree, Australia

I am sure the Aborigines know how to improve their lives. What business is it of ours?
David, USA

Perhaps we can begin with educating our children about the history of Australia by learning something of our Aboriginal friends
Marijana, Rome
I like many people on this forum agree that there is no easy answer to the problems faced by the Aboriginal people. Throwing money at them is only putting a band-aid on the problem and not addressing it. Or is this intentional so that aboriginal people are kept in "their place", and prevented from "taking the bull by the horns" and grasping the opportunities white Australians claim that they have access to? Perhaps in the perfect world we can say that everyone in Australia has the same opportunities but what is the true reality? Can we all say with conviction that if an Aboriginal person applied for a job that he or she would win over a white applicant? I am not talking about the token percentage of jobs which must be allocated for A & TI. Perhaps we can begin with educating our children about the history of Australia by learning something of our Aboriginal friends besides learning solely of Captain James Cook's Australia from 1788 onwards.
Marijana, Rome (ex-Perth, Australia)

The trouble to date has been that the government have tried to use inappropriate solutions to aboriginal health and social problems. It is time that they engaged Aboriginal people at the grass roots level and provide help to them that is culturally appropriate.
Kevin B Wilson, Wagga

Australia can learn from the successes and mistakes we have made in the United States in our long, difficult road to racial equality. We are certainly not at the end of that road yet, but the Australians can use our experiences as a model for what works and what doesn't. Both African Americans and Native Americans have had extreme hardships relative to other Americans, and have made huge strides in the last fifty years. It will take that much work and that much time to get to where we are. The main thing is to get started.
Will, Seattle, USA

It is time the Aboriginal leaders themselves played a more constructive and responsible role to uplift their community from the tyranny of poverty
V Ravindran, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The problems have long been highlighted and well documented. Could we now have a blueprint for tackling the issues in a rational and practical fashion? It is time the Aboriginal leaders themselves played a more constructive and responsible role to uplift their community from the tyranny of poverty. To progress beyond rhetoric, they should formulate a holistic community development programme locking in key indicators and specific timelines.
V Ravindran, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The first step is to abolish the 'reverse apartheid ' which places the Aborigines in remote, isolated and third world living conditions. They have poor education, medical and social services and they are away from the rest of mainstream society. This is the greatest barrier towards integration. The rest of society then stereotype them as alcoholics, drugs takers, glue sniffers and lazy. How is it possible for them, the already disadvantaged, to be acceptable? If they are not acceptable in the mainstream society, they cannot be blamed for their ' bad ' behaviour.
Kwok, Sydney Australia.

I have many friends that are Aborigine, when you speak to them only one theme comes out it is always the same no matter which part of Australia you go. Equality, not land, not social welfare not any of the ideas so far have worked. They always tell me, "equality" not half, but full equality!
Sam, Bangkok, Thailand

The one thing that all indigenous peoples seem to agree upon is the thing which most seldom happens when good intentions are voiced: allow the people to determine their own needs, and give them full voice in finding and implementing remedies. It's high time. Australia, please listen to the lessons that the world is finally beginning to learn.
Gretchen S, Minneapolis, MN USA

It is all very well to criticise the Aboriginal people for accepting handouts and not doing much to further themselves in Australian society. However, the majority of Australians' views towards Aboriginals are still incredibly racist and these views ensure that the Aboriginal people stay in a position of dependence, as no one seems to look past the fact that they are Aboriginal and can be fully functioning members in contemporary Australian society.
Nisha , Sydney, Australia

The emphasis was on integrating them into mainstream society
Jeremy, Regina, Canada
Anyone who thinks that the solution to the aboriginals' problems is to hand over economically unviable tracts of land for them to sit on is the solution to the problem ought to have a look at the Indian reservations in Canada's prairie provinces, where this was and still is the strategy. Typically (but not always) they are the worst of the worst in standards of living in the country. There are no jobs and everyone (literally) has a problem with drugs or alcohol. On the other hand, in Canada's Northwest Territories a totally different approach was taken. Rather than isolating natives on reservations, the emphasis was on integrating them into mainstream society, largely through aggressive affirmative action programmes and municipal housing assistance. Today, aboriginal people in the NWT enjoy some of the highest standards of living, and are fully integrated, mostly employed, and living in harmony with the rest of society.
Jeremy, Regina, Canada

How can we move forward when the structure of our government is so at odds with the social structure of the Aboriginal people? Becoming a Republic, with our own elected person or council to be head of the state, could be one way of a more inclusive involvement of the Australian people, indigenous, immigrant or otherwise.
Danielle Adermann, (Ex-pat) London, UK

The solutions to the problems so many in the aboriginal communities face have to come from those communities themselves. In John Howard's Australia, democracy takes a back seat to free-market, one-size-fits-all ideology. The aboriginal people, together with support from the non-aboriginal people around the world who believe in justice have to organise themselves and campaign for the solutions they want. The founding of the indigenous political party is a good start, but there is a long way to go.
Pabs, Melbourne, Australia

Perhaps the Australians could look across the Tasman and take lessons from how New Zealand has managed to forge an identity from both Maori and Pakeha cultures. There are problems, but the celebration of indigenous culture and a shared identity makes for a country which is to a large extent at ease with itself.
Jolyon Pawlyn, York, UK

This is not about maintaining a habitat - aboriginals are not zoo animals
John Birket, Cooktown, Queensland
If the problem were just to allow Australian aboriginals their rights to land access and 'traditional' way of life then this would already in place. What the comments from people outside of rural Australia show is that they do not understand that this is not about maintaining a habitat - aboriginals are not zoo animals. This is about managing a generation of unemployed and poor who want to have the benefits of 'Western' society but currently do not have the means to support it.
John Birket, Cooktown, Queensland

I'm an Aussie in London. It's a tough situation to figure out. Firstly, I don't think Aborigines should be given "back their land". Everyone should have the same access to the same land. Aborigines are part of the Commonwealth of Australia after all, and should be treated as equal citizens. Ceremonies can still be done on Crown land. Secondly, I think it's important that the Howard government gets rid of the "money for soap" idea - where Aborigines are rewarded if they keep their children clean. This sort of attitude helps no one, and just perpetuates the Western view of our indigenous people. Helping the aboriginal people of our great country is going to take time. No one should expect concrete results soon. The biggest hurdle is changing perceptions, and this always takes generations.
Adam, London, UK

I am an Australian living in Dublin Ireland. Having read all the reviews here it is obvious that no one has the one right solution. I am not proud of the way we treated the Aboriginal people in Australia over the years, and in many ways quite embarrassed. I do believe we are making efforts, but those efforts are more tied towards charity which are not effective. I will say that it takes willingness on both sides to ensure that change works, to make compromises and work to the future. I don't see this happening in either party.
Lyndon Baxter, Dublin Ireland.

I live in the UK and have an Aborigine brother-in-law who lives in Queensland. I think what sets him aside from the general stereotype Aboriginal people is education. He is well educated and has been very successful in life. I'm sure there are many other Aboriginal people who have also been successful, but in general we only hear about the negative side of these people. The Aborigines are provided with a raft of benefits to help them in life, which includes the Government paying for private education. The opportunities are there for them to help themselves and improve their status within the community. Why this is not happening in many cases I don't know? This is obviously a very complex problem, but the Aborigines need to help themselves if things are to improve, as the Government can't do everything.
Garry, Hitchin, UK

I have many close Aboriginal friends and most still find they are treated as second-rate citizens
Vladimir Korotkov, Redfern, Australia
I live and work in Redfern, Sydney, and love the area, and wish to correct the view that the suburb has mostly Aboriginal people, most of whom have problems. The percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is low, and is made up of a broad mix of socio-economic and cultural groupings - it is a common neo-colonial practice to place indigenous people into the one category of sameness. Not all are poor, heavy drinkers or drug-takers, which is an unfortunate racial stereotyping - neither is this to demean these people, some of whom are there because of the institutional and long-term racism of this country. There are many working and professional Indigenous people who live and work in key professions and leadership positions in South Sydney, as in Australia - sadly, most are only in Indigenous organisations. I have many close Aboriginal friends and most still find they are treated as second-rate citizens no matter where they live and find the Howard government's policies inadequate at best and paternalistic at worst. Australia still has a long way to go, but Aboriginal people are gaining their own self-respect and pride, some structural changes are being made and more non-Indigenous people are learning what reconciliation could become.
Vladimir Korotkov, Redfern, Australia

I'm half Australian and doubtless the Aborigines have had a very rough, even appalling time, and they still face widespread racism. In spite of this, instead of wishing the white man had never arrived they need to get on with dealing with the fact that, whether they like it or not, Australia and the rest of the world have changed dramatically. A lot of problems in their community are ones they can solve themselves - alcoholism, abuse and lack of education. Plenty of other non-white immigrants have arrived to Australia with nothing, faced hardships and indeed racism from whites and are now successful.
Alistair, Belfast

The Australian government has failed in promoting aboriginal culture and language in schools
Paul Podgorski, London, UK
I grew up in Sydney's Redfern area and I have seen Aboriginals squander opportunities and concessions offered by the Australian government. It was very sad to see. However, the Australian government has failed in promoting aboriginal culture and language in schools, which would have helped build identity, confidence to take up new opportunities and curb racism.
Paul Podgorski, London, UK

In addition to policies regarding health, education, crime etc, the Australia Government must take steps to overcome endemic, passive racism in the general Australian populace. There seems to be this pervasive misconception that all Aboriginal people are hopeless, helpless, glue sniffing alcoholics who are given more government benefits than non-Aboriginal Australians. This perception is not only incorrect, but it is held by people who, generally speaking, don't even know any Aborigines! There is a lot the government could do to overcome this negative and contempt-inducing stereotype, and yet it does nothing. White Australia needs to respect its indigenous people, and this is not going to happen without positive government action.
Sheri Pickering, London, UK (ex-pat Australian)

I am an Australian who has lived in the UK for the past 3 years. I think the first thing the Howard government can do is to apologise for the stolen generation and for two centuries of institutionalised racism. How can reconciliation be achieved if the government won't admit that there is a problem? I lived in Redfern in the late 90s and saw firsthand the damage being done to the Aboriginal community there through a combination of drugs, alcohol, crime, abject poverty and a lack of hope for the future. I think more funding needs to be given to programmes that promote Aboriginal health and education. I think we need a different government in power who will actually take these issues seriously which the Howard government, by abolishing Astic, proves it will not.
Amy Price, London, England

Throwing money at the problem does not solve anything
Dan, Melbourne, Australia
I have seen how the social welfare system designed to assist Aboriginals is completely different to the way their culture works. Education, welfare, etc need to be provided in a recognised format for them to be able to work with it. Throwing money at the problem does not solve anything.
Dan, Melbourne, Australia

I don't think any knowledgeable person would argue the fact that indigenous Australians' problem began with the arrival of white settlers. I don't understand how this article can suggest that health care and education improved after the invasion. The majority of Australians died of diseases brought by the occupiers and life expectancy has probably changed little over the period of occupation. The educational systems of Australia's nations were repressed or banned. They were eventually replaced by a European system that has done nothing for the indigenous Australian's way of life and most indigenous Australians find that they are excluded from work despite having gone through the educational system of the Europeans. The most effective way to help indigenous Australians would be to spend money on campaigns to reduce racist attitudes.
François Gaudin, Redfern, Sydney, Australia

Speaking as an Aussie "how can we improve the lot of Australia's Aboriginal people"? Perhaps by working through the pain of becoming a multi cultural society...losing racism, and taking people on merit regardless of background and skin tone. On the other hand, to use John Howard's phrase, a "passive welfare" mentality does exist, wherein aboriginal kids are paid to go to school, it's their "right" to get this, that and the next thing, there is no impetus to work, so many do not and so on....it's a double edged sword with faults on both "sides" and no clear and certainly no immediate solution....there is resentment on both "sides", and it is growing.
Lucy, Perth, Australia

We are Aborigines in Britain. Our culture has also been denigrated. Many forms of cultural hunting and gathering are being restricted. They are taking our sacred land rights away. The symbiotic relationships will disappear and the spirit of the land will die.
Charlie de Pelet, Sherborne, Dorset

I believe the first step is to recognize the historical importance of the Aboriginal people throughout the development of Australia
Jon Weinman, Los Angeles, CA
I spent a month in Australia studying the plight of Aborigines and the diplomatic, political, and alternative methods that can be used to help them better their way of life without forced adaptation to what are viewed as modern comforts. I believe the first step is to recognize the historical importance of the Aboriginal people throughout the development of Australia. Secondly, the Australian government needs to make a unilateral offer to reconcile differences by returning portions of land and subsidizing education and healthcare in line with aboriginal views. Finally, the most compelling and disturbing argument that I heard from an aboriginal elder about their plight was that the Aborigines were jealous of the successes of the Native Americans in the United States. The Aborigines, first and foremost, need to be recognized and given a voice in the day-to-day decision making process that directly impacts their lives.
Jon Weinman, Los Angeles, CA

Is there any mention that the A & TIs get vacancies set aside that only they can apply for - check employment laws in Australia? Aborigines get free healthcare the same as all Australians. Aborigines get benefits without any conditions whereas any white Australian has to prove he/she is looking for work. An Aboriginal person can go to a private school and have that paid for by the government as well. And the list goes on. The opportunities are there for Aboriginal people if only they would take them. Aboriginal people need to learn to take the bull by the horns and be proactive instead of being reactive.
Andrew Deeprose, Adelaide

It's sad to see that my fellow Australians posting here seem less aware of Aboriginal Australia than foreigners. Andrew Deeprose suggests that Aborigines get the same healthcare as other Australians. But the Fred Hollows Foundation has shown that for every $1 the government spends on healthcare for non-Indigenous Australians it spends just 80c on an Indigenous Australian, despite the extraordinarily poor health of the Aboriginal community. It seems Australians are all too ready to ignore the reality of our great shame. Indigenous Australians will continue to live in dire poverty until our governments launch a concerted and massive effort to redress the appalling lack of health, education and housing infrastructure in their communities.
Markus Mannheim, Darwin, Australia

The Aboriginal (or Koori) people did not become citizens of Australia until the 1960s. They were not even counted in the population census. Since then there has been a new spirit of reconciliation between them and the rest of the population, symbolised by runner Cathy Freeman wrapping herself in both the Australian and Koori flags. In the Sydney suburb of Redfern, where the population is largely Aboriginal, there is a new sense of pride in indigenous culture, reflected in youth groups that promote Aboriginal dance (some non-Aboriginals attend), and this sort of initiative will hopefully diminish the sense of hopelessness which leads to experimentation with drink and drugs. I think the situation is improving.
Louise, Australia

There needs to be legislation to abolish racial slurs against them
Wes, Roma, Queensland
If you talk to the average white Australian you'll soon see the negative light in which Australian Aborigines are portrayed. There needs to be legislation to abolish racial slurs against them, only then will all Australians get a measure of the underlying racial intolerance that has destroyed any positive image of Aboriginals.
Wes, Roma, Queensland

I think Australia should exert a big effort to compensate the true owners of the land by raising funds for educational and cultural programs that preserve their cultural and traditional heritage.
Saeed Abdalla Adam, Sudan, Nyala

I'm unsure if there is the will to improve the lives of Aborigines. White Australians represent an exceedingly high percentage of the population and therefore the vote. Even Mike Rann (ALP Premier of South Australia) who is an enthusiastic advocate of Aborigines doesn't do much because he doesn't have the resources, nor will it win him any votes. And considering the strength and popularity of Howard's conservative government in Canberra, he runs the risk of electoral backlash. Aborigines need a strong popular Labour government in Canberra - they need their own Blair/Brown coalition.
James Sadler, Colchester, Essex formerly Adelaide, Australia

The truth is that your future lies in your hands. It is for the Aboriginal community to take the bull by the horns and collectively work towards rebuilding themselves into the new age. Australia should however, take it as a special project to educate the Aboriginal people and developing their communities. It might be expensive, but it's worth the while. More importantly, they should turn to God. He created them and wishes them the best, but they need to seek His face to know what step to take.
David Adode, Abuja, Nigeria

There is no quick fire solution to the deep-rooted causes of inequality in any society
Bryan, Sydney Australia
There is no quick fire solution to the deep-rooted causes of inequality in any society. The discrepancies that exist between the Aboriginal populace and the 'rest' of Australia are due to two centuries of excessive social experimentation. Current policy would seem to be heading in the right direction and it might be imprudent to make hasty changes, which over compensate. Time will be required to tell if Australia's new attitude towards its indigenous communities will help close the gap but above all the mistakes of the past must be put behind us and the emphasis must be on the future.
Bryan, Sydney Australia

I have studied worldwide policies on aboriginal peoples and the protection of cultural resources for the past several years. Sadly, Australia has some of the best policies in place, and still there are severe inequities. In my work with American Indian peoples here in California, I have learned that the wounds caused by occupation and forced removal go very deep and will not be healed by this generation and probably not the next. I recommend keeping a close eye on the ongoing mistakes being made by the United States and learn from them.
Carol Gaubatz, Sacramento, California, USA

Health and social statistics are related but comparisons between indigenous and non-indigenous mortality rates mislead. Remote, alcoholic, abusive individuals with very poor education universally suffer higher morbidity, be they black or white. Aboriginal life expectancy reflects a poorer community life. Interestingly, those individuals who experienced removal by Church and government experience lower morbidity rates than those left on the communities. Racism cannot explain this: other races endured racism (institutional and personal) in times past, but many, such as the Vietnamese 'boatpeople', exceed the wealth and education indicators of the general community. Charity and health might just begin at home.
Nigel, Brisbane, Australia

During the 70s I lived in the Atherton Tablelands and grew to love several Aboriginal families. They were great people who were treated as less than human by the locals. They need to be treated as equals and shown respect, and they certainly need access to land where they can be what they choose. They need the ability to control their destiny where they can raise their children as Aborigines if they choose. Taking their children from them in the early part of the last century was an unforgivable tragedy. They do not need to be controlled by government agencies who have no empathy for them or by a government that wants to eliminate them. Give them the Northern Territory as a home!
Ron Norris, Bend, Oregon, USA

Almost every complaint made by the Aboriginal community is a valid one. The chances of Aborigines being offered a job are slim in comparison to their white neighbours. Government money spent on early education in Aboriginal communities needs to be increased ten-fold. Without it, the community cannot, and cannot be expected to, financially survive in Australia's competitive capitalist society.
Tony Wylde, Melbourne, Australia

I am an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe of the Blackfeet Nation in the State of Montana, USA. The aboriginal people of Australia are enduring the same burdens that the native peoples of the Americas have endured since the conquest. The parallels are endless. Education and self determination is one route to healing. A separate state may be an ideal but as we know it will only lead to more suffering and genocide.
EK Weniger, Silver City, New Mexico, US

They are natural assets of the Australian nation and should be granted equal opportunity
rent , Salvador-Bahia-Brazil
It is a pity to see that, in Australia, there is still an institutionalised apartheid. Maybe they should look to the advances that the US has made in that area and try to promote more opportunity to the natives, after all, the land was theirs before the colonisation process. They are natural assets of the Australian nation and should be granted equal opportunity. Maybe, Australia should try to promote their language and culture as well as embracing it more fiercely. Poverty leads to the regeneration of poverty, brings more injustice in a nation an unnecessary problems. If education is what they are need then why isn't the Australian Government getting their job done and putting them in schools. It is very sad, but I hope that the Australians will overcome the inconvenience to maintain their own integrity.
Brent , Salvador-Bahia-Brazil

I've spent time with many Aborigine communities in Australia, first nations in Canada, and on reservations in the US. All three countries are "first world" but they all have "third world" Aborigine communities. If we accept their way of life and culture and open our hearts and minds we might just help them to keep proud and overcome the stigma that's plagued them for centuries. We have much to learn.
Jordan Marshall, Missoula, Montana, USA

I have friends in an Aborigine community. Australia has to improve the living standards and education. Canada has achieved good results in the last 40 years with forward-looking policies. It is not perfect but much better than what is happening in Australia.
Tom Jeyachandran, Agassiz, Canada

I do not have any direct contact, however, I spent a year in Adelaide so I have a bit of firsthand experience. First off, I think that mainstream citizens need to have more awareness of life outside the city; most of their exposure comes from the unemployed, alcoholics on the street and this is streamlined with the entire aboriginal population. Perhaps in younger grades "Australian history" with an emphasis on natives would help. Or federal funding to maintain their lifestyle outside of the city.
Lily Green, Los Angeles, California, USA

I guess as a migrant over 35 years from the UK, I could say we are trespassing on the Aborigine land. However we have in this country an "Aborigine industry" which is a large black hole of funding that never gets to the "coal face" This is taken up by "professional Aboriginals" who use the system. The amount of funds that have gone into this "industry" over the years with nothing to show for it. We need to change the culture as there is no "free lunches" in this world.
Malcolm Freeman, Melbourne Australia

I have witnessed racism towards Aboriginal people all my life, most of the time(from Melbourne to Brisbane). It is mainly the cowardly jokes and comments made behind their backs (not to peoples' faces)and under the present government, we seemed to have moved backwards in relation to basic respect-factor. I have witnessed police and other members of the community treating and speaking to Aboriginals in very derogatory ways that were prevalent decades ago. One of my best friends is married to an Aboriginal lady in Northern Queensland (Cairns) and he says there is a very strong racism in this region, and his children of mixed blood felt the pinch and there is like a silent apartheid going on. Like I stated, most of the racism is of the quiet behind the back conversations, and derogatory humour in most parts of Australia. The only places you find strength, dignity and vibrancy in the Aboriginal community is in those who cultivate the old and modern traditions of their culture dance, music, art, sport. They shine magnificently in these areas.
Simon O'Brien, Gold Coast, Queensland

Personally I feel the first step should be education of the masses about Aboriginal culture, history and reality. Too many Australian's are too quick to judge when it comes to Aboriginal problems and challenges. There is too much racism and general misunderstanding, or even ignorance, when it comes to Aboriginal affairs. With this curbed, perhaps native Australians will have a fighting chance to improve their standards of life and preserve their quickly dying culture.
Katherine Card, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada

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